Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Stereotyping Natives as Costume & Privilege


In the last 24 hours, I've seen dozens of arguments about the costume issues, mostly from people simply wanting to exercise their privilege, and do whatever they want without care for the consequences to others--which is fine, if that's your deal, but be honest about it.

 I will be honest in saying that I have not read all the messages or threads that have been sent to me, in the last couple days. But I have something to say, as a Native woman and a community advocate that is actively working toward the betterment of our communities.

 It's easy for folks to sit around and argue these issues and justify why it is a "minor" issue or that it's "innocent" because no harm is intended, particularly when it has no real bearing on their lives. But the reality is that there are living, breathing people who are grappling with the fallout of these things every single day.

 I send my children out the door, every morning, and then I pray they come back unharmed because I know that they just walked out into a world whose ideas about them are based on lies told by Disney and horrible stereotypes formulated by Hollywood and history. I know my sons are in the group most likely, per capita, to be killed by police; my daughters 2.5x more likely than many of their peers to be raped. These realities aren't formed in a vacuum.

 Think inaccurate histories, mascots, TV shows, and, yes, even costumes don't matter? Of course they do. It all matters.

It matters because it teaches those kids something. It reinforces stereotypes, which continues structural inequality, which makes it difficult to address any of the social issues we have in Native communities. From suicide, to violence, to pipeline wars. It's all interconnected.

 When we teach them false histories like with Pocahontas, or let them dress in stereotypical costumes, it tells them that it's ok to marginalize groups; that it's acceptable to disregard them; that none of our serious issues matter. That is a message that they receive in many ways, from many sources, from the time they are born. And that is something we need to address if we ever want to progress as a society.

 

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