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10 November 2010 @ 05:01 am
Open racism or just a costume?  
This would've been more appropriate before/on halloween, but I didn't even know this place existed until yesterday, so it'll have to do now x)

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the history and the culture surrounding it, love scary stories, carve pumpkins like a mofo and dress up as wild characters out of my head to hand out candy. But, at the same time I dread it every year because I know I'm going to be bombarded by good old fashioned racism that's apparently still widely acceptable when it applies to the right race. Indian costumes.

Its just a costume, right? People dress up like whatever they want to be and some wanna be Indians. What's wrong with this?

Its wrong to me because of how its handled. Stereotypes run wild with the big headdress made from neon colored craft feathers, the deerskin loincloth for the "big warrior chief" and the crappy little rattle or tomahawk. The ripped, fringed dress for the "indian princess" with the two-braid wigs and the feather headband. War paint. Fake peace pipes. The works. Little kids don't really learn anything about Native Americans outside the (fabricated)Thanksgiving story in school, so in their heads they think this is Native culture. Indians all run around in huge feather bonnets with paint streaks on their faces, wearing nothing but a loincloth and whooping with a big tomahawk in hand. Nobody really teaches them otherwise either.

The thing that pisses me off the most is the gratuitous use of the word "squaw." Everywhere you turn you see costume packages with that word. "Squaw princess," "Squaw chief," "Little Squaw" etc. Does anyone even know what that word means?

To enlighten those who don't: Its an Algonquin word that means "vagina." When European settlers found the Algonquin they learned the language to help communication. When the 'be nice' phase of their plan faded out and the 'kill them for their land' part began, they used their language against them to belittle and oppress the people- and among the many insults, they called the women 'squaws.' Not only is it a racial slur, you're calling people cunts. So now those costumes are labeled Cunt princess and Little Cunt. Do you really want your child to be that for halloween, or see that word and associate it with Native people?

(EDIT: A commenter linked to a site giving a description of the true meaning of the word 'squaw' in the Algonquin language, and a history and explanation as to how the false meaning I posted might have been spread. The word actually means "woman." It takes some of the bite off, thankfully, but still makes the term no less offensive in the way its used by most people.)

It just blows my mind that this is acceptable. What would all of you do if you walked into a halloween store and there were Blackface or Nigger costumes hung on the walls, with black facepaint and big bulging lips and a 'nappy' wig in it? That store would be mobbed, the owners sued and the whole company probably put out of business for it. But Squaw costumes are still perfectly acceptable? In the 21st century, when racism is supposedly a thing of the past?

This just hits home to me, being of Ojibwe heritage. I don't understand why these things still exist, and why we let kids get exposed to it and think its okay from an early age to not only appropriate an entire culture, but encourage racist stereotypes.

What do you think? Are Indian costumes racist or just costumes? Has your child ever been an Indian for halloween, or have you yourself ever dressed up as an Indian? Is this something that should be taken more seriously, or should people that think this is wrong lighten up?

Current Mood: tiredtired
squeakyspookysqueakyspooky on November 9th, 2010 11:44 am (UTC)
1) Thanks for linking that. So many people, Native and non, have expressed that what I wrote was the meaning of the word, that I took it at face value rather than looking it up myself. I edited the post to point that out. It doesn't make the word any less offensive, but its good to know the true meaning.

2) Your icon is epic. xD
this_worm_winethis_worm_wine on November 9th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. In any case, take what I posted with a grain of salt. This is the internet, and you're only as right as the source you cite :P

And thanks :D I didn't make the icon, I have no skills in that area, but I love Hyperbole and a Half. Clean all the things is our new catchphrase around here.
Queen of the Kingdom of Blue Smoke: Indian Featherrhapsody_98 on March 12th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)
Yay! I love that article.
Empress Nekoneko_loliighoul on November 9th, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
someone actually said at work the other day that it was sad that political correctness now means you can't get golliwog dolls anymore....my face did this 0_o
but then. she is a classist racist arrogant bitch ( who lives in a really crummy neighborhood- I dont get it) lol
I wonder if you're mythologizing me like I do youuppity_heathen on November 9th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
I had to Google it because I had no clue what it was but they seem to be on the market on Amazon.

* Matches our Girl and Baby Golly to form the Golly Family
* Perfect soft doll for little boys

Empress Nekoneko_loliighoul on November 9th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
why don't people understand the concept of things being offensive dlg;kzfhlgkl;j
sometimes I really hate privileged white people lol
Agent Zerouberliz on November 10th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
Golliwog dolls are sold in many places in Europe.

Many people have no clue what they are. My sister-in-law received one as a gift for her 6 month old baby.
Empress Nekoneko_loliighoul on November 10th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
oh..well I havent seen them in Australia since I was a kid.
blech :(
squeakyspookysqueakyspooky on November 10th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
The thing about golliwogs is sometimes you can't really tell what they're supposed to be. They're not all openly racist-looking caricatures of black people... some of them are pretty cute and harmless looking. The first one I saw was pretty tame and I thought it was just cute... then I looked up what they were and was kinda mortified o_O I honestly didn't know beforehand and there was nothing about the doll that shouted it was supposed to be a mocking cartoon of a black person.

Therein lies the problem with golliwog dolls... so many people don't know what they are or their history, and the way some are made these days doesn't make them seem like something bad at first glance, and so they continue to sell.
hendrikboom on January 11th, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
I object to the censoring of the reprinted Noddy books by the removal of golliwogs.

No one I knew who read the originals connected them with negros.
Empress Nekoneko_loliighoul on January 12th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
uh..ok, that doesnt make them *not* racist depictions of slaves.
rain_and_snowrain_and_snow on November 9th, 2010 01:11 pm (UTC)
Basically, I agree with you.
ಠ_ೃMonocle Smile!ilesere on November 9th, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC)
I think the costumes are in poor taste and offensive. I would never put my child in one of those costumes. I'm kind of glad she only wants to be fairies and princesses so far for Halloween.
carolinebealsabubbette on November 9th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
i was an "indian" in the 3rd grade - we were learning about lewis and clark, and i thought indians were unspeakably awesome. but my grandmother was quite a seamstress and made me a costume based on pictures of chickasaw indians (which were native to our area.)

i do wish that alternate culture costumes were available in less racist incarnations. little kids don't wear these costumes to be offensive, they usually are just taking the chance to be something other than themselves. if my son wants to be something with roots in another culture, i'll just make him a costume, and try to be as correct as possible.

squeakyspookysqueakyspooky on November 9th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
Little kids obviously mean no harm, its just that the overtly stereotypical depiction of Indians tends to lodge in their brain, and since its a very scarcely discussed topic in school, it tends to be their only exposure to Native culture unless they themselves are Native or their parents teach them about it. But really its the adults that decide this is cool to do that annoy me.

That said, the Chickasaw-based costume sounds kind of awesome xD If they made historically accurate costumes based on a particular nation's clothing style, I'd be cool with that. It'd pretty much be re-enactment gear, and hey, some people might wear their character's regalia for halloween, who knows xD

wanakinwanakin on November 11th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
I wouldn't go as far as to say these costumes are racist because the general public is miseducation and ignorant of the issues and offensiveness of the costumes at no fault of there own. The American education system purposefully keeps the "darker" side of American history out of curriculum and portrays what little information about Native Americans in a marginalized, inaccurate, and self-serving manner i.e. they where the villains in the way of progress (I think most people who have independently studied, taken and a.p. American history class, or college American history class will agree). This miseducation serves the purpose of continuing the colonial rule over Native Americans by destroying cultural, historical, and traditional roots while glorifying the "cowboys" and "Indian fighters" destroying a sense of self worth in Native American communities and leaves the American public misinformed, unwilling to get involved in the issues, and hostile to Native Americans who call for change. I digress. These costumes are however harmful, offensive, tasteless, and cheap. They perpetuate stereotypes and depict Native Americans in a cartoonish manner further subjugating Native American children to confusing and harmful images. The use of "sexy" Indian costumes is also insensitive to the history of rape and violence Native women were subjected to by colonists and later Americans during each "relocation", "Indian war", and the like.