In the last few weeks I've either seen in person or caught online the following: The above pair, like a few others I saw at Something Wicked, wearing headdresses and face paint; the No Doubt video for "Looking Hot," which featured the band dressed up like cowboys and Indians and was quickly scrubbed from YouTube; and a Cowboys and Indians-themed dance night here in Houston.
Suddenly, and for seemingly no reason, people really want to dress up like stereotypical Native Americans.
While I'd like to believe that this is all just a case of people being way into Native American Heritage Month 2012, I imagine that the truth is probably that these various groups of people think that these outfits are cool.
Fashionable or not, the whole situation is kind of awkward.
Now, a lot of people way smarter than me have written about costume cultural appropriation, but for those new to the idea here's a brief summary of what they have to say: Can we all please stop harvesting cultural stereotypes for costume parties?
I know, I know, playing Cowboys and Indians was probably real fun when you were five and didn't know about all the really heinous things that happened to Native Americans. And hell, maybe you played Smear the Queer in gym class, or had a neighbor who kept a sleeping Mexican statue in their garden. Guess what? Those things were all offensive then too -- you just didn't know any better.
But you're older now, and hopefully smarter.
I'm not the type to assign malice where there isn't any. Most people who put on a headdress and paint their face don't mean to be offensive. I'm sure the kids in the above photo are probably really nice and accepting -- most people at EDM shows are.
Maybe no one ever told them about how what they're doing is the same as showing up in blackface with a bucket of fried chicken, a sombrero and a poncho, or a turban and explosives.
But you, reading this right now, are being told. Now you know better. Now you can tell your friends.
"But I've done this dozens of times and no one's ever complained before," you say. Maybe, but the times are changing. Maybe someone wanted to tell you something and was afraid they'd be shouted down. Now, thanks to the Internet, they have a voice.
We're pro-fun here at Rocks Off, and we're pro-being yourself. None of us can stop you from wearing whatever it is you want to wear before you head out to have your hearing destroyed.
I'm just saying that before you put on that sexy squaw or Arabian terrorist or lazy Mexican outfit, you should really think about what you're wearing and what it says. If you can rock it with a clean conscience, more power to you. But consider this: If music is the thing that brings us all together, why would you want to do anything that drives us apart?
Postscript: Maybe you think I'm dead wrong. Maybe you're still on the fence. That's fine -- like I said, you're free to do what you'd like. But I urge you to do at least a little bit of research on the subject. Here's a good starting point.
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