Costumed racism

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5 Responses

  1. WriterWriter says:

    Except for one significant thing: “Race” is a political construct that has absolutely no basis in biology beyond there being one – human – race. Otherwise, all humans are biologically the same type of being.

    Skin colour, which is what most people are referring to when they say “race” is a biological adaptation – evidence of evolution – to sun and heat.

    More here: http://www.ted.com/talks/nina_jablonski_breaks_the_illusion_of_skin_color.html

    Otherwise, the thing that differentiates people is culture, not skin colour – and this may be what the writer(s) of this piece were getting at.

    However, to say that dressing up in a costume that happens to represent a specific culture is racist is way, way beyond hyperbole. Not a soul will say the same of the white-skinned people who dress up as characters from Arabian Nights or Aladdin, despite those costumes being a nod to Arabic cultures and nobody is ever going to claim the same for people from other cultures, where the dress is not typically western, wearing the traditional clothing of Canada: ball cap, jeans and a t-shirt.

    Traditional clothing being worn by non-natives has nothing to do with “systemic oppression.” Not a single thing.

    What HAS to do with such oppression is lack of jobs and opportunities to create jobs in first nations communities and blocks to creating those jobs; low numbers of aboriginal/First Nations people in politics; low numbers of aboriginal people teaching in higher education institutions; limited educational options for first nations youth;, terrible government policies – which are more suppressive the longer the exist; seeing First Nations people as “other;” speaking for First Nations peoples, particularly on the issue of what constitutes oppression… all of those things, that exist outside of most non-native people’s consciousness are oppressive.

    The writer here has suggested that all 600 bands suffer from economic oppression and poverty: this is not the case. Yes, there is poverty and yes there are ongoing problems for first nations but the suggestion that all 600 communities are suffering and that is all white people’s faults is its own brand of stereotype – a dual stereotype that does a massive disservice to many many communities that are thriving and to the people within and without, First Nations, white and every other skin colour, who recognize equality applies to all Canadians.

    I suspect this writer did not attend four very excellent human rights forums on first nations/aboriginal issues in Canada(in conjunction with GlobalFest 2012) last August, given this misguided and uninformed opinion piece.

  2. Andrew Cuckow says:

    It’s rare in a newspaper to have the editorial make the front page. Let’s be honest, an editorial isn’t news, its just an opinion. This takes the credibility of the newspaper down a notch.
    This is another example of the writers of the Reflector using inflammatory language to get a rise. The sex and religion column frequently use a poor choice of vocabulary to enrage or entice. There hasn’t been any useful content in either of those columns for at least a year. The sole pull is the diction, not content.
    If anything this editorial makes light of the real issue of persecution and racial discrimination. Does the person who wears a First Nations costume intend to discriminate, persecute or mock those who are First Nations? Really? Or did they just grab a costume quick because they left it until October 30th?
    I’m guessing you haven’t been a victim of mockery or discrimination of any kind to get all worked up over harmless, however sometimes ignorant, Halloween costumes. Really there are bigger issues to worry about. Maybe an issue like bullying would be more worthy of discussion (and front page news).

  3. James Wilt says:

    So let me get this straight. Your argument is that the representation of a culture or a race has nothing to do with the socioeconomic conditions that they live in?

    In that case, you might want to tell Bitch Magazine to stop petitioning for better representations of women in pop culture because the gender binary is bullshit. While you’re at it, make sure that no one reads The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo because he totally missed the point: how the LGBTQ community is depicted in film doesn’t really matter because sexual orientation is just another construct.

    The representation of a culture or race (which is a term I will continue to use as the “colourblind” approach that you’re propagating only buries discrimination against skin colour, just like assuring that there is no difference between men and women – which I believe – will make sexism disappear) is crucially important to the oppressions that you listed off. By constructing the image of Aboriginal people as “savage” and “tribal” continues to perpetuate false narratives about who they are and what their culture is.

    “Indians are one with nature and the earth. If you want to show off what Mother Nature has bestowed upon you then do it the tribal way. Wind, water, fire and earth will be in perfect harmony when you wear the Sexy Tribal Indian Princess Adult Costume.” That was a real description of the “Sex Tribal Indian Princess” costume. How can you not see the problem with such depictions? These are highly problematic reductions and only carry on assumptions that justify the Harper government treating Aboriginal people like primitive, childish cultures.

    Also, I do actually have a problem with Aladdin, for the exact same reasons. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the massive amount of racism in Disney movies (here’s a nice summary: http://www.cracked.com/article_15677_the-9-most-racist-disney-characters.html), but it’s just as problematic as the costume depicted on the cover. It’s reductionist, stereotypical and contributes to discrimination. Unlike you, I see an intrinsic connection between representation and oppression. I know I’m not the only one.

    And what was this about? “The writer here has suggested that all 600 bands suffer from economic oppression and poverty.” Read the reference to the 600 bands again, perhaps more slowly this time. There was no such inference.”

  4. SD says:

    This might have been slightly quicker to write if summarized thusly:

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST!
    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST!

    RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST!

    You’re welcome.

    p.s.
    Your pretend “newspaper” is awfully cute. Do keep it up, and don’t forget to get a hug tomorrow morning before venturing out into the cruel, cruel world.

  5. FD says:

    I always love columns on racism- because they always end up being racist.

    “One would suppose that such history should serve as a deterrent for white people taking yet another opportunity to reduce the cultures of 600 different First Nations bands into an empty stereotype, but that’s how white privilege and colonialism tends to operate..”

    – Do you not think that is a racist statement? Are all Caucasian people bad? Do we all reduce cultures? No- we don’t— but you have generalized, which is racist.

    Let’s not forget “white”, as you put it, which, if I wanted to be as easily offended as the writer of this column, I could consider a racist term, is a race too- and it is possible for people to be racist against Caucasians.

    On a side note, I’m pretty sure other races have dressed as aboriginals or other cultural groups before…. It’s not just white people who do it.

    The biggest problem with racism today is people are always assuming someone is being racist. People don’t dress up as aboriginals for Halloween with the intention of disrespecting an entire culture… YOU choose to take that impression therefore YOU choose to continue the spread of racism.

    I highly doubt there’s a large number of white people out there putting on their costumes and going “I’m dressing up as this culture to make fun of the fact that their history is full of rape and murder”
    For fuck sakes I’m going to guess there are a few people out there who have dressed up who have previously been raped themselves. But who cares? They’re white and privileged- so they must be ignorant and insensitive to struggle.

    In order for this world to ever be equal and free of racism… Maybe start treating everyone equal… And stop assuming everything is racist.

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