Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Standing up against the Stereotype!

Ok so Halloween is over, but I did have a little skuffle with a lady at a thrift store which almost got me kicked out, Check it out:

So, yeah, I went to Savers to find a pink tutu for my Halloween costume (remember I'm going as a cupcake fairy) and I am flipping through the costumes MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS when a see a familiar pair of pants in the hands of a blond haired little boy.

(Ok. I must interrupt and inform those individuals who don't know my mom owns a Fabric Store and Halloween Costume Company. You see...way back in the distant past my mom used to make these god awful STEREOTYPICAL INDJUN costumes to sell to costume retailers across the country. You know the average buck skinned fringe, multicolored feather and pony bead number for little white boys and girls. Something you would see in a John Ford or 1950's Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Anyhow, She would market these costumes as: "Manufactored by REAL INDIANS" and of course whitey ate it up, and she profited off the stereotype of Native people. shame shame. *tsk tsk*)

ANYHOW, the pants this little boy was carrying was actually one of MY MOM'S COSTUMES! As I watched in horror this blue eyed boy chucked the suede fringed pants into his shopping cart and said "Mom I want to be an Indian for Halloween"
*slapping forehead* I could have shot my mom right then and there!

Now, let me explain, many of you might think "no harm no foul" when whites dress up as Native Americans on Halloween, but to many Natives (like myself), we find it a slap in the face and a disgusting characterization of our Native culture. It is seriously the equivalent of a white person donning black face and dressing like a stereotypical hip hop gangster and saying "I'm going to be a Black person for Halloween". See the error in this? No bueno!
Ok Back to my LONG ASS STORY....

Anyhow, the conversation between the boy and his mom went like this:

Mom: "We will need to buy a bow and arrow for your costume"
Kid: "I don't want a bow and arrow, I want a gun!"
Mom:"Indians don't use guns, they use a bow and arrow or tomahawks"

(I kid you not!)
Me:(thinking to myself) "ok, keep your cool...just an ignorant mom and her bratty son..just continue shopping"

Next...the Grandma walks up...The mom explains the dilemma about the gun

Grandma:"Indians used guns, didn't you see them shooting cowboys in the old westerns?"
Mom:"I just don't like the idea of a guns..."
Kid: "I can't find the top!"
Grandma:"Indians don't wear shirts, they paint war paint on their chest and go..." (she proceeds to do the stereotypical indian battle cry as she beats her hand over her mouth)

ME: (Once again thinking to myself) OMG Are these people from Mars! Oh wait their uneducated, duh!
Kid: What about shoes?
Mom: Indians don't wear shoes, they go around bare foot.

Me: (I look down at my own feet and think...but i'm wearing shoes....)
Mom: ...and they don't know how to brush there hair because brushes came from AMERICANS and they didn't take baths either...Me: (*Sniff Sniff*...nope Zest fully clean!)
Mom:...so we have to paint your skin dirty brown and buy you a shaggy black wig...

Ok...so at this point...I decided I could do two things...
1)Walk away. Figure their ignorance is just that, and I shouldn't waste my time or breath re-educating them when they obviously don't care anyway.

2) Stand up! Invoke Kevin Costners Indian squaw name "Stands with a Fist" (once again stereotypical) and be an angry beaver and do what Ethan calls "FIGHT THE MAN!" and re-educate these poor white folks who are drowning in their cesspool of ignorance. I mean I bitch and moan about Indian issues this and that, but If I'm not willing to stand up then its not worth a hill of beans!

So I chose option Naaki (two in Navajo)...or numero dos

Me: Excuse, but I couldn't help but hear your conversation, but I must tell you the proper term is "Native American" (I invoked the bunny rabbit hand gesture) and I happen to be "Native American" (bunny ears again), more specifically I am Navajo. As you can see that as a "Native American" we do wear shoes (pointing to shoes), shirts (tug on shirt), brush our hair (point to hair) and also we take baths quite often. I must also let you know that I do not live in a teepee, hunt the buffalo, chase cowboys, or yelp like an idiot. So, on behalf of my Native people, I must say that I found your conversation very offensive, because to dress up like an "indian" is a direct insult to the many Native people who lost their lives and culture at the hands of White Americans.

Mind you..I was holding back my anger and talking to her as nicely as I could without sounding to sarcastic or condosending. Also, my voice was trembling because I had never done anything like this before and I was a bit terrified.

Mom: Uhh.....That's not what I meant. I didn't mean Native Americans...I meant Indians...not from America.

Me: You mean from India?

Mom: No, from the movies.

Me:Oh you mean "Injuns" from the AMERICAN western, therefore you mean Native Americans..

Mom: Yes....No...That's not what I meant. The Indians in the movies aren't real!

Me: Yes they are, because the white people in the films are very real, and it is portraying the white mans view of Native Americans which is not accurate at all.

Mom: Well that is not what I meant, I meant those Indians..Native Americans..that don't exist.

Me: So Indians are extinct?

Mom: No, they don't exist in real life.

Me: Well I just want you to know that they do exist in real life and you have a Native American standing right in front of you.

By this time the grandma decided to add her two cents...

Grandma: You know what!? I don't care if it is Native Americans or Indians this is AMERICA and we have any right to dress up anyway we want to!

At this point I laughed! Oh..the benefits of white priviledge and ignorance!

Me: Look you can do whatever you want to do, but I am trying to tell you that as a REAL "Indian" I found your conversation insulting. Thats all! Maybe you should think about that when you think its ok to dress up and ridicule someone's ethnicity or "race". I'm sure you wouldn't like it if I dressed up as a white person and said "Whites are greedy, Whites are stinky they don't wear shoes, Whites don't brush their hair". Thats all I'm saying, and don't be surprised if your son gets heckled for dressing up like that.

I started to walk away, and then the grandma shouted at me:

Grandma: I'm calling the security-you have no right to insult us this way...

I shrugged and went over to the book section, and a few minutes later a Savers manager walked over to me and said "A lady complained that you were harassing her and that she is going to call the cops "I told him I did no such thing and I told him what I told her, and the guy was actually very nice and said that he understood and walked off. Then that was it. The manager talked to the ladies and they walked out of the store without buying the Indian costume. ha ha ha.

A white lady stopped me and said she overheard our argument and said I had some "brass balls" for telling that lady off (which I wasn't trying to do) and if she were in that situation she would have done the same thing, she said, "some people think they can do and act anyway they want, and when you call them on it, they act as if they don't know what your talking about..but they know" I agreed with her, and I am proud I that stood up against that bullshit.

Anyhow, I bought my mom's sinful costume, and I'm going to burn it!


rflyte said...

Well, every grain of sand makes the beach, so good on you for taking a stand.

I'm wondering if this happened in a border town...

Diallo said...

Good Show and kudos for the amount of restraint you showed!

Anonymous said...

You're so awesome! :D

Anonymous said...

this is incredibly inspiring! thank you for sharing!