Rachel Zoe as a "Makeshift Indian Warrior"

November 2, 2010 — 8 Comments
(Click for bigger, source here)

Add Rachel Zoe to the list of celebrities donning racial drag this Halloween. She posted this picture October 30th on her twitter account and blog with the tweet:
“headed out as a make shift Indian warrior! Happy almost Halloween! XoRZ”
The plastic tomahawk is a nice touch, right? sigh.
Here’s the post:
The Zoe Report: Halloween Tweet
Earlier:
(Thanks Becky!)

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://openid.aol.com/tristessai Tristessa

    Indians are so hot right now. Thanks hipsters!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08900592167380670753 La Ventana a mi Barrio

    I am so happy a friend pointed me to your blog. THANK YOU!! I was so mad last night when I stumbled on the parasite pic and then now the zoe one posted on your blog. I am glad people have taken notice and have called it out for what it is: racist colonial appropriation. Even a 7 year old understands that. When brainstorming for halloween outfit ideas, my niece was quick to note that people who dress as other cultures are doing something disrespectful – she was commenting on a white woman dressed as a “Hindu Princess” in a sari. She told me that peoples cultures and identities are not characters. I love her to pieces and when I see stuff like this happening, I take comfort on the fact that she is the next generation ready to fight racism head on. And you keep on blogging, your posts are much appreciated!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06746164758130418467 iroquo1s

    Rachel Zoe may be posed as just a “Makeshift Indian Warrior” but she’s a completely authentic wasicu idiot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05332113903959402236 Mandy

    OK, one of my girlfriends (an American by way of South Korea) wore a Pocahontas costume on Halloween. I’m just a caucasian mutt, but I try to be conscious. My friend would have never donned her costume had she thought it would offend anyone (she’s sweet as pie), but most folks just aren’t conscious on that level. Granted, they need to be made aware – but I felt that I’d ruin her evening if I brought up the potential harm she’d done by wearing it.

    Also, I guess on Halloween, I feel a little more confused at the offense (please don’t flame me for it). It’s just that, it seems that everyone dresses up as everything (and some things I’d consider WAY more offensive than native appropriation), and if you’re attempting to be a particular Indian, like Pocahontas, then is it really just native appropriation? I mean, some folks may dress up as Martin Luther King or Malcolm X or Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi or Buddha – all of these are historical figures and seem to be fair for costuming.

    I guess I really don’t think that you should HAVE to be from a particular background in order to enjoy Halloween as somebody else. If you’re an atheist, fine – be a priest with a boy attached to his crotch for Halloween. It’s offensive as hell to people who take Catholicism seriously, but to most Catholics, it’s a laugh. It’s fun. It’s Halloween. Isn’t there anything to be said for intent?

    Personally, I wouldn’t dress as any of the above just to err on the side of caution – but I’m curious. I get that “I’m not a Halloween costume” thing, but then again I don’t. Nobody’s dressing up as a modern day to day American native, they’re dressing up as Raging Bull, or Sacajawea, or….

    Could you please help to clarify, or help me to understand? I realize, as I’ve read before, how frustrating it is to educate those of us who “don’t get it” from our place of privilege and I get that it’s “not your responsibility” to educate me – but I also feel like I’m trying to be aware and that a discourse here is more likely to be rewarding than talking with all the other white folks around me.

    I appreciate your time, and your thoughts. And I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05332113903959402236 Mandy

    @La Ventana a mi Barrio – Re: the “Hindu Princess” costume being donned by a white woman – I have a a handful of white friends who have crafted themselves a spirituality which embraces deities from Hinduism. Could this white woman have been one of those? Would it be wrong then? And how do you know the difference? Just assume the white folks are all jerks?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06746164758130418467 iroquo1s

    @Mandy – The blog just prior to this one has a detailed discussion on your questions in your 1st comment. Just check older posts & post any questions that don’t get answered on that thread.

    As for your 2nd comment directed at La Ventana… You state: “I have a a handful of white friends who have crafted themselves a spirituality which embraces deities from Hinduism”. Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. Your white friends have created their own religion/spirituality by taking bits & pieces from an ancient & well-established religion, but they haven’t actually studied, learned, or joined that religion. They, in your eyes, are now entitled to do whatever they want with the symbols of that religion. And if a person who has been born & raised & actively practices that actual religion takes offense to their bastardization of their beliefs, well, how dare they?!?! So what if your friends don’t understand all the nuances of the Hindu faith or know whether they’re breaking any taboos or just completely getting the ideas or symbology wrong with their version. They only stole parts of the religion & they had every right to steal them because they liked them. Is this what you meant? Good GOD I hope not!

    If your friends want to make up their own religion then they are free to do so. Make up their own symbols, deities, icons, rituals, whatever. The skies the limit. If they want to join the Hindu faith they can do that too. But if they only want to BORROW bits & pieces of other people’s deeply entrenched faith systems to play around with then they need to STFU when actual members of those religions call them insensitive co-opting asses & tell them how ignorant & insensitive they are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05332113903959402236 Mandy

    WHOAH! @ iroquo1s! I had to take a moment after reading your reply, lest I react in complete defensiveness. Then I had to take another moment when the internet blipped and erased my thoughtful reply. I’ll try to duplicate it.

    First, without the messy issue of segmented spirituality – my original question was more intended to ask, what if this white woman happens to be Hindu? What if she’s studied, practices, and adheres to its tenants? For all we know, that’s the case. And what I was wondering is whether it’s best to assume the white person is being an ass, or whether (at least on one ridiculous holiday per year) it’s nice to just give folks the benefit of the doubt. Just because she’s white doesn’t mean you know her background/ancestry/religion, and it seems mean to judge and be divisive with someone based on their choice of costume.

    As to the rest of your comment, I guess we just thoroughly disagree on a very base level. In my mind, finding an ethical compass for life is a complex and individual process and can take whatever form the individual chooses.

    By your above argument, all of Christianity should be condemned, since it’s just a mish-mash of other beliefs – namely Paganism and Platonic theory, along with a lot of other miscellany. Not that I’m a Christian, I’M NOT. But, I’m not gonna say the entire religion and all its adherents suck just because it’s an amalgamation of other beliefs.

    Likewise, finding a spiritual path for the individual is difficult, and I’m not going to judge anyone based on how they put their spiritual selves together. It’s a beautiful thing if you can accept and love yourself and emit that love into the world, and it’s hard enough to do without others judging.

    Most religions, at their core, are saying a lot of the same things – yet so many can’t see the forest for the trees. I see no harm in taking what’s valuable from wherever you find it, and taking it to heart.

    As for my friends with their self-assembled spirituality – they are well-read in terms of the Hindu faith, and they are extremely respectful. To assume otherwise is just kinda mean, really. If a person of the Hindu faith reproached them for being “co-opting asses” then I guess they could have a hearty discussion, and would probably come away richer for it.

    And I guess I’d be lying (or would it just be omitting here on the web?) if I didn’t admit that I’m much the same – thus my initial defensiveness. My ethics/philosophy/spirituality is largely fragmented, with bits and pieces from here and there. Everything I read seems to grow my mind and my love for the world. And it works for me.

    And, as I said before, in costuming, I err on the side of sensitive caution, but I wouldn’t damn others for acting out Ganesha on Halloween because that’s their most beloved deity.

    Damn, I worded this so much better before the internetz ate it! Oh, well.

    Peace to you, and thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06746164758130418467 iroquo1s

    @Mandy – Reading your response I think you missed my point somewhat but I think we’re pretty much saying the same thing in places. We agree on key points more than we disagree.

    Christianity borrowed from other religions 1,000 years ago. And if at that time the Pagans had said “Hey, your use of our symbols & deities is messed up!” then they had every right to do so. But based on my studies of Christian (Roman Catholic) theology & history, early Christianity borrowed dates/festivals & remade them to fit Christianity. Who is going to want to join the new religion when the old one has all the fun holidays? And I can’t think of any Pagan Gods or symbols that were brought over, intact, & used by Christians. That’s the difference between influence & theft.

    Like I said, if your friends wanted to make up their own religion or spirituality or if they wanted to join an existing religion then I see no problem with that. But if they just want to steal bits & pieces of other people’s faiths then reuse them however they want then they need to be prepared to get some angry feedback if they violate the taboos or completely get the meaning or spirit of the things they borrowed wrong. And the person bitching them out has every right to do so.

    Let me put it in a contemporary perspective. I’m a pipe carrier & I’m trained to perform several different ceremonies. Some Natives think ALL ceremonies should be for Natives only. But my elders, that actually taught me those ceremonies, believed that only through allowing others to learn about our traditions properly (from us) would our traditions remain alive. There ae some things that are not open to members outside our clan, but others are. It’s a VERY controversial topic & my families opinion is just that – our opinion.

    So if I perform at a powwow or other gathering & people not of my tribe wish to attend they may do so long as they follow the rules for the ceremony.

    Now if I performed a Sunrise Ceremony, for instance, then next week one of the people at the ceremony bought a “peace pipe” on-line & started performing “authentic Oglala Lakota Indian Sunrise Ceremonies”, I’d be pissed & we’d be having a conversation very quickly. It wouldn’t matter what race they were. You don’t get to carry a pipe just because you found one somewhere & you don’t get to perform those ceremonies just because you saw one once.

    If a Methodist minister attended & decided that the idea of having a sunrise worship outdoors, praying, singing, & thanking God for the earth & all the gifts we’ve received is a great idea so she schedules a sunrise mass at her church to be held in a field at sunrise with songs & prayers I’d have no problem with that.

    One person was influenced by another religion & incorporated it into their own beliefs. Sort of like what early Christianity did with Pagan rites & holidays. One committed outright theft & broke a whole lot of taboos. See the difference?

    I’m not Hindu so I’d never dress up as one of their Gods. If one of my friends decided to dress up as Vishnu & a friend who was Hindu became upset & told them it was extremely distasteful & insensitive then I’d help my friend find a new costume because someone who actually practices that faith & is a member of that culture said it was offensive.

    I always err on the side of knowing what the heck I’m doing so I have never & will never dress up as someone elses God, religious icons, or cultural heritage. I don’t know what message I’m sending when I do this so I don’t send the message. By not sending a bad message through my ignorance of another’s culture & taboos, I don’t offend.

    It’s a whole lot easier to just not go there than it is to go there then have to apologize or defend your ignorance.