Let’s debrief what happened with Halloween

November 3, 2011 — 50 Comments

This isn’t going to be a story about how I chased some Pocahottie down the street yelling about the history of colonialism and subordination of Native peoples, or how I ripped a headdress off a huge guy and stomped it in the mud in the name of justice (Actually, I did that one time at a football game. Not recommended.). This is me needing to get some stuff off my chest about the way that my series of Halloween posts were received on the internet, the way I approached the issue of Indian Halloween costumes, and how I’ll move forward (and do better) from here.

So, a quick recap. Wednesday, October 26th, I posted an “Open Letter to Pocahotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween.” I wrote it in about 30 minutes or so, writing completely from a place of  borderline activist fatigue. I knew that a post where I attempted to reason with the dominant discourse that says “dressing like Indians=totes ok” wouldn’t work. So I went for the purely emotional argument, knowing full well that I was baiting the haterz, and would probably not receive an overwhelmingly positive response.

What I didn’t expect was nearly 6,000 shares on Facebook, 19,000+ pageviews, and over 300 comments (before I shut them down). All of a sudden, people who don’t know me, don’t know this blog, don’t know the things I talk about day in and day out, were saying things about me that were harsh and horrible (I know, woe-is-me, wah wah, I-put-it-on-the-internet-I-should-deal-with-it), and I’ll be totally honest, it scared me a bit.

So I followed the emotional appeal with a post that showed the in-your-face racism for sale in the form of Indian costumes, and surprise, surprise, none of the people so eager to hate on my feelings and my opinion ventured to tackle the actual costumes that I find so egregiously offensive.

But I want to go back to some of the things I said in the original post, and clarify. Most of you don’t know this, but my doctoral work is in education. My research focuses on access to higher ed for Native youth, and my goal is to produce research that re-frames the stories about Native students from a deficit perspective to a positive, success based approach. I’m sick of everything that paints Indian Country as this solely desolate and hopeless place, when I see so much strength, joy, excitement, and hope coming from the kiddos I work with. That being said, I totally went for the deficit approach in my Open Letter, and it’s been bothering me.

I played the Oppression Olympics card–”You don’t know what it’s like!” “Hunger! Unemployment! Sexual Assault!” “We have it so bad!” “You are oppressing me!!” When plenty of other communities of color and marginalized groups do know what it’s like. It doesn’t do us any good to fight over who has it worst.

I also feel like I mis-represented myself a bit too. I am a proud Native woman, and I know what it feels like to feel invisible, to feel marginalized, and to feel silenced. But I’ve also written many times before about how I also have a whole-lotta privilege of my own, being really mixed (i.e. looking white), growing up in a suburban area where I was afforded a gazillion opportunities, and attending prestigious universities for my education, where I’ve been able to sit and read piles of critical theory and develop my angry/activist lens. So I know what a lot of it is like, but I also can walk through my life without anyone ever knowing I’m a Native person. I don’t know what it feels like to live on a reservation, to experience the direct effects of racist governmental policies. So I don’t like being seen as  “the voice” of Indian issues. Because my voice is only one Indian voice, one perspective. There are 4.1 million Natives in the US, and there are 4.1 million different ways this blog (and that post) could be written. 

But I was just so tired of fighting. I just wanted someone to not only hear me, but to listen. Do I regret posting it? Absolutely not. If I managed to start 6000 conversations about Indian costumes, I did my job. Would I have approached it differently today? Probably. But I still stand by everything I said. That’s how I feel. Do I feel better having clarified things in this post? Absolutely.

Moving forward, I want to make sure I re-frame many of my discussions away from a deficit perspective. I think it’s important for my non-Native readers to understand the realities of contemporary Native life, but I also think that only relying on those tropes furthers negative stereotypes as well. So I’ll try to strike a balance. I’m also going to develop a commenting policy, probably a lot like Racialicious’s, so we can have actual, productive conversations in the comments, rather than dealing with racist trolls who don’t know what they’re talking about. yay.

TL;DR version (aka a summary):
I wrote a post about Indian costumes. It went viral. People were mean. I felt like I relied too much on negative stereotypes of Indian Country to make my point. I feel like I wrote like I know everything about being Indian and Indian issues. I don’t. Now I feel better. Thanks.

PS- This is my 250th post on Native Appropriations! Cue the confetti!!

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://twitter.com/girlplusworld Kateri Town

    Regardless of how it was received, you’ve expressed a lot of things about Halloween that I’ve been to afraid to say to people I know. You’re a good role model for Native Americans, and I apologize that you received all the hate for pointing out an injustice in the world.

    • 10100111001

      se:kon cuz.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1219050586 Brooke White

    It always makes me wonder, why simply asking for people to be considering other people’s emotions gets the haterz out ind bunches over here.

  • Buffy

    You prompted a lot of conversations, and I applaud you for it. I posted the Ohio state poster on my own FB wall and it spawned a good discussion about can dressing up as something outside your own culture ever be okay. I have been a Jewish demon (Lilith) that isn’t part of the jewish canon but would terrify faithful orthodox jews. I’m not sure about that but can see how it could be easily cast in a very poor light. I once went as a gypsy as a child and years later after I actually met a Roma, understood how sad it was. Anyway. I am glad you posted this. I think that there’s not enough nuance in these discussion and to share your process and whatever concerns you have about how you cast this is an honourable move and a welcome one that helps make the conversation richer.

  • Bumblebee

    You initial post was heartfelt and your feelings are valid. You know that people can be trolls and it is tragic that saying something is wrong and racist gets peoples’ pants in a knot. Please know that there are people that read your blog daily, and may not comment (like me) that support your work and work of others like yours. Keep it up, you are getting to others, and you are a great support when I need to point things out to others. I refer them here and I have yet to get someone to refute me after pointing out your blog.

    Thank you for your work. It IS important and it IS appreciated

  • GeeWizz

    Adrienne-
    I think you are doing a great job. Keep it up!
    I was wondering if you contacted The Spirit Store about their costume descriptions? Or if you plan too? I’ve wrote to customer service with no reply. Which doesn’t surprise me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethanykmathews Beth Mathews

    I am one of those people who had never been to your blog before the Halloween posts. As someone concerned with appropriation who has never quite been able to express what seemed to be wrong with using people’s culture for “fun” at events like Halloween, I want to thank you and all of those who spoke up this year about this issue. You may not have anticipated a mob, but you definitely helped spread a great conversation. I hope that this time next year I can enter into conversations with people who perhaps haven’t had the chance to appreciate other’s perspectives.

  • https://darkandusky.tumblr.com/ KissOfDanger

    Your feelings are validated. Honey you aren’t the only one.

  • red_bird

    You keep up what your doing as another Native that did not grow up on a reservation I applaud you and your blog inspires me and help me to coalesce similar feelings I have on these very same issues. Thank you
    S Red Bird

  • HINHANSKAH

    The culture of a flawed thought process comes from the culture of an improper education process. We must educate that for which is now called America. Only then can we begin to change the flawed thought process. Anyone one of us can look around us and see the wrong that has been done to our cultural behalf. This only starts to change through EDUCATION!!!!! In spirit.. Keep up the good work!!!

  • Claire Hummel

    The internet can be so amazing and so horrible all at the same time, but I’m glad you made the post and I’m glad I can continue to follow your fantastic blog. It’s always a pleasure when a new post pops up on my aggregator, and it’s nice knowing there are safe places out there on the internet to discuss race and privilege. :)

    -C

  • http://twitter.com/hjaxx Heather Jaxx

    I heard you and I understood you. I am Hawai’ian and I was able to relate on many levels. What you wrote was emotional but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t true. Keep on doing what your doing. Much love and respect!!! BTW, Saturday night before Halloween there were many Pocahotties and Hula dancers running a muck. The more you post the more we share the more people learn!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6YHRZ4QCPDGLRUH6HUYGHOQVLA BED

    yeah!

  • Francesca

    I read your initial posts about the Halloween issues, and it opened up my eyes to something I’d never even thought about before. I tried to spread your message among my friends and met with moderate success but then a few days later I spotted posts/images on various websites that directly mocked anti-racism campaigns and exploited the “We’re a culture, not a costume” idea which I thought would be effective and thought-provoking. Your posts were so amazing and so well-written that I’m absolutely horrified at the responses they provoked. I had no idea people could be so deliberately ignorant.

  • Cassie

    I loved the post in question because it was real, but I love this one even more because you are willing to show us again how real and truthful and open you are. Admitting you may not have done something the “right” way, or maybe messed up how you wanted to say it, just adds to the discussion and shows how willing you are to open yourself up and believe in change. Trust me, you are making a difference.

  • Shana

    Hi Adrienne. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now. I appreciate the intellectual work that you do. I recognize that it is hard and brave and e optionally taxing. That being said you did something here that many political bloggers cannot do. You stepped away, admitted the places where you might have done things differently, and faced your own privileges which we all have. I have a great respect for that and I think we as an activist community could do better at allowing each other to make mistakes in the work we do. I say all to say: good for you. Your honesty is so refreshing.

  • Naomi

    There are many things I do not like about Halloween, and I thank you for giving voice to one of the many aspects that bother me — people dressing as an “other” in a way that is disrespectful, harmful, stereotypical, racist, etc all in the name of “fun.”

  • Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    I was, and remain a huge fan of that post. Just that very morning my GF and I had been discussing the psa type portraits, because I’d thought of them as concise, well thought-out and effective. Well apparently a whole lotta ‘I wanna wear a racist costume and why are you ruining my fun’ type eedjits came outta the woodwork around that. So what. Some people are going to respond in that fashion no matter how reasonable you are. So not ten minutes after the GF and I have been talking about the pics, some sports scores come on and I hear them announce the “redskins” scores.

    Now please understand, i know nothing about sports, I’d vaguely heard of this team years ago and I’d assumed they’d changed the name. Yes, that’s naive, and yes, I’m a white girl, so I’m able to live in blissful ignorance of that particular insult. Anyway, I asked my woman (who is the sports fan) wait they didn’t just change the name? and she told me no, that’s a profitable franchise, they won’t change that name, no matter what. her: thats the world kitten. me:but but but

    ok. so then, I’m cruising on fb and up pops a pic of a pocahottie, some friend of a friend I’ve met like one time. my head hits the desk, i see red. I click away from fb, fuming. Then i see your post, and I laugh aloud in glee, and i share that mofo on my fb page.

    then the same dumb white woman comments something like, “whatever, my husband is sioux and he didn’t mind” so, I too shoulda known that was coming, then i just unfriended the chick, which maybe is what I ought to have done in the first place. But you know what? I am willing to bet you $5 that chick thinks twice next year about her fit.

    There are always gonna be idiots who don’t get it no matter what you say. But there are some people who can learn and change. So, should you be held to an impossible standard for your manner of educating folks? nope. Because its not your job to teach the stubborn. A very simple and clear request was made, and it went something like, ‘please don’t do this, it offends me deeply’ that’s a human request, for compassion and respect (now look at me, I’m quoting from a Sherman Alexie story! no kidding!) no but seriously, it is a human freakin request. the human response to that request is, “ok”.

  • Brita

    I’ve been reading the blog for a while and always appreciate your insight and perspective: I come here to read and listen. So thank you for writing and speaking! Also, I don’t think that making a personal, emotional call for change on Halloween costumes was anything that the trolls should jump on (of course they did, they’re trolls… but still). It’s a totally reasonable request, and borderline activist fatigue happens to all of us. Not fun!

    I also wanted to point out a couple resources you might already know about, but if not, DEFINITELY check them out:
    1. Brian Klopotek at University of Oregon is a really great indigenous education scholar. Have you read his stuff/contacted him?
    2. Shakesville (blog of Melissa McEwan) has some really, really great posts in her Feminism 101 section, and I feel that many of them have a similar tone and topic to your work here. You might focus more on race than on gender, and her the other way round, but they are so definitely connected.

  • NDNiskwew

    I love your blog, don’t change a thing. I used your post on FB and started a convo too, it was very interesting to see the diversity of opinion. It is difficult when the members of the dominant group in society can’t/don’t want to see the priviledge they walk with every day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emily-Mahan/10715012 Emily Mahan

    Keep on being awesome and doing what you do.

    Probably any time you write or speak in an impromptu way about something that you feel strongly about, you’re going to look back and find ways you could have said it differently. But maybe it’s the direct and heartfelt nature of it that got people’s attention, and hopefully it makes them think about what native people might actually feel. Perhaps more restrained, philosophical arguments are (unfortunately) less likely to sink in and make people wonder if what they’re doing is fucked up. I’m sorry you had to put up with idiots bashing you.

  • Oh Susannah

    While it absolutely sucks to get negativity poured out alongside the hostility, in a world where race, class and gender privilege abound at least you know you rattled a few consciences and shook some otherwise comfortably numb into responding. I shared on fb and got nothing. Silence. Sometimes the absence of response is even scarier. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s obviously working.

  • Rainbow Womyn

    Regardless of a person ancestry it is hard for any person that has a good heart to read racist comments. It is even more devastating when there are many of them and they are directed at you. Did any of the post that were hate filled get responded to? This cyber landscape has some advantages. Perhaps there needs to be a “these people are racist” facebook page created so they can get a taste of there own medicine. The more a racist person is publicly force to face their ugly behavior the more likely they will have to change or at the bare minimum they will learn to keep it to themselves.

    Rainbow Womyn

  • leelo

    keep doing what you’re doing girl…I am also doing my doctoral work in native studies and believe me it’s important…just remember the old saying “empty vessels make the most noise”…1 love

  • steve julian

    Your blog is important. Like you say, you are one voice of many. I think the title is apropos to the struggle that Cherokee and all other Native people have experienced. I feel bad for you that hate is easy. That is a good sign that you are reaching people. You shine a light and the bugs race around. I enjoy reading your posts, and this one is no exception. The issues are personal, never apologize for emotional arguments, whether or not they are rational/irrational (in the eyes of others). And 250 posts!!! Wow.

  • Zakaree Harris

    From someone who knows you and your research, I love reading your blogs and tweets. Please keep up the good work!!!!

  • Blank Name

    Commendable as always, Adrienne.

  • Star Horn

    Don’t edit yourself too much, you will lose the essence of your (our!) anger and frustration in your writing. It is this energy that drives it, makes it readable, and spurs others to help make change. If you begin to frame your ideas to appeal to everyone, rather than you please yourself, I think you will lose the passion and thus you audience. You sound like you already know your boundaries, can analyze and comment on yourself enough in subsequent posts to make this an important ongoing dialogue for everyone. This Mohawk woman says to keep up the good work :)

  • M. Specialfxlady

    I want to jump in with the don’t edit yourself too much camp.

    I have found myself having the opportunity… to write about race issues quite a bit over the last couple of years and I think I understand where you’re coming from. I’m trying to balance my own privilege while trying to educate others who are not POC’s or marginalized.

    I was adopted by my great-grandparents and they shipped me off to “better” schools during my formative years. So by the time I went to live with my birth mom in the projects after my adoptive mom died, I’d basically seen some parts of how the other half lives.

    I had a unique experience and often times wonder if I’m coming off like I’m speaking for Black folks I’ve never met when I talk to others about our issues. But you know what, I’ve got relatives, colleagues, and future students who have had experiences I haven’t had but I’ve had experiences they haven’t had and also seen and felt what has happened to them through their stories. So I’m talking about them when I write and I’m clear to state that. But most importantly these issues are OUR issues. As privileged as I am to be in school full time, I’m only as privileged as the kids who are getting a white-washed education in schools, the kids who are starving to death on junk food, the kids who don’t know where they’re going to sleep tonight. And I’m not trying to co-opt their situation, I honestly don’t know how anyone sleeps at night with this stuff going on.

    I didn’t speak out for a long time because I felt unqualified to do so, now that I’ve got more learnin’ I still struggle with those feelings. So I think if you’ve got something to say, or a story inspires you it’s your duty to speak out. You can do it for those of us who aren’t ready to do so yet.

    Thank you.

  • Stephen Bridenstine

    “I wrote it in about 30 minutes or so, writing completely from a place of borderline activist fatigue”

    Yikes! That can make some of the best and, let’s face it, least thought out blog posts. That’s why I haven’t posted anything substantial in 4 months (grad school and all).

    You are absolutely right when you say you started 6000 conversations! That’s the whole point!

    Keep up the button pushing!

    -Stephen

  • Sharon

    I just want to say that I learned a lot from your posts. I have never read your blog before, was directed to your original Halloween open letter from elsewhere, and I have to admit, I didn’t get it from that post. I know that I come from a place of great privilege and I try to be conscious of that, but I still found myself reacting to that with a sense that, wait, I can’t dress up as a specific character, then? Like, I could be Lewis and Clark if I wanted to, but not Sacajawea?

    But then I read THIS post, and now I really feel like I get it on a much deeper level. I understand the difference between an historical costume that everyone will recognize as only a surface reflection of something we think about on a much deeper level, and that we recognize as limited and dated, versus a costume that reflects a culture that I couldn’t tell you anything else about, that still exists today and is fighting for its voice. I just want to say, I feel like I didn’t get it after that first post, but I get it now, and thank you.

  • Chris D

    Great post!!

  • Christina Arnone

    I feel compelled to tell you about the positive effect of your blog. First, I just stumbled across it about an hour ago, while searching google for children’s tipis. I reviewed your post on the issue, and the comments, and reflected further upon my purchase. I’m not Native American, and I’m still buying my 18 month old a tipi for Christmas. Along with the approximately 20 books of Native American literature I had selected (with the help of a website for “proper” Native American children’s literature) and the couple of authentic instruments I’m getting from Native American craftsmen off ebay. But I want you to know why. My father is a historian. A civil war historian, who works as a park ranger at a “trading post” where Native Americans came in and traded. And I spent many, many hours of my youth inside of tipis–one in my backyard (he got an authentic one for me, of course), and others at the fort. At the fort, I got to spend many hours (and some nights!) with Native American re-enacters, and they lovingly adopted me and named me “white butterfly” (can’t possibly do the spelling, though I never forgot how to pronounce it). My father let me be silly, and dress up as a Native American for Halloween. And I of course “played Indian”! But my father also took me to reservations and taught me about some of the issues concerning Native American education and perceptions of alcoholism, even while very young. Perhaps it’s culturally improper of me, but I want a tipi for my son to start to experience the same education I had. Hell, maybe I’ll let him give out a few war cries while running around our house. But you can bet he’ll also visit a reservation, read alot of Native American literature, and learn everything I can teach him. Thankfully, I was blessed with a family appreciative of other cultures, but he has close relatives on the other side who are far less so, and I’ll do whatever I can to counteract that. So I understand and appreciate activism, but I hope that one wouldn’t turn and shake their head in disgust if they walked in our home and saw his tipi, or his Native American playset. I have put an incredible amount of effort into planning our multi-cultural Christmas’ (Africa next year–so excited!!). My only hope is that someday, he will be a culturally aware individual, who can flawlessly interact in this global world we live in. I am glad I came across your thought-provoking blog, to serve as a reminder of our mutual hope that our children live in a world slightly better than the one we will be leaving.

    • http://twitter.com/Qacar_Xan şayan qacar

      There are tipi companies that donate to Native causes–might be nice to pick one of those :-)

    • Angie Makomenaw

      Not all tribes lived in tipis. My tribe lived in wigwams. If you are ever in central Michigan. Please stop by the Ziibiwing Center (www.sagchip.org) to learn about the Anishnabe

      • Jennifer Crispin

        Oh, I wish I lived closer to there! I just checked out your website and am currently falling over in envy for those who got to participate in your latest Artist in Residence program. The museum looks great, too. My family will definitely be making a visit some time in the next year.

  • 8mph Ansible

    Blargh! I can figure little else to say beyond what others have, but reading the comments I’ve realized I’ve yet to thank you.

    I don’t remember when or exactly how I’ve came across your blog, maybe from some native folk on livejournal, but it has introduced me to the brave voices of numerous Native commentators/activists of various tribes, stripes, opinions and expertise I never knew or thought rolled about the internet and often wouldn’t know was a Native beyond some random forum’s random discussion that didn’t invoke “I’m ____ ” as a shield. Though I am a bit sad that some of yall are fellow Okies that nowdays live outta the state, but that’s never stopped me from having the e-meets and sharing lols.

    And not only has your blog also put a pin in my chair to be more of an activist for Native and other minority issues but I’ve seen comments where people admitted you’ve changed their minds, or the minds of someone in their life, for the better.

    For that I have to thank you. You don’t need to edit yourself. You don’t have to rely solely on logic when feelings are just as valid and real. And even though even if some of us are just a choir or echo chamber as far as the trolz are concerned, we still got your back. Because its our voice too.

    Mvto

  • Ben

    That emoticon pumpkin IS awesome! Keep on keepin on!

  • Naomi Martin

    I really liked the Halloween post and I totally felt the emotional plea of the open letter. You are an amazing writer.

  • Dharshan Chandramohan

    don’t be a sad pumpkin. You’re super awesome! :)

  • Safadancer

    I just wanted to write and say that a) I thought your posts (both of them) were right on the money, and b) I am so f*cking sick of people on the internet being rude and defensive and feeling hyperthreatened. Oh noes! A lady is talking! A NATIVE lady! She’s telling me not to do something! That is a blow to everything I hold dear! So I will tell her off!

    You did a great job dealing with a subject that many people can’t even put their finger on why it’s wrong, and illustrated with actual examples. You totally deserve two gold stars, not shouting. Also maybe reading this post at Tiger Beatdown will reassure you a bit that you are not the only articulate, impassioned woman with a real activist axe to grind getting shouted at on the internet: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/11/07/why-are-you-in-such-a-bad-mood-mencallmethings-responds/#more-4125

  • Nicole Tripp

    I’m with Beth, I came across your blog post on FB and started throwing it all over the place before Halloween came because knowledge is power. I’m STILL linking people to it right now – not because you acted like you knew everything, but because it WAS a heartfelt letter. It wasn’t about education or facts, it was about the pain Native people feel when they see a drunk white frat boy donning a headdress. That’s why it was important to me, and that’s why I continue to pass it around. You can’t argue with “That hurts me,” though some people invariably try, so sometimes it’s a better argument than, “Society and history blah blah blah.” Those arguments are certainly relevant but when we connect on an emotional level, it’s easier to see how something is offensive. IMO anyway. thanks for writing and keep it up! You’re brave for at least putting it out there – don’t be scared, haters are cowards.

  • Anon

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time, I think I found it through Sociological Images… I just wanted to say that I support you and I don’t think that you need to put forth apologetics. I too am of mixed heritage. I am about half Cherokee (or legally 1/4 due to racist government policies), in a family of people with mixed heritage for many generations. Frankly, to most people I look white. Somehow I ended up with fair skin and blue eyes, genetics is a strange and random thing. I remember as a teenager, struggling for identity as teenagers do, wishing that I had my mother’s dark hair and tan skin … so that at least I wouldn’t be mocked and denied whenever I made a claim to my heritage. I lived near the Tulalip reservation and their kids went to my high school and they were the harshest about it. In a sense I had more privelege than a lot of them… my mother was in the military and so we did not have to live with two families to one house (as I hear happened frequently on the reservation). I guess what I am saying is that even though you are a bit removed from how bad things could be… that doesn’t mean that you have less right to be angry about these social issues. I have a huge disconnect between myself and my heritage. It was drilled into me from birth that I was Cherokee. But as an adult I find that I have no people, or society or culture to you know stuff into that big drilled hole. Despite that, I feel angry over these issue… and I share them (and lots of your posts) with my friends. You obviously have a much larger connect and you are in a position to do something (where as I am surrounded by hipster Portland who just don’t give a fuck as long as they get their pabst/coffee) so don’t ever feel like your voice is somehow less because you have a bit of privilege. You are doing something good, out of the goodness of your heart.

  • Chelsea

    There’s nothing to apologize for. Good for you for expressing your views, even if you would have preferred to approach the topic in a different way. Not everyone is going to agree, but it generated lots of interesting thought and conversation. One thing I think is interesting is that, no matter how wise your point of view, when you push strongly (taking an “I can’t STAND it when…” approach), others push back just as strongly. No one likes being told what to do or being told what’s definitively right or wrong. In the end, what’s right/wrong is only a matter of opinion anyway, but you can better win people over to your viewpoint with intelligent and levelheaded eloquence rather than something aggressive that people will interpret as an attack.

  • jasmine999

    After two long posts, you have one clear moment where you admit to your own motives. You wrote that blog because that is “how you feel.”

    “How you feel,” however, is not a strong enough reason for asking people to change their behavior. The meme that since “you” find it offensive, it should not be, is, probably, the ultimate statement of the privileged, and unlikely to win people over to your side.

    Also, “don’t wear the costumes of human groups who have been through hell,” is too general an argument. Taking what you said to its rational extreme would mean, literally, that we can only dress as ourselves, inanimate objects, or animals for Halloween, as every single human depiction is going to involve some culture, past or present, and no culture, past or present, is without its history of suffering. Nor does the argument offer any way of differentiating between clearly racist costumes, and costumes worn because the wearer genuinely loves a specific culture. There is a huge difference there which you must respect.

    One way of limiting your argument: Forget individuals, as that way lies an untenable argument. Instead, find a specific situation, like a “cowboys and Indians” party. “Indians,” were the victims of one of the most horrific genocides in the history of humanity, and “cowboys” perpetrated that genocide. There is a specific reason for finding such a party objectionable other than “it is offensive TO ME,” or “I don’t like it, so I don’t want you to do it.”

    Good luck.

    • Rose

      I would strongly recommend that you read what this website has to say, Ashetalia: http://www.derailingfordummies.com I would also recommend googling what “privilege” means in the activist sense, because “I find this hurtful and offensive because it perpetuates racist stereotypes that directly contribute to a society that continues to erase the existence of my racial/ethnic group and create an atmosphere where casual racism against us is acceptable, and I strongly urge you to reconsider doing this offensive thing” is the absolute furthest thing from a privileged statement. The essay “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (google it, you’ll find it easily) should be illuminating.

  • ConsciouslyFrugal

    I would be really interested in hearing your views/experiences on being able to “pass” (etc.) as white and living in privilege. Years ago, I decided to just let go of any Native identity, because I was beaten down by the “yer too white to be a REAL Indian” crap I got from both sides. It was easier in college, when our Native rights activist group was filled with folks like me, but outside of that environment, it’s just been hostility or absurd romanticization. My favorite poem (can’t remember the author, of course) is called “Song of the Halfbreed”:

    Don’t offend the full bloods
    Don’t offend the whites
    Just stand in the middle
    Of the goddamned road
    And get hit.

    That pretty much sums it up. So, c’mon, Phd candidate! Share some of that educated perspective with us. Wait, perhaps you already have? I must shift through your archives now.

  • http://psychostrategy.tumblr.com/ Emily

    Longtime reader, first time poster. The issue of dressing as Indians for Halloween is, if not less wrong, then less immediate where I am in the UK; in general, I enjoy your blog exactly because these things are not just erased but completely absent for the most part here. Nevertheless, I used your posts in a lengthy debate with my sister about dodgy Halloween costumes and I think they really helped. It’s not quite one I “won”, but it did get her thinking and that’s a positive first step. Thank you for your blog, and I hope this positive story does a little towards cheering your fatigue x

  • gwen

    I just found your blog (by way of another favorite place of mine: Beyond Buckskin). The Halloween post you wrote (I went back to read it) is right on target. I am usually horrified when stepping inside big box Halloween costume stores and seeing the derogatory American Indian costumes as well as Mexican costumes that come with a striped poncho and over-sized sombrero. The sexy American Indian costumes are particularly horrific as there is so much sexual violence towards American Indian women every year.

    keep up the excellent work!!

    -gwen

  • Zoe Saadia

    I’m sorry I found your blog only now. I wish i could subscribe to it ages ago.
    Your letter to Pocahotties and Indian Warriors had manages to express the frustration I felt for years! It’s so well written.

    Just to clarify, I live on the other side of the glob. And it’s much worse outside USA.I actually lived in a few different countries for years (US Cali included) and it’s always the same, all over the world – costume parties fulled to the brim with Pocahotties and guys with tomahawks (I addressed this issue in my blog post too, very breifly, I admit :-) http://blog.zoesaadia.com/north-america-before-the-famousinfamous-discovery-%E2%80%93-a-terra-incognita-of-historical-fiction/).
    It doesn’t help to talk to anyone. In US maybe at least you could get a response like the one you cited “I know Indians don’t dress like that”, but in other countries you would be thrilled to get such a response. They DO think Indians dress like that, arggggggghhhhhh!
    And the worse are the people who know me and my research. They would be the first to ask why don’t I dress Pocahontas when I come to costume parties. I can scream! Why can’t people just listen, just for once? :-/