On Thursday I posted about Ecko Unltd’s disturbing “Weekend Warrior” line featuring headdresses on skulls, and tied it into a larger trend featuring similar images. A reader went over to the Ecko FB page and posted a link to my blog post, as well as another link that shows adorable Native kiddos talking about mascots and stereotyping. Ecko’s response?
, the intentions of the Weekend Warrior line were never to be racist, but to be fun and take a look at youth culture in 2012. It’s highlighting the melting pot of cultures that now make up our wonderful culture. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to continue this discussion.”
I normally don’t get fired up enough after 5pm to blog, but this pisses me off. Guys, don’t worry, it’s not racist because the “intentions…were never to be racist”! DUH. Who the heck besides maybe some white-supremacist or crazy anti-Obama hate group sets out to make something intentionally racist? If Mark Ecko sat in a room and was like “Hey designers, I think it would be really great this season if we did something intentionally racist towards Native Americans,” then we’d have a bigger issue on our hands.
Dudes, just because you didn’t *mean* to do something racist doesn’t excuse you from the consequences of your actions. I feel like I say this a lot on the blog. I will now draw an example from one of my favorite pieces of writing on the internet–“Intent: It’s Effing Magic”–if you got all drunk and hopped behind the wheel of a car and killed a pedestrian, does it matter if you didn’t intend to kill them? Absolutely not. You made decisions that led to an outcome that you’ll have to deal with, regardless of if you’re actually a good person who just made an incredibly stupid mistake. Now don’t freak out and think I’m trying to draw an even comparison between these two events. I’m trying to make a point. Actions have consequences, regardless of intent.
But let’s also talk about the other parts of this response. So we’ve established they didn’t intend to be racist. Great. But instead of racist, it was supposed to be “fun”! This reminds me a lot of the Spirit Hoods and Yay Life Tribe convos we had a while back. Tucker, the “chief” of the Yay Life Tribe said, in the quote that started it all, “You guys are amazing. You are taking a product that actually adds happiness to the world and make it come off as some jab at native americans.” Right, it’s our fault. It makes us out to be the overly-sensitive party poopers who are ruining something that is SO awesome, and how DARE we take offense when it was supposed to be light-hearted and fun. That, my friends, is some colonizer gaslighting right there. That’s a means of asserting power, even if subconsciously. If I, a member of the group being depicted in your “fun” clothing line, take offense to it, it. is. offensive.
Then it continues. The line wanted to “take a look at youth culture in 2012. It’s highlighting the melting pot of cultures that now make up our wonderful culture.” The celebration of the myth of the melting pot always gets me. Melting pot requires assimilation. Melting pot requires that cultures give up their individual characteristics for the benefit of a broader unifying “culture” (which is why some multi-cultural educators now push for the metaphor of a “salad bowl”), which is how colonialism works. We’ve had plenty of that assimilation stuff, and it didn’t work out too well. But that’s an aside. The other subtext is that Native people aren’t included in this “wonderful culture” you speak of. Because you’re “highlighting” dead Indians. Not live ones. There is not a highlighting of the current contributions of Native peoples–just a reminder that Indians are extinct in your eyes.
So apologies to the poor social media intern at Ecko that I just eviscerated, but after over two years of blogging about these issues, it just gets frustrating to see the same, tired, offensive responses to Native peoples’ objections to being portrayed in stereotypical and demeaning ways that make light of sacred traditions and practices.
Here, this is what you should have said (totally wishful thinking, I know):
A girl can dream.
Ecko’s Weekend Warrior Line and Headdressed Skulls Everywhere