As I write this, the Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to play in today's Super Bowl. There will likely be a number of Kansas City fans wearing headdresses, war-paint, and performing "the chop." Come next Halloween, there will likely be children (and even adults) all over the country doing the...
As I write this, the Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to play in today's Super Bowl. There will likely be a number of Kansas City fans wearing headdresses, war-paint, and performing "the chop." Come next Halloween, there will likely be children (and even adults) all over the country doing the same. Some argue that this is a way to honor a culture. However, others make the counter-argument that this is a form of cultural appropriation born out of ignorance and racism.
To answer your question, you should consider the motives of people who adopt these costumes. Are they truly informed about Native American traditions or are they playing the part of a trope? Are these people doing anything outside of this to learn about and respectfully participate in native cultural activities? Truly examining this will help you get a clearer understanding of this issue.
Furthermore, many indigenous peoples vocally argue against this sort of cultural appropriation. This should certainly be a consideration when people adopt these costumes and images. As a majority group, white Americans have never experienced their race and culture being adopted in a cartoonish fashion by other people with a history of subjugating them. Perhaps, more people should pause to consider what that would be like. Some make the argument that they know a Native American who has no problem with these mascots and costumes. While that may be the case, consider if one or two people can truly speak for an entire population.
Sometimes there is no denying the racist roots of these images, mascots, and names. There has been a controversy surrounding the name of the Washington Redskins for years. One must ask if it is appropriate for a team to have a name that is born out of a racial slur? The Cleveland Indians logo, Chief Wahoo, has been officially removed by the team. However, many Cleveland fans still sport the image out of a sense of hometown pride that ignores the negative stereotypes of indigenous peoples it originates from.
When considering the use of these culturally appropriated elements, think about how they originated and why they are still used. Many Native Americans have assimilated into society at large. Do these images honor their heritage or poke fun at it? What do they have to say about it? Do the people who use them understand the history that they are part of and do they have any connection to the topic beyond a superficial understanding? There is no doubt that this debate will continue for some time. However, the fact that we are acknowledging the role of cultural appropriation and having these discussions to begin with shows an awareness that was largely absent in past generations.