I'm Not Your Disappearing Indian
Sometimes, you forget you’re an "Indian"—someone who is just a figment of someone else’s imagination. You're a princess or a fierce warrior. On Halloween, you're that pocahottie costume that attracts the guys; at a football game, you're that headdress the fans wear as they put back the beer and scream at the refs. Or you're even that disappearing Indian, riding away on his faithful steed into the mists of time, not around to be interviewed about what is going on today, not fit to comment on issues that concern Native people.
You forget, and then -- there are abrupt experiences that remind you.
For instance, Rooney Mara, a non-Native actress, was recently cast as Tiger Lily in a remake of Peter Pan, and journalists were up in arms about it and wrote some 87 articles about it in the national press. These writers—African American, Asian American, feminist, people of color—all failed to include us in their coverage of an issue that was ostensibly about us. Will Hollywood try to pull off Redface or are they simply whitewashing roles to avoid the issue all together?
And then last Thursday, it happened again, this time it was the folks on social media trending #CancelColbert and completely forgetting about Dan Snyder and the real foundation to promote the racial slur Redsk*ns. Once again, ostensibly about us, but of the issue garnered no real attention until it fell in someone else’s hands and then they, once again, forgot about us.
No, it wasn’t Stephen Colbert who forgot about us, nor was is "Stephen Colbert," a character played by comedian Stephen Colbert, to satirize the extreme insensitivity of Republican conservatism. His show, The Colbert Report did a whole skit skewering Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the Washington Redsk*ns, and Snyder's new Original Americans Foundation (OAF), exposing it -- through satire -- as a blatant attempt to use charity to provide cover for his NFL team’s racist name. It was the hashtaggers, PoC (People of Color) and progressives, our own allies on Twitter who trended the hashtag #CancelColbert in response to the fictional foundation’s name featured in the skit. And yet, Dan Snyder’s real foundation promoting an ethnic slur against us, a foundation that actually exists, failed to garner even a tiny fraction of outrage by the same group. In fact, in her Time Magazine article that followed the enormous success of #CancelColbert, hashtag originator Suey Park failed to mention Snyder’s foundation at all. She certainly did not mention the Native hashtag protesting it #Not4Sale, despite it being covered by Mike Wise at the Washington Post and Al Jazeera America’s The Stream just days before. Only one reporter, Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal included any mention of Native responses to it.
Could you imagine national coverage of #CancelColbert or the previous trending hashtag promoted by the Asian American community #NotYourAsianSidekick without interviewing any Asian Americans? Or without any mention of the creators of the hashtag like Suey Park?
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