I'm Not Your Disappearing Indian
Obviously, #CancelColbert did not lead to the canceling of The Colbert Report, and in a New Yorker interview Ms. Park claimed she never intended for the show to be cancelled; furthermore, she had never even viewed the actual skit, and had reacted to a tweet (since deleted) without understanding the original joke to which it referred. What’s most frustrating to me is that a deleted tweet garnered more outrage than the actual existence of a foundation to promote a slur against Native Americans. A foundation announced just days after the U.S. Patent Office, reasoning that the word is a racist epithet, refused to grant a trademark to "Washington Redsk*ns Potatoes"! A potato has more rights than Native people do! (And yes, there is a Native hashtag for it -- #NotYourPotato -- and no, our allies on Twitter have not trended it.)
Lost in all of this was that the skit was (until that truly awful name of the satirical foundation was uttered) an excellent takedown of Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the NFL team the Washington Redsk*ns. The skit did a great job pointing out that the donated 3,000 coats were like giving blankets & beads for land, and the ridiculousness of a billionaire owner of an NFL team valued at $1.8 Billion trumpeting his partial donation towards the purchase of a tractor. Yes, Snyder didn’t even pay for the entire tractor, which the "Stephen Colbert" character notes his staff found priced at $2,500 on eBay. The skit culminates with Colbert, the character, announcing he is so inspired by Dan Snyder’s OAF he has decided to create his own horrifically-named "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation." Then to drive the point home even more clearly, Colbert tells the audience that we can all thank Dan Snyder for that—not him.
That the emphasis in Twitter outage was on the SATIRE of a racist foundation versus an ACTUAL racist foundation just shows how marginalized we are. Imagine if all that ire, outrage, and sheer indignation had been directed with the same ferocity at Snyder and the Redsk*ns? 80 years of a slur in the NFL would be over now.
I forget that most people, even other people of color, have never met a Native American. That the figure they have in their minds is some kind of rough construct adorned in feathers and wearing fringed buckskin and saying little. When they meet me, with my long, black hair and dark eyes and high cheekbones, it doesn’t occur to me that they may be trying to fit me into that jumble of stereotypes they carry around. I have always seen myself, until now, as a member of this group of PoC journalists and activists.
“Native Mascotry” is a term I coined to describe the practices that surround a Native mascot. It’s not just about the static image of the mascot, be it somewhat noble and prosaic or an ugly caricature with a feather on top. It’s the creative license such mascots gives fans to reenact outdated stereotypes, to "play Indian." These practices include: the wearing of Redface, the misuse of Native regalia and the chanting of fake, hokey war chants and tomahawk chops. This year at the Rose Bowl, a group of Florida State University students each held up a letter to spell "Scalp Em," yet this did not inspire our Twitter allies into #CancelColbert levels of action. (And yes, there was a Native hashtag for it, #RedfaceDisgrace.)
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