Looking in the Pop Culture Mirror
Equality for Native Americans
When we live in a country where people are “created equal” it’s hard to gather my acceptance of that expression…created equal. What is considered equality? According to the Declaration of Independence it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I can’t help but laugh. When it comes to Native Americans in pop culture, we are anything but equal in a country where white settler immigrants have taken over. Native Americans are mocked at sporting events, have racial nicknames in sports and movies, and have their history and traditions made fun of.
It starts at childhood. In the children’s movie, Disney’s Peter Pan, the Indian tribe in the movie is singing the song, “What makes the red man red, and why does he ask you ‘How?’” According to the song in the Disney movie, the reason why Indians are red is because a million years ago the first Native prince kissed a maiden and started blushing, which caused all Indians to blush ever` since. While this is a harmless accusation, the racist situation is when Captain Hook (who is a white colored man) is calling the Indians in the movie “red men.” (Disney). Judging that this is a children’s movie, could it be possible that children are being brainwashed about how Indians act, or their skin color? According to research studies, children watch over 8 hours of television a day (Wolfe). So when parents are continuously putting Disney movies on for their kids to watch, children then tend to believe that what they are watching is how things are.
As children get older they develop new interests, such as sports. I personally love football, and it’s probably my favorite sport. But when it comes to football, this racial situation of skin color continues with the Washington Redskins. The Washington Redskins got their name by paying “tribute.” According to Glenn Beck, “The name was changed to ‘Redskins’ to honor then-coach Lone Star Dietz, an American Sioux (Ritz, E). Although it was a generous gesture to pay tribute to a Native American man, the term ‘Redskin’ is a racial name toward Native Americans. This has led fans to act and dress in racial ways. They are dressed to what they believe an Indian is dressed like; the typical feather headdress, painted faces, and hair in braids. These are the same features that were presented in Peter Pan. Fans are mocking Native Americans for an entire season by the way they dress and holding up signs like, “scalp the enemy” as a funny gesture to defeat the opponent.
Now I understand having a sense of humor. I also understand joking around. There is no law against having a sense of humor, but everyone has their own sense of humor, and some people find things funny that other people don’t. Back in December, Oregon was hit with a snow storm. This would be a typical event to happen this time of year. During this cold event, I was stuck in my house for several days, and my outside communication included my cell phone and social media. While scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, I came across a meme that a friend of mine had liked. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but this particular meme made me angry. It was a black and white picture of a Native American man. On top it said, “I hate snow” and on the bottom it said, “Because it’s white and on my land.” (Quick meme). Now I understand that this was a joke, and its intention was for fun/humor. But this is bothersome because it is merely mocking the history of Native Americans. Snow is being referred to the white settlers coming to American and taking over the land.
There is a video online of when a Native American man interrupts an immigration protest. He states that this land was the Native Americans first, and that this land was built off of immigrants. He argues that everyone standing at the protest is immigrants because the white settlers came and invaded Native American land (The Young Turk). I completely agree, because the people who did come over several years ago moved onto the land and had no documentation of where they were from. They had no documentation of their rights to live there. Native Americans lives changed drastically when the white settlers came, and have become such the dominate race that Native Americans are merely becoming unknown.
People have gathered this notion about Indians being all about their land. This “land” that people are referring to is a settler created place called reservations. Yes, that is correct. I did say settler created, because that is exactly what they are. Reservations were created by the white settlers to isolate the unwanted into a small piece of land (Moyers). Now how is that fair? We are not up to the standard of white society, so we are secluded to a prison like community. Sherman Alexie states in the interview that, “We didn’t make reservations. The military, the US military and government made reservations. And it was a place where we’re supposed to be concentrated and die and disappear.” These reservations were created for Indians, and the Indians turned it into a scared place.
So as a Native American, do I feel upset about how my culture is presented in pop culture? Yes, I am upset about people trying to dress up to what they believe an Indians dresses like. Yes, I am going to be angry when people make a joke merely for the sake of humor, and it’s referred to a Native American. If the roles were reversed, and your race was mocked constantly, you would be just as upset as I am. I truly believe that Native Americans are simply unknown; basically extinct to everyone in the US. And when you have such little numbers, you fight just to get the fight started. We have to fight just to be heard, just to be understood, just to be known. When a race has to fight so hard, then there is no way they are created equal.
Disney. Peter Pan. Geronimi, Clyde; Jackson, Wilfred; Luske, Hamilton (Dir.) Walt Disney Productions. 1953.
Moyers, Bill; Alexie, Sherman. (Presenters). (2013). Sherman Alexie on Living Outside Cultural Borders. [Tv Interview]. Moyers and Company. Retrieved from: < http://billmoyers.com/segment/sherman-alexie-on-living-outside-borders/>
Ritz, Erica. “Do you know the history behind the name ‘Washington Redskins’?”. The Blaze. The Blaze Inc. 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 28 May 2014. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/11/do-you-know-the-history-behind-the- name-washington-redskins/
The Young Turks. “Native American Shuts Down Immigration Protest”. TYT. The Young Turks. YouTube. 28 May 2014. Web. Retrieved from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2utsjsWOWUA>
Quick Meme. “I Hate Snow: It’s White and on My Land”. Quickmeme.com. Web. 28 May 2014. < http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3tpq73>
Wolfe, L. (2014) “How Television Controls and Programs Minds: Turn Off Your Television”. Rense.com. Web. 28 May 2014. < http://www.rense.com/general63/traid.htm>