Last night as I was scrolling through Instagram I came upon a beautiful photo of a black woman dressed in what she described as a Pocahontas/Tribal-inspired look for Halloween. She had several photos and video clips, and all of the comments on the photos were of black women praising her artistry.
What struck me, however, was the fact that in all these comments, I could not find a single instance wherein somebody opted to inform this woman of the highly offensive nature of her getup.
So I took the photo to my personal Facebook group called, “Black Women Who Love Makeup,” and was again, surprised to read the comments from some members:
Native American women in the group responded to these opinions, stating that indeed, dressing or imitating their cultural garb, albeit well-intentioned, for Halloween, is offensive to their community:
Native here (Wampanoag). It has more to do with the types of “regalia” that are worn. The iconic feather headdress is reserved for a specific cultural purpose. If a native decided to go as a native for Halloween, you would not see them wearing that headdress. In fact, regalia often consists of many pieces. Each has a meaning.
A good metaphor: An atheist with no knowledge of religion whatsoever walks into the Vatican wearing the pope’s hat. He doesn’t know the meaning behind the hat, definitely isn’t seen as “worthy” by the followers of said religion, and to top it all off he took something that people have molded their lives around and simplified it as if it were just another daily lulz for them.
It didn’t matter, though. The ladies stuck by their belief that because they mean no offense, no offense should be taken. Myself and several of the other ladies in the group even attempted to give a brief history lesson on what actually happened to the real Pocahontas. We tried to explain that Pocahontas was essentially kidnapped, raped, “married” to her captor, and died at the age of 21. We further explained that her people were decimated. It didn’t matter. Women of color, refused to accept that respecting someone else’s culture. religion, beliefs, transcends our own personal feelings.
Let us not forget, last month, Black women collectively praised this black mother for “reading a cashier for filth,” when said cashier mistook traditional african attire for a halloween costume. Now it seems that these same women have a hard time understanding the very same respect should be paid to the Native American Community:
Now it may seem as though I’m calling out black women, so I want to be clear: I am calling out black women. And the reason is simple: we should know better. The term “cultural appropriation” is hot on the tongues of almost all modern black women. When we see images of the Kardashians rocking our styles and making it “cool,” but doing absolutely nothing for the black community, we are pissed. Yet, we have no issue when the very same acts are being committed against Native Americans? It boggles the mind.
Every single year we see beauty gurus disrespecting the Native American community by dressing in their tribal gear because they think it’s pretty. Ripping off their culture because it’s cool, but never once speaking in defense of these people when they are harmed. And they have been harmed and continue to be harmed.
I’ve rarely interacted with Native American people. I am not a scholar of Native American studies, but as a black woman, a native woman in my own right, it is not hard for me to respect someone else’s culture.
If we can understand why this is harmful:
How hard is it to understand that this is likewise offensive?
As black people gather to fight against police brutality with Black Lives Matter, we’ve become increasingly critical of those who participate in the ‘fun’ aspects of our culture — the music, the style, the lingo — without regard for our lives. Likewise, Native Americans are now in an epic fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would pollute water supplies and destroy sacred native land. And yet non-Natives seem seem more concerned with their “right” to dress up as Pocahontas as Halloween. How is that any different?
We have GOT to do better!