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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Chicago Tribune Magazine
Injun Summer

IMHO, this very much fits your criteria of "institutionalized racism in the media," even if it isn't "new." It is certainly "institutionalized" however, since the Chicago Tribune has been re-printing this story for over 60 years, sells posters of it, and there is a copy of it enshrined in a Chicago museum.

Some excerpts:

"...there used to be heaps of Injuns around here—thousands—millions, I reckon, far as that's concerned. Reg'lar sure 'nough Injuns—none o' yer cigar store Injuns, not much. They wuz all around here—right here where you're standin'."

"Don't be skeered—hain't none around here now, leastways no live ones. They been gone this many a year."

"They all went away and died, so they ain't no more left."

"...an' th' Injuns are hoppin' 'round 'em t'beat the old Harry."

"Jever notice how the leaves turn red 'bout this time o' year? That's jest another sign o' redskins. That's when an old Injun sperrit gits tired dancin' an' goes up an' squats on a leaf t'rest."

"See how red it is? That's the war paint rubbed off'n an Injun ghost, sure's you're born."

"Purty soon all the Injuns'll go marchin' away agin, back to the happy huntin' ground..."

I'm not the least bit interested in "winning" your contest, I just feel quite strongly that this particularily egregious piece of garbage deserves a place in your excellent pages. There's been a whole group of us speaking out against the Tribune's editorial decision to continue their "tradition" of printing this story as a nostalgia piece every fall. Giving this article additional exposure in your own pages could hopefully give our cause a boost.

Thank you,
Rebekah Morrigan
Host, Indian Country Perspectives

Analysis of the stereotypes
Here are some trenchant comments on the piece from Ms. Morrigan. I believe they originated in her debates on "Injun Summer" in the Delphi.com forum.

Indians are REAL human beings, but are not treated as such by the general population. Instead they are claimed and defined by the mainstream as objects of nostalgia and stereotype, and when they speak out against this reduction and dehumanization they are dismissed and demeaned by a mainstream that prefers to insist on it's "nostalgic" fairytale "In**ns" so that it retain its comforting illusions of a "vanished noble race".

THAT, sir IS offensive! And if you cannot see it, and you claim Jewish heritage as well, try this scenario:

"K*ke Summer", a heartwarming little period piece written by a beloved N*zi literary figure. An old Aryan grandfather entertains his grandson with a nostalgic tale of the vanished Jews, and how their spirits come back every fall, carrying Menorahs, their side-locks bouncing as they dance the hora ("to beat ol' Harry") around the ruins of Auschwitz.

But the Jews shouldn't be offended right? Because it's such a lovely, charming tale with such delightful, poetic imagery, and a beloved part of everyone's childhood memories.


This is NOT about "political correctness", this is about RACISM!

This is about demeaning and trivializing an entire group of people, and the grievous injuries they have suffered, with outright misinformation: "they are all gone", offensive words: "in**n, red**in", and crass stereotyping: "dancin' to beat ol' Harry".

And if you can't see that, try telling African Americans that they are being merely "politically correct" if you had a story called "Dark*e Summer" where they were referred to as "ni**ers" and imaged as dancing around ("to beat ol' Harry"), and sitting around grass huts eating watermelon and fried chicken, and they objected to it.

I rather doubt your protestations of warm, fuzzy nostalgia would go very far.

Enough is enough. This is the 21st century and racist stereotypes belong in a museum, not in a newspaper.


<<it's still gives a cultural view of Indians>>

Whose culture? Not Indians' culture! It gives the reductive, patronizing, stereotypical, utterly ignorant and misinformed cultural view of racist white culture. That's the ONLY cultural view promoted by this piece of tripe.

So basically what you are saying is that the dominant group's "warm fuzzys" are due more consideration than the feelings of the minority group who are being demeaned.

Well, I'm sure the Southerners had plenty of "warm fuzzy" stories about their "mammys" and happy-go-lucky "dar**es" back in the days of slavery and segregation, but I'm betting no newspaper today would even remotely consider printing any of them — no matter how many racists insisted that they were "harmless" pieces of folksy nostalgia.

A decent people, when informed that they have offended someone, will apologize and refrain from repeating the offense. It is nothing but utter selfishness for a people to value their own banal sentimentality over giving respect to another people.

But that has been the way of things since the European invasion of this country. Indians have been denigrated and held to be of lesser value by the Eurocentric culture for over 500 years. Apparently you are quite content to see this mindset continue.


<<they are still selling Cowboy hats and kids still play cowboys and Indians.>>

Okay, I'll break this down into two parts.

First, you said: <<Do Cowboys get the same treatment? Do they still sell Cowboy hats in the store?>> in response to my pointing out that stereotyping Indians is racist.

So in reference to children playing "cowboy", "fireman", "doctor", "teacher" or whatever, these are all OCCUPATIONAL groups, NOT ethnic groups. Stores sell play versions of any number of occupational accoutrements. No problem. As an occupational group, cowboys are no different from any other occupational group. There are plenty of Indian cowboys, in fact.

Now you bring up playing "cowboys and Indians".

The fact is, as long as the adults in the dominant society persist with stereotyping Indians, abusing and misappropriating the symbols, sacred ceremonies, and promulgating imitation artifacts of Indian culture, and using images of Indians for their own entertainment or labels on products, children will know no better.

As long as stories like "In**n Summer" persist, with its derogatory language and stereotypical images, its treatment of a living people as bygone mythical figures, children will not learn otherwise.

As long as the history of this country that is taught in schools, is sanitized and the truth of the genocide that was promoted by this country's government is withheld, children will know no better.

Disrespect, misinformation, and stereotyping of Indians are firmly embedded in the dominant culture, negative attitudes toward Indians have been carried forward from colonial times, the process of dehumanizing Indians has a long interrupted history in this country.

As long as the majority of images of Indians that children see in the mass culture are caricatures, inaccurate and derogatory "pretend" Indians being portrayed by white people; the inherent racism toward Indian people that permeates the dominant culture is passed down from generation to generation. And children, taking their cue from the adults around them, will continue to "play" Indian. Why not? Since it is so apparent that it is condoned by the adults.

We are saying the time is NOW for this to stop. It is time for the dominant culture to relinquish its false images and acknowledge and respect Indians as a living people, not stereotypes. It is time for the dominant culture to stop thinking that it OWNS Indians, to cease defining Indians on its own terms, and to stop telling Indians how they should feel.

Time for Indians to be listened to, and respect and attention paid to how Indians define themselves.

Put an end to all the "playing Indian" that is done by adults, and the children will learn by example.


Forum Host: Indian Country Perspectives
Native discussion on Native issues.

Correspondent defends "Injun Summer" (11/28/07)

I guess you're writing about the Stereotype of the Month entry posted at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/stype0b2.htm. I'll assume that you are.

>> While I can understand the outrage what I DON'T get is WHY you people insist on bringing up black folks in all your goddamn arguments?!! <<

Which "you people" are you talking about? I'm a WASP who cares about Native issues, not an Indian.

Blacks and Indians both have suffered greatly at the hands of white people. In many ways, their cases are comparable. Analogies between black and Indian people help those who know black history but don't know Indian history.

>> How is YOUR being pissed off have ANYTHING to do with me?!! <<

Who says I'm "pissed off"? I can note a stereotype without feeling much of anything about it.

Stereotyping is stupid because it's illogical, like an error in a math problem. I don't get emotional about math errors and I don't get emotional about stereotypes.

The references to African Americans in this posting are almost self-explanatory. If you don't understand some of them, tell me which ones and I'll try to explain them to you.

>> And the reason why a cartoon like that depicting black people wouldn't be tolerated is because BLACK people would complain and NOT anyone else so what I have to worry about MY issues and yours I don't think so. <<

People of all races care about prejudice against blacks. Look at the widespread antipathy to the comments of Don Imus or Michael Richards, for instance. Everyone criticized their racist remarks.

>> Whatever issue you have with injun summer is yours and yours alone <<

"No man is an island."

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

"All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing."

"First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out;
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out;
Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."


>> I frankly don't give a rat's ass because I'm pretty sure ther are 'native' americans who feel EXACTLY the same way when it comes to black people. <<

If you don't give a rat's ass about Natives, I don't give a rat's ass about your opinion. Feel free to get lost. Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

>> I prefer to be asked not TOLD what injustice I want to fight so piss off!! <<

I didn't tell you what injustices to fight. I posted a stereotype about Indians. Period.

You're the one wasting my time, not other way around. "Piss off" yourself. I'm not going anywhere, thank you very much.

Rob Schmidt

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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