Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Here is an entry for the stereotype of the month contest. This happened on the Anne McCaffery Forums (http://www.annemccaffrey.org). She is a popular science fiction author, whose work typically preaches respect for other cultures. I was looking through her site, when I came across a post where someone was giving out jokes about brunettes. This was one of those jokes.
Q. Why didn't Indians scalp brunettes?
A. The hair from a buffalo's butt was more manageable.
I myself found this incredibly offensive. So I thought it would be a good idea to report it to the moderators of the site, who have a rule against using hate speech and harassing other board members. I reported it, and after no action was taken, I reported it again. And again. And again. Eventually I asked them why they thought this was appropriate, and informed them that I would be sending them messages everyday until something was done. After I STILL got no response I posted this message:
Re: Brunette Jokes
>> Originally posted by DragonRedFox
Q. Why didn't Indians scalp brunettes?
A. The hair from a buffalo's butt was more manageable. <<
Hi Dragon. Just thought it was time for me to comment on this one... Please don't be offended by what I have to say.
This particular joke is offensive to me, for several reasons.
1) The term Indian is not one that I approve of when speaking about Native North Americans. It is offensive in that it is a label given to us by an outside force, one which brutalized our people and demeaned our way of life.
2) Scalping is something which is commonly attributed to Native American's, and while it is true that that did occur, Native people only began scalping colonists after the practice became common among the Euro-Americans (the oldest records of scalping occurring, world wide, are from Ireland not North America). In fact, scalping was so common the other way (Euro-American's scalping us) that California began paying colonists for the scalps that they collected. $5 dollars each for the skin of one of my people. THAT is when we began our scalping practices, in retribution. (Still not right, but that's the reason)
3) Buffalo only live in the plains. Not all Native people dealt with buffalo, nor did all Native people live in the plains.
Each of these points to yet another aspect of the Native American stereotype. The though being that we are brutal, savage people, who roamed the plains wearing war bonnets, scalping men and raping women indiscriminately. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now I know this was meant to be a light hearted joke thread, where you could get back at us brunette's for teasing blondes (personally I don't tease blondes, as my aunt is one of you ) but I felt it was important to express myself here, and explain why this particular joke is hurtful. I can not imagine that you would have posted a joke about African tribesmen, cannibalizing blondes rather than brunettes, that would be offensive, right? But this is much the same thing.
Native people are constantly surrounded by stereotypes of themselves, and I would hate to think that any young Native child would see that joke and think of themselves in the way we were represented.
I hope that I have not offended you with my post, that was not my intention, but rather to explain my position, and free myself from any guilt I had due to my inaction. Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.
After I wrote that I finally got a response from one of the moderators. Here is what it said:
We have discussed this thread and your objections to it, at length. At the end of the day we considered that it was meant as just a joke, there was no intent at a racial slur. Rest assured that we do take each "reported post" very seriously, but in this instance, especially as you have now posted to the thread and made your opinions clear, we feel there is no further action needed.
I was incensed! So I responded:
Re: Reported thread.
I appreciate your response Tony.
While I understand that that part of the post was intended to be "just a joke" I can't imagine how that makes it appropriate. If, for instance, someone wants to post a joke which poked fun at another ethnic group, would you be so tolerant? If someone posted a joke about Asian-American's that played off of the racist stereotype which holds that they are unable to drive competently, or if someone posted a joke about African-American people which used the stereotype of the "shiftless, stupid" black man, would you think there was no racial slur intended? Would you think that since it was written in a joking manner it was acceptable?
To me, whether this post was meant to be funny or not, the insult is plain. I have seen people use slurs on two occasions on this board, both against homosexual people, and against Mexican immigrants, and neither time has the language been removed. This was just yet another incident which violated the trust I put in the moderators of this site to keep offensive, demeaning, racist or homophobic posts out of this message board.
The fact that I was asked to remove an asterisked-out curse word (which I immediately did) in order not to offend some of the people on this board, while nothing will be done about such blatantly offensive and slanderous material, is comical. As I said, I had always assumed that I would find a realm of tolerance and human kindness here, I should not have assumed so much.
Thank you for your response.
There you have it. I know that was lengthy, but I wanted to share this with someone. Thanks for your time, and all the effort you put into your work!
Osage and Cherokee
Santa Cruz, CA
The debate continues
As Dierdra reports, another person with a Native background responded to her posting:
Just a little update (for your own interest if you care to read):
Re: Brunette Jokes
>> Hi Dragon. Just thought it was time for me to comment on this one... Please don't be offended by what I have to say.
This particular joke is offensive to me, for several reasons... (snip) <<
As a 1/4 blooded Yurok, I personally don't take any great offense. It's a joke.
Yes, I know "scalping" was invented by the French and introduced to (mostly) the People who resided in the ares they controlled in the 1700s, and buffalo were primarily the plains
But the whole thing is supposed to evoke an image of unmanageable brunette hair. And it does the job in an easily recognizable way.
There are few jokes on Earth that don't offend *someone*. I believe if you can't laugh it off, you are taking yourself too seriously.
In the same vein, I think this whole thing about native mascots is stupid too. There are the Cowboys, the Packers (named after meat packing folks!) the 49ers (miners), Pirates, Irish, and many other groups of people who are used as "mascots". I think it's a rather complementary thing, that the warriors of the People were considered fierce enough and honorable enough for high school, college and pro athletes to want to compare to them. And we are certinatly a better example for the athletes to live up to than a pirate!
To which I responded:
Re: Brunette Jokes
>> As a 1/4 blooded Yurok, I personally don't take any great offense. It's a joke... <<
Well, surely, some people will not be offended. As a traditional Tsalagi and Wazhazhe person, I do take offense. Whether it was meant "as a joke" or not it fairly irrelevant. If someone posted a "joke" playing off of another stereotype, say that of Asian-American people driving poorly, or the stereotype of the "lazy black man" would you say that it was "just a joke?"
While it is true that some Native people may not be offended by this joke, each native person I know has been appalled that this joke was considered acceptable.
>> But the whole thing is supposed to evoke an image of unmanageable brunette hair. And it does the job in an easily recognizable way... <<
That's true. The imagery was accomplished utilizing stereotypes, in order to mock an entire people, hundreds of distinct tribes and millions of people.
>> There are few jokes on Earth that don't offend *someone*. I believe if you can't laugh it off, you are taking yourself too seriously. <<
That is absolutely true. Many jokes are bound to offend someone. I don't argue that all jokes that are harsh or a tad cruel be considered taboo, but only that people practice a level of common human decency, steering clear of the kind of material I objected to here.
Since the mascot issue was brought up, I have this to say. Thousands upon thousands of Native Americans disagree with you. The image of Wahoo, the name Redskins etc. are all vicious attacks against our collective heritage. When children grow up, thinking of Native people, they see images of a huge, grinning, red face, with a feather in his hair. They see cigar store statues and drunk Native people in comics. The non native children grow to see that as representative of all Native people, and the Native children grow to see those representations as the boundries of their worth and abilities. Why try to do well in school when "everyone knows you'll just end up a drunk." Why bother? Native American Youth suicide rates are among the highest in any category. I wonder why?
Every year my family, my tribes and people in my community gather to protest the use of Native American stereotypes in sports, on tv, in music on film, and on tiny message boards where "no one meant any harm." Thousands of us congregate to speak out because, until we have destroyed these negative images, until we are seen for ourselves, outside of these damaging stereotypes, we will not gain respect as a people. We will continue being oppressed. It only makes matters worse when one of our own argues that "it's no big deal" or that "it's a compliment."
Last time I checked, wearing blackface is not considered a compliment to African-American people. Pulling that the corners of your eyes is not considered a friendly gesture by Asian-Americans, and I do believe hearing that Mexican-American people are not big fans of people adding O's to the end of every word in order to "sounds Spanish." Doing "the chop," wearing a Wahoo shirt and telling jokes about our people aren't complimentary either. I only hope more people will come to see that.
Ethnic humor and the "Joke of the Day"
"It's just a [fill in the blank]"
Team names and mascots
Smashing people: the "honor" of being an athlete
. . .
All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.
Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.