Yesterday, Jason Taormino posted the photo at the left from their setup in downtown for the Halloween walk, showing one of their volunteers dressed as Pocahontas. Most people have heard of “blackface”, especially since Megyn Kelly recently had her NBC show cancelled over defending blackface as being “ok so long as you were dressing, like, as a character.” So why does the Yes on L campaign think that it’s ok to dress in redface as Pocahontas?
People have been rightly and roundly criticized for dressing in redface before. A student at Oklahoma university was pilloried for dressing in redface, with the recognition that a costume like that is “deeply disrespectful to the Native American community.” Stephanie Fryberg, a Professor of Psychology and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington, as quoted in an article from Indian Country Today, asks, “Why are issues for Native people taken as less serious in the domain of bias and stereotyping and prejudice than for African Americans, why is there this difference?”
Indeed, there is no difference. It makes a painful cartoon out of peoples who have a long history of marginalization and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government. Furthermore, it trivializes the life of the real Pocahontas, who likewise suffered at the hands of white people.
Davisites should know that this is not appropriate.
This follows a pattern of racial missteps streaming from the Yes on L/Yes on WDAAC campaign. First, there is the offensive tagline for the project, “Taking Care of Our Own,” which they are still using. Second, there is the evidence that their buyer’s preference program will end up perpetuating Davis’s history of predominantly white housing, which they have not backed off from either. One has to consider, as Eric Gelber does, whether “at some point, the continued promotion of a policy in the face of evidence of its inevitable adverse discriminatory impacts–even if initially unintended–can no longer be deemed innocent or unintentional. At some point, motivational assumptions become justified.”
To be clear, there is a difference between being racist and doing something that is racist. (See this fabulous video that explains the difference). I am not saying that the WDAAC developers are racists. They have, however, said and done things that are racist, the Pocahontas costume just being the most recent instance.
Davisites should take note and be concerned.