Trends that heat the melting pot

Logan Crews, opinions writer


Since the beginning of this country, there has been a mantra of acceptance and inclusion; anyone is welcome to live under one roof. Though behind the scenes that hasn’t been the case. In the 1830s the United States relocated roughly 16,000 Cherokee people. Before that, Europeans wiped out 90 percent of the Native American population. From the start, white Europeans have oppressed Native Americans through genocide, colonization and buried their cultures behind the gates of reservations. There have been, and still are, immeasurable offenses against Native Americans, so the best way to apologize is obviously to inaccurately turn their cultures into trends.

 

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I have tickets to a music festival like Coachella, what comes to mind to wear is not the new MAC lip and contour palette or a Forever 21 bralette and high waisted shorts. I think of fake eagle feathers and tribal paint. If I’m on stolen native land and buying a plastic beaded dream catcher, I might as well recognize them as a people still in existence despite the efforts of my ancestors. I only want to show people how thoughtful I am by wearing the sacred clothes of a culture that isn’t mine.

 

Other than Kylie Jenner’s instagram, us festival-goers are often inspired by the runway. For example, the other day I saw a Victoria’s Secret model strut down the catwalk with a long, flowing Native American headdress. At first I thought only native chiefs and warriors were supposed to wear those, but I realized dancing through a distasteful set at Loufest makes me warrior enough. It’s like a sign of respect and shows equality between races, even though research from AAUW, the American Association of University Women, showed that Native American women have to work nine months more than white men to earn the same salary. But that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little willpower. It’s not like they’re isolated on reservations with addiction epidemics or anything.

 

What’s even better than native representation in the high-end fashion world is the summer sale of offensive clothes shoved out in the windows of stores such as Urban Outfitters, Rue 21 and Ralph Lauren. Obviously the sale of “Aztec” print shirts and socks is the perfect way to spread knowledge about a culture that was nearly stomped out of existence, but not everyone believes so. Janet McCloud, a Native American activist, described these fashion choices as an ignorant way of connecting cultures. “This is just another in a very long series of thefts from Indian people and, in some ways, this is the worst one yet.” Of course this is ridiculous considering how much white people have done for Native Americans. Does she not know about those accommodating assimilation camps?

 

According to CNN, the popular store Urban Outfitters was sued a few years ago by one of the largest Native American tribes: the Navajo Nation. The Navajo accused Urban Outfitters of selling clothes branded with the Navajo name and symbols without their permission. Urban Outfitters won their battle in court due to the belief that “navajo” is a generic adjective instead of a culturally strong tribe. I have to agree that tacky clothes and household items are equivalent to one of the most widespread tribes in the United States. Honestly, if I were a Native American I would be thankful if my lifestyle was turned into an offensive aesthetic at the hands of a race who controlled me for hundreds of years. Who cares if it misrepresents my culture and erases native history? More popularity, right? This “cultural appropriation” business is bogus.

 

These trends taken on by teenagers are only fashion choices and definitely not ignorant reproductions of smothered cultures. As summer comes to an end, they begin to infiltrate KHS. I see what stereotypical attire my classmates wore to a concert a few weeks ago on instagram and spot fake dreamcatcher keychains dangling from backpacks. There is even inclusion of other cultures. Students of all kinds sport sharpie Henna tattoos and African Bantu knots disguised as space buns in their hair on the daily. Ah, the sweet smell of cultural appreciation. I wonder what it will find next.