by Amber Davis
A bit of advice from antiracist pop culture site Racialicious.com: If you have no tribal affiliation, and any variation of “Native American” is on your retail shelves, perhaps this is a good year to reconsider. Or, to quote blogger Adrienne K.: “If you’re OK with being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism, or don’t mind perpetuating the stereotypes that we as Native people have been fighting against for just as long, by all means, go for it” (NativeAppropriations.blogspot.com, 27 April 2010).
As Urban Outfitters recently discovered, some cultural appropriation can even bump up against the law. A few of the retailer’s offerings, including a “Navajo Hipster Panty” and a “Navajo Print” flask (?!), caught the eye of the Navajo Nation Justice Department, which informed the company that it was violating the Navajo trademark (AP, 20 October 2011).
Dressing up as a marginalized racial/ethnic group may not get one slapped with a lawsuit, but it can certainly serve as a slap in the face to the group in question and to the growing number of consumers with a low tolerance for clichéd costumes. Just as bad? Being a retailer stocking the aisles with no-good garb. Especially when there are brands out there who are more ready and willing than ever to partner with sellers and help them better spot some potential wins.