Racism Strikes Oxy’s Party Scene Wearing Brown

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Author: Tefari Abel Casas Fuchs

Saturday, Jan. 31st., will be a night that I shall never forget. It was the first time I realized I was not safe at Occidental College. As a person of color, I have known my entire life that the United States is a racist state, but I never expected it so explicitly at Occidental College.

I am referring to the blatantly racist “Cowboys and Indians” party that a group of students organized off-campus at Soccer House on Friday, Jan 30th.

The next morning, I awoke to Facebook images and entire albums of students in stereotypical “Indian” costumes with loincloths and feathers. Some with their hands raised in the “how” gesture and others with their hands over their mouths getting in position to do the “Indian war whoop.” Above all, however, there was one female student with her face actually painted brown, almost in the manner of the ‘blackface’ entertainers.

As I look over the pictures the perpetrators put on Facebook, the anger incited in me cannot be described. The ignorance of these people confounds me. For my brothers and sisters of color who attended this party, yet refused to raise their voices in protest: shame. You actively took a stance to engage in horizontal oppression, which is the act of one institutionally oppressed group oppressing another.

Students at Occidental College pride themselves on being socially aware and liberal. At this point in time, however, I have realized if an entire crowd of people can attend such a party and not a single person had the decency to speak against such a cruel act of racism, I have to think twice about Occidental’s students.

Is this how you see me, a Native American? Do you see me as a stereotypical “Injun”? Did you calmly and passively sit through the Native American History Month performances with these prejudices hidden?

I can see how these people came to believe this. For many children in this country, the first exposure to Native Americans is the song “Ten Little Indians” and the Disney movie Pocohontas, which are both seriously offensive. In the nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Indians,” these “Indians” are incarcerated, lazy and in the last, horrendous line, the last “Indian” “hanged himself and then there were none.”

In the popular children’s movie Pocohontas, the white invaders, sing a song called “Savages,” where they sing “Their skin’s a hellish red/ They’re only good when dead/ They’re vermin, as I said. . . They’re savages! Savages! Dirty redskin devils!”

Is this how youth have been raised to see my people? As children, we are extremely impressionable and if exposed to such blatant racism, I can see why these Occidental students believed that it was appropriate, even comical, to throw such a party.

This racist “party” and its organizers honestly disgust me with their disrespect of my people. Not a month ago, we cheered when Barack Obama became our president, but now I see through the weak façade of some.

Would we tolerate a ‘blackface’ party? Would we attend a ‘Slanty Eyes’ Party? Would we attend a ‘Beaner’ party? (In advance, I apologize to anyone offended by these racially-charged words.) Or, an ‘Overseer and Slave’ party?

I would hope that the answer would be a resounding no, but now I cannot be not sure. Why do these people feel that Native Americans are a prime target for abuse? Did you think we are docile, or that we simply do not exist? Well, I am positive that I exist and am certainly not docile. As a Native American who is thoroughly offended, I demand an apology from the people who organized this party immediately.

Tefari Abel Casas Fuchs is a sophomore AHVA and Education major. He can be reached at bfuchs@oxy.edu.

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