Modified Racism

Great Essays
Native Americans or American Indians are often depicted as the mascots of sports team, the brands of automobiles, and the logos of many food and tobacco products. Many believe that these depictions are honoring the indigenous people of the United States. However, these are ultimately harmful representations. In the 2014 Journal of Communication Inquiry 38(3) article, “How Many More Indians? An Argument for a Representational Ethics of Native Americans,” Debra Merskin reflects on how representations of Native Americans are more often than not caricatures that continue to distribute racist discourse, reinforce negative stereotypes, and reject attempts at cultural pluralism. I have two Native sisters and I attended a small school in which the …show more content…
What non-Indian or non-Native people think about or know of American Indians most often comes from the teachings and inaccurate representations of outsiders. Advertisements and branding distribute “visual and verbal discourse” (Merskin, 2014, p. 191); they are vehicles of discussion, which are not always positive. Non-Indians only see Natives as monikers, Halloween costumes, or logos for products. These forms of commodified racism because, according to McClintock (1995), they depict the “‘deeply constitutive... ways in which Whites connected race, pleasure, and service’” (p. 220, as cited in Merskin, 2014, p. 191). Based on this, then, stereotypical representations produce and reproduce the “artificial indian who is the product of colonization,” and who is plastered across society as brands, mascots, logos, and costumes solely at the pleasure of consumers (Merskin, 2014, p. 190). Although mascot protests have happened and continue to happen, they are almost always disparaged or ignored (Healey & Stepnick, 2017). Merskin (2014) argues that producers and communicators have a responsibility, not just to dominant consumers but to those they are portraying or representing, to stop using inaccurate images and engaging in commodified …show more content…
Although Natives are trying to maintain their unique cultural identities among dominant society, the mainstreaming of misrepresentations hurt these efforts. Therefore, Merskin demands that communicators of all types stop the commodifying of racism and to integrate representational ethics into their branding and marketing activities. This applies to social workers because of their duty to help those in need, especially vulnerable populations. With the combination of Natives being overlooked or “othered,” being constantly misrepresented by businesses and educators, and having their voices ignored, social workers must pay special attention to commodified racism they may unconsciously be participating in or encouraging. In order to support Natives and their causes, social workers must protest and lobby on their behalf, as well as provide services within their communities that aid in the respective tribes’ progress in self-sustainment and

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