By Erika Meyer
My daughter, Brook, is a long time No Doubt fan. She is also Native American. (I am not.) She is a member of the Yurok Tribe, the largest remaining tribe in the state of California. Brook spends her summer months with her dad on her reservation, and participates in many different traditional and modern activities from subsistence fishing to trail restoration to World Renewal.
Brook showed me the new No Doubt video, “Looking Hot”, today, within minutes of it posting. We watched, aghast. Well I’m not sure about Brook. She was just real quiet. Processing, maybe. But I was aghast.
I know that Brook faces her share of racism here in not-so-racially-diverse Portland: people pushing ignorant cultural clichés on her, store owners watching her extra carefully… and though she plays along sometimes, I know it wears on her. I’ve seen her deal with it ever since she was very young, when other schoolkids would dance around and sing “woo woo woo” – a traditional white American’s racist idea of how Native Americans behave. I’ll never forget her looking at me, six years old, wanting to be proud of who she is, but confused at these displays, and asking, “Mom? Do real Indians do this?”
Now she is 17 years old, and her classmates’ inappropriate behavior persists. Apparently, our dominant culture children are not being taught to consider how and when their behavior and attitudes may be harmful to others.
Most of the time my daughter is happy and confident, but she is also sensitive and this kind of thing is so subtly undermining. It’s hard to watch your child suffer any kind of physical or emotional pain and feel powerless to stop it. It’s bad enough to deal with this in everyday life, but when a big act like No Doubt gets in on the act, and when their label, Interscope, and all industry publications, shove it out unquestioningly, it really become nauseating.
As a fashion designer, pop star and all-round trend setter, Gwen Stefani is never one to do things by half measures. And never more so than in No Doubt’s latest video for their song Looking Hot, where she dresses as a Native American Squaw. (Yeehaw! Gwen Stefani dresses as a Native American, cavorts with a wolf, and ends up handcuffed in No Doubt’s new Wild West themed music video by Eleanor Gower, UK Daily Mail)
Everyday racism often manifests in a lack of understanding or interest in someone’s actual background paired with stereotypical “jokes” about perceived or imagined traits. Racist speech, even when joking or “playful” is a subtle but powerful assault on a person’s sense of self-identity and self-worth. As an article in the New York Times recently pointed out, Native American women continue to struggle with high rates of abuse and rape.
No Doubt’s new video takes this real history of rape, theft, forced migration, and genocide, and turns it into some kind of bondage fantasy role play.
Fucking ‘music’ industry.
Why is the drummer playing all by himself in the street, dressed as Zorro? Why is the band posing with electric instruments in rustic outdoor locations? Why is that girl in a gunfight? What’s that stuff flying around in the air? Even without the cultural appropriation, this video is cliché 80s bullshit. Why do they keep shoving this garbage down our throats?*
Anyway, why stop with cowboys and Indians? Maybe the next video can feature action packed sequences of Nazis capturing and playfully torturing a (blonde) Jewish schoolgirl. Or perhaps it can feature slave hunters chaining up a (blonde) African maiden.** Sexy!!!
But first we’ll hear from scores of Native Americans trying to explain why their culture, religion, and history is not a joke, followed by a bunch of entitled whites ranting about how “whiny” Natives are, and why do they have to take everything so seriously? Why can’t they just stay silent and enjoy the fun? Why can’t they feel “honored”?
These questions all have answers, but in order to hear them, you have to open your ears, and in order to understand them, you have to open your mind. Maybe you’ll experience feelings of discomfort. That’s ok. It’s all normal. There is room for redemption. The main thing is not to keep repeating the same mistakes.
Anyway, 43-year-old botoxed blonde lady, the answer is “yes”. You are looking sooo hot in this video. But personally, I’d rather be an average-looking 44-year-old adult female with some emotional and mental depth (and I am), than to be a hot, unapologetic example of white privilege and blatant cultural appropriation.
* I know, I know. I just don’t understand the music business.
** I’m learned after writing this that this video actually was a logical progression. A lot has already been written on the subject of racist cultural appropriation via Stefani’s ‘Harajuku Girls’. Obviously, whatever backlash Stefani dealt with during that time had no effect whatsoever. She hasn’t figured it out. She’s stubbornly ignorant. And that’s really hard to respect.
In the eight hours space since Erika wrote this blog entry, No Doubt have pulled the offending video, perhaps realising that – despite popular belief to the contrary – not all Publicity is Good Publicity. (I believe No Doubt still
market consider themselves ‘alternative’.)
No Doubt posted the following statement on their official website:
As a multi-racial band our foundation is built upon both diversity and consideration for other cultures. Our intention with our new video was never to offend, hurt or trivialize Native American people, their culture or their history. Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people. This is of great concern to us and we are removing the video immediately. The music that inspired us when we started the band, and the community of friends, family, and fans that surrounds us was built upon respect, unity and inclusiveness. We sincerely apologize to the Native American community and anyone else offended by this video. Being hurtful to anyone is simply not who we are.
They consulted with Native American studies experts at the University of California? Really? Fuck me. Perhaps someone might want to examine those ‘experts’ credentials.
Kudos to No Doubt for pulling the video nonetheless. As Erika wrote on Facebook, “Sometimes people don’t know they’re being hurtful until they are told”.