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Feedback: Costumes: Cute or Racist?

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Elementary school students in Claremont, CA, will not be dressing like pilgrims and Native Americans for this year's Thanksgiving pageant after one mom called the costumes racist stereotypes. Our readers shed some light on the topic:

Two boys wearing costumes

How pitiful. I'm tired of people throwing around words like racism with no context. No one is implying Native Americans are an inferior race by dressing up as them, and it's childish and cheap to pretend they are. All you're doing is taking harmless fun from children because of your own self-pity. -- dwindle

Considering that the first Thanksgiving was to celebrate the killing of 700 Pequot men, women, and children, I can see how and why the Native Americans would find this offensive. The U.S. has over 564 tribes within its borders that have varying languages, regalia, customs, and traditions. I can completely understand why the indigenous folks of the U.S. would be offended by non-Natives thinking all Natives wear feathers, loincloths, and moccasins. It's insulting and demeaning. -- Six

There are a lot of misconceptions around Thanksgiving; as one comment pointed out, the pilgrims didn't wear those hats. As for Natives and Colonialists sitting down for a dinner, there is an oral tradition of this happening that has been passed down and recorded, but there are no records from the time ever stating any occurrence of a Thanksgiving dinner. According to modern historians, it's a fabricated myth that masks a history of cruelty and deceit. That being said, some of these bans are ridiculous; as a Native American scholar myself, I find it frustrating when advocacy groups such as this one mask modern agendas behind the cause of correcting an inaccurate history. The fabrication of mythology isn't always a bad thing, it's well prevalent in modern-day religion, so why not allow these kinds of favorable misconceptions that may hide an ugly past but would hopefully lead to a more understanding, amicable future of acceptance and comradery. -- Josh

I am Native American, and although the stories are not relayed properly, which is true with most nationalities, there is no harm in acknowledging the heritage, especially when it's meant to be flattering ... Mimicry is the greatest form of flattery. And if you're upset about the information being incorrectly relayed, then maybe your focus should be placed on informing people of the true history. Unless you would like to be forgotten altogether! Besides, what is wrong with someone wanting to be an Indian? -- Concerned Parent

I am all for investigating the truth behind history, and not continuing to do something just because "that's how it's always been done." If something is truly wrong, I'm all for making a change ... but, I just don't see how things like this are racist or wrong. Yes, there were terrible atrocities committed against the Native Americans by the emigrating Europeans. However, this is one positive story (that, by all accounts, did seem to happen at least in one form or another in 1621), where two peoples, who were polar opposites of each other, were able to come together in celebration. How is that a bad thing to teach children? And the costumes ... the pilgrim costumes are just as inaccurate and stereotype-inducing as the "Indian" ones ... but, whatever :-p They're just costumes. There are times when everyone needs to lighten up ... especially when it comes to children (and teaching them valuable life lessons, like acceptance of those who are different from yourself). -- Jennifer Miller



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