Julianne Jennings: A long obsession with Indian stereotypes

"Stereotypes help market American merchandise for more than a century, and the history of their use and abuse offers a strange and telling story of race relations in this country. Starting with sugar, its long history is interwoven with that of the slave trade. As sugar consumption increased, the exercise of raw power by European colonials came to dominate non-Western societies to meet the demands of production. Africans were captured and tight packed on board European slave ships and sailed from Africa to the sugar Islands of the Caribbean to labor in cane fields; but only after Indians were nearly made extinct by the brutality. Slavery was no ancillary part of early colonial economy, but a driving force, and sugar was king.

From this dark and exploitive past now comes a raspberry-flavored chewy confection called Redskins. Manufactured in Australia by Nestlé under the Willy Wonka brand, they have sold these racist candies for years. Why name a product Redskins? Because they are red and taste like raspberries (just like real Native Americans). The term redskin however, is associated with our country’s first president. In 1779, George Washington instructed Major General John Sullivan to attack Iroquois people. Washington stated, “Lay waste all the settlements around… that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.” Following the defeat, troops would skin the bodies of Iroquois “from the hips downward to make boot tops or leggings.” Many American Indian activists are pushing to have the derogatory term removed from the football team for which it is named. The banning of Indian mascots is also receiving the same attention. Yet some white’s would argue this is a sign of respect, but would a white man wear blackface to a basketball game?"

Get the Story:
Julianne Jennings: From Slavery to Raspberry-Flavored Indians: America’s Obsession With Stereotypes (Indian Country Today 4/21)

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