Jul 1, 2014 - Getting Detained After Asking MLB Fan to Remove Headdress by April Negrette & Kimball Bighorse
I’m a big baseball fan, San Francisco Giants in particular, from the Barry Bonds, JT Snow and Rich Aurelia days. I’m also a Native person – Shoshone and Paiute from Nevada. So Native American Heritage Night at the SF Giants game on Monday, June 23rd seemed like an ideal time to attend a game with my little sister.
Unless you consider watching non-Native people prancing around in costume headdress and getting slammed to the ground by your hair by police ideal, I turned out to be quite wrong. Upon seeing a group of men who appeared to be non-Native passing around a red, white and blue plastic headdress, I and another Native man I just met decided to go talk to them about that not being an acceptable way to celebrate “Native American Heritage Night”.
I’ve engaged people before when encountering them in fake headdress in attempts to educate, and have had mixed results. My most successful encounter involved in the past, the fellow actually took the headdress off – without me asking – and gave it to me and gave me a hug and thanked me for taking the time to explain it to him.
This particular group was not quite as open to listening. I started crying because I wasn’t being heard and the man who was most recently wearing the headdress became flustered and says “What do you want from me?!”, and I said “Give me the headdress”. Surprisingly, he did. Mission accomplished. Problem solved, kind of.
Security showed up along with a self-proclaimed Native friend of the individual and demanded the headdress back. Without any question of what actually happened security started demanding I hand the headdress back. I refused. I thought to myself, “You got me f*cked up if you think I’m going to willingly hand this back to these white guys.” Crazy Horse would have rolled over in his grave. Because I wouldn’t comply, we were ushered behind the bleachers where SFPD were waiting and they ripped the headdress from my hands. Giants security personnel proceeded to inform us that we were ejected from the game for “unruly behavior”. We wouldn’t leave because they wouldn’t tell us what about our behavior was unruly, so the police decided that was cause enough for throwing us on the ground and handcuffing us. After over an hour of being assaulted and detained we were released with not so much as a ticket.
There are so many layers here it’s hard to pick a starting place. Some people feel automatically attacked, and I get it. You’ve embarrassed yourself, you didn’t mean to be racist, and you thought it was cool; you’re just ignorant, and you’re just a byproduct of this society that teaches people not to think beyond what they see in front of them or on TV. However, the messages mainstream population is fed are misinformed and romanticized versions of our actual cultures with no mention of the issues affecting our communities today. So when an actual Native person who lives every day in their cultural context takes the time to explain the harmful impact of stereotypical and appropriation behavior such as wearing a fake headdress, it would behoove people to listen.
There should also be an acknowledgment of the difference between Native blood and Native culture. I’m tired of these people that are pretty sure their great grandma was part Native, speaking on behalf of a culture they have no connection to. If your grandma was Catholic but you aren’t, that doesn’t give you authority to go around speaking as a Catholic person, and it certainly doesn’t give that Jewish guy the go ahead to tell Catholic jokes just because you said it was ok.
These actions and images psychologically affect our children. They are racist. I hear about free speech all the time as an argument as to why people should be allowed to do what they want, keep the mascots, keep using names, and keep wearing costumes. That’s fine, but be upfront and say “I am doing it because I’m racist and I just don’t care”. Keep your excuses.
The real kick in the pants was when I saw that they gave the headdress back to the group and the “Native” friend put it on. I wonder if he really felt like he earned his feathers, and was a warrior sitting there thinking how he got the woman who dared open her mouth about the injustices affecting the community we both belong to, thrown out of Native American Heritage Night.