Geishas, Cowboys, Indians, and Skinning People for the Sake of Fashion: Katy Perry’s Racism Knows No Bounds, By Ruth Hopkins
What’s wrong with Katy Perry performing while dressed as another race? The identity and culture of distinct groups of people is not trivial. Cultural items, dress, customs, and rituals have specific meaning, constructed over millennia. It belongs to that group of people; it is their birthright. We are not commodities to be bought and sold. We are not toys, props, masks, pets, costumes, or slaves, and to behave as though we are such is dehumanizing. Whether it’s blackface, redface or yellowface, make no mistake, appropriating the traditional culture of another race of people is wrong.
Appropriation is a weapon of assimilation and is born of a conqueror’s mentality. Colonial empires express dominion over people by conversion. First they defeat the people militarily. Their lands and resources are taken. The people are made to assimilate or face termination. Then they try to break the spirit of the people by re-educating them, and forcing their religion upon them. Eventually, they come for what the people consider most sacred, and try to destroy it by making it illegal or making a mockery of it. Ultimately, whether consciously or unconsciously, they attempt to exercise control over the very identity of that group and cry foul when a member of that group dares to protest the offense. Only the voice of privilege has the arrogance to assume ownership over all things, even the spirit of a people.
So what’s the big deal? It’s just a kimono. It’s not like Americans killed Japanese before, right? Cut to 1945- when approximately 100,000-150,000 Japanese citizens were killed instantly when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and another 60,000-80,000 perished from a bomb dropped on Nagasaki, at the culmination of World War II. An undetermined number of people died later from burns, injuries, and radiation sickness.
Besides the wave of genocide that started in 1492 with the arrival of Columbus that killed millions of Indigenous, the U.S. declared war on my people too. We were hunted down and killed during the Dakota Conflict in 1862, and eventually exiled from our homelands. The Governor of Minnesota put a bounty on our scalps. Later, hundreds were massacred at Whitestone Hill and Wounded Knee.
Even loyal Japanese were placed in internment camps. Natives were places on reservations. Many of us still reside there.
Some say Katy Perry’s geisha performance doesn’t mean she’s racist. Well how about this…in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel in the summer of 2012, Katy Perry said the following about Japanese people: “I’m so obsessed with you I want to skin you and wear you like Versace!”
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