The Native American Cultural Center (NACC) in San Francisco announced a boycott today
of organizations connected with the racist portrayal of American Indians on the 2004
Grammy telecast. The offense occurred during hip hop band Outkast’s performance at the end
of the show. Outkast dancers dressed as racist stereotypes of American Indians emerged from
a fake tepee set on stage and then proceeded to bump and grind in feather headdresses, fringe
skirts, and braided wigs. The USC band later joined the others onstage dressed in ‘war paint’
and feather headdresses. Many audience members including recording stars were seen laughing at the display.
“It was the most disgusting set of racial stereotypes aimed at American Indians that I have ever seen on
TV,” said Sean Freitas, a board member of NACC. “It was on par with white people dancing sexually in
black face, or yarmulkes, or the vestments of the Catholic Church. I am shocked and outraged.”
In a prepared statement, NACC Chair Andrew Brother Elk called on CBS, which broadcast the show, to issue a formal apology to the nation. “It is time for those in the entertainment industry to realize that racial stereotypes in the media feed social and political disrespect towards the victims of this behavior. American Indians do not deserve such victimization, nor does any racial group.”
Brother Elk has also lodged a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, which recently caused a stir for its investigation of the bared breast incident at the Super Bowl. “I consider racist TV programming far more dangerous, because it demeans an entire racial group. It sends a message to school children and all citizens that it is acceptable to insult racial groups and to commercialize their culture in the name of entertainment.” He noted that CBS had instituted a 5 second delay to prevent any embarrassing behavior by Grammy performers, and had apparently found nothing wrong with the 5 minute Outkast performance. “Besides being racially insulting the entire number was just plain tacky,” he said.
NACC is calling for a nationwide boycott of CBS, Outkast’s label Arista Records, and the Recording Academy which sponsors the Grammys. NACC is also encouraging artists, parents, and citizens to send complaints to the sponsoring organizations. “We encourage all people who have been victims of stereotyping in the media to respond, for what affects one group affects us all as a civilized society,” Freitas said. NACC will encourage the boycott until the offending parties apologize and make some meaningful amends to the American Indian community.
Please contact the following organizations and express your outrage: