Arts Desk

Is This Show Poster Racist?

I'm pleased as punch that Windian Records is celebrating its third year next month—as any local fan of garage and scuzzy punk rock should be. But I did a double take when I saw the poster for the shows, which take place April 6 and 7 at Montserrat House: Is that a Native American? With fangs and exaggerated features? And an intoxicated look? Yes, it is all of those things.

But is it racist? One Washington City Paper contributor thought so, and he let the label know via Twitter. To which Windian proprietor Travis Jackson tweeted back, with his usual caps-lock affect: "HOW IS IT RACIST? ITS JUST ART MAN. BESIDES, IM NATIVE, AND IM NOT OFFENDED...HOW ARE YOU?" He added that the fanged, googley-eyed drawing is consistent with artist Ben Lyon's work, which to my eyes is plainly grounded in the early underground-comix style of cartoonists like R. Crumb.

That doesn't mean that this particular show poster doesn't go too far. I asked Jackson to elaborate in an email. He responded, "Its rock and roll. Its art. Its influenced from 50-60's Rock N Roll art and culture. Its nothing new, its been done many times over." Windian Records takes as its logo an American Indian carrying a rather quizzical expression. Jackson, the former drummer of the well-liked garage-rock band The Points, sometimes uses the sobriquet "Beeronimo."

In a second note, he added that he's one-fourth Cherokee; his grandmother was full Cherokee. "That's how the label name windian came about, the white indian is one of my nicknames," he wrote. "I celebrate my heritage loudly, thru rock and roll music and art."

Lyon's take? The poster's artist writes:

Bah! I had a whole long thing written out and my computer crashed! Blast!

Anyway...I know I'm not a racist. I think anyone offended enough to make a big stink over the art on a poster for a punk show, that they probably aren't gonna attend in the first place, probably needs to get a life. Leave it to white American 20-somethings to see a neo-nazi lurking behind every tree.(ha ha!) Who says Indians can only be drawn as stern wisemen? Sounds like stereotyping to me!(ha ha) I would have no problem showing the poster to any of my Native American friends. I stand by my work.

Judge for yourself, I guess.

Update, March 14: Windian Records has replaced the show poster with a new one.

Windian Records' Third Anniversary Pow Wow Party takes place April 6 and 7 at Montserrat House. Bands include The Penetrators, The Bizarros, Paint Fumes, Thee Lolitas, Foul Swoops, Spider Fever, The Shirks, The Psyched, Static Eyes, Suns of Guns, and The Doozies.

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  • Straight Edge Forever

    "IT'S ROCK AND ROLL. IT'S ART" IS A REALLY LAME ANSWER. I'M REALLY TIRED OF INDIE ARTISTS BRUSHING OFF THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THEIR ART. OR THE FALLOUT OF THEIR ART.

    WHETHER IT'S BEST COAST SHILLING FOR THE RIGHT WINGERS RUNNING URBAN OUTFITTERS OR THE LOWER DENS GIVING A SONG TO EXXON -- THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS, AWE SHUCKS, ITS JUST ART, MAN.

    GO FUCK YOURSELF.

    AND YES, THE POSTER IS RACIST.

  • http://hotchicksinburqas.blogspot.com Jacob Gold

    This poster is obviously racist because the goal behind it is to dehumanize the Native American population in the United States, and not to promote any sort of musical event that may or may not be happening.

  • Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White

    Nobody is saying that Africa needs diversity.
    Nobody is saying that Asia needs diversity.
    They are already 100% diverse.
    People are only telling White children in White countries that they need diversity.
    White Countries will be 100% diverse when there are no White people left.
    Diversity is a code-word for White genocide; anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

  • Winston

    I'm really tired of people expecting indie artists to comment on, or care about, anything even vaguely political.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben-lyon/ Ben Lyon

    Geez, Straight Edge Forever, lighten up and lay off the caps lock. Sounds like you could use a drink!

  • http://getdrunkplayrecords.webs.com/ bradx

    yeah, it is racist, but who gives a shit? i think most people are racist to some extent, its guilt over it that seems to be a particularly white affliction. "its rock n roll, its art" one of the comments said is a lame excuse, but i disagree, not that any explanation is warranted in the first place. not all art is paintings of fruit in a basket, nor should it be. the best art makes you think, makes you want to look at it twice or more, makes you wonder what was in the mind of the person who created it, and this is a great example. not everyone is going to get it, and thats probably a good thing.

    even if you arent racist, the depiction certainly is. however, is it offensive? i dont think so, and i am one of those people who is vehemently against native american mascots. let me attempt to explain the difference. i disagree with indian mascots, especially in public school settings, because they teach children negative stereotypes, and that is is ok and culturally acceptable to promulgate the same. most mascots are animals, and there is no rational reason that schools need to use racist imagery for their mascots. its also unfair because no other race is subjected to similar treatment, and dont even waste our time by bringing up fighting irish, thats an apples and oranges comparison.

    savages, redskins, etc are racial slurs. objectification and comparison to animals are racist. the schools with native american mascots and team names could easily pick something less offensive and it would not harm them in any way.

    which brings us back to the windian flier. here we have an obviously racist depiction of an american indian, full of stereotypes. who is the target audience of this? it would seem to be adults, and adults have a right to create and enjoy any art they please. just as there is no reason for a public school to use racist imagery in regards to their sports teams, there is no reason a punk show for adults should be prevented from using whatever art their target audience finds appropriate for their advertising.

    just the fact that we are having this discussion says to me that it is worthwhile artistically. obviously the artist does not make a career of racist imagery, so i feel this is an entirely legit and thought provoking piece of art. yeah, my american indian grandparents might be offended by it, and they would definitely be offended by the music and lyrics it promotes as well.

    i think its awesome. somebody should send me a copy to hang on my wall.

  • Winston

    Wow. This Bradx guy wrote a lot.

  • GusVincent

    Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, liberals and respectable conservatives agree I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  • Winston

    "Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites."

    If this ever happens, PUHLEEZZ let met get an Asian!

  • Keith B.

    Who paged all the white power winos to this post?? Go steal some land about it, bub

  • WINDIAN

    We are a bit upset we are being associated with this. We have done the same thing the last 3 years with no "outrage", not having our art considered racist. I realize in the last couple weeks with Urban Outfitters vs. Navajo Nation a hot button topic, some would be repeat shoppers [you know who you are] have voiced against said retailers [which said retailer has sponsored numerous past WCP events] and feel the need to call out anyone who depicts Natives in poor light. What about the numerous D.C. musicians [I won't name] who have dressed in Native clothing, or glowing show reviews underneath a photo of artist in a head dress? I feel if we are going to be subjected to a negative attempt to sell ad space and improve site hits, everyone who has done this should be called out as well.

    In Ben's defense, if you simply look at his art, you will see many comparisons. There is even one featuring a Rabbit with "googely eyes and fangs, appearing drunk". Should Rabbits be offended?

    At the end of the day, we do not try to portray anyone in a poor light, like most do in comments such as these dust kicking articles. Stereotyping hipsters with bad indie music, tight jeans, and sunglasses. Are they not human either? I think everyone needs to sit back and think about what they've said or thought, as I'm pretty sure the majority of you have committed some sort of public stereotype to someone else.

  • Windian = Low IQ

    Holy shit, Travis -- did you really just compare Native Americans to rabbits? Unintentionally apt considering the way the white people slaughtered Indians for a couple hundred years. Rabbits have probably had it better.

    Dude, being one-quarter Cherokee doesn't get you off the hook from being an asshole when it comes to this topic. I don't think you really mean to be one, but there's a serious failure to understand how this poster is super-shitty to Indians. Hipsters being stereotyped isn't the same thing as a mocking a group of people who were victims of genocide. How can you not see the difference?

  • WINDIAN

    I did not compare Natives to Rabbits, I compared Ben's art to the "Googelly eyed, fanged appearing drunk" issue that started this. You compared Natives to Rabbits.

    You obviously know me, so if you're going to low blows and try to insult me, you shouldn't hide behind your computer.

  • http://Buddyhead.com Core

    @Ben Lyons- lolz good one

  • Rachel

    "I realize in the last couple weeks with Urban Outfitters vs. Navajo Nation a hot button topic, some would be repeat shoppers [you know who you are] have voiced against said retailers [which said retailer has sponsored numerous past WCP events]"

    Is this really true? I don't remember Urban Outfitters ever being associated with WCP, not even ads in print.

  • http://getdrunkplayrecords.webs.com/ bradx

    i am american indian and i say windian and ben lyons get a pass. its punk, its supposed to offend. anyone who is white has no right to say what is or is not offensive to american indians. now someone send me a copy of that flyer to hang on my wall.

  • Gar5

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY White country and ONLY into White countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY White country and ONLY White countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-Blacks were brought into EVERY Black country and ONLY into Black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane Black man to notice this and what kind of psycho Black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the White race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

  • steve-o81

    no way is this racist. again the tired old argument shows its ugly head. the only people that have a problem with this poster are know-it-all, nose in the air white people. these are the types that think they know all there is to know about everything under the sun. i live in oklahoma and i used to work with full blooded indians and guess what? they have red skin, and black hair. and their last name was redhat. i wore my cleveland indians hat around them all the time and they never ever had a problem with it, if they did im sure they would have said something bc they were some big boys and didnt care to stir it up. if this is racist then so is the boston celtics logo, bc it depicts irish people as being drunk and prone to fighting....oh but wait that cant possibly be can it? id like to think that the human race has much bigger issues presently at hand that we could focus on and try to make the world a better place but no, we gotta worry about stupid arguments like this time and time again. and if any true native americans have an issue with this then they obviously have an issue with being native american. im of german descent and i dont flip out everytime someone refers to germans as nazis. time to grow up people. seriously.

  • Shut up and help

    Cherokee and Ojibwa here. It's ugly and in bad taste, like some EQ settings at shows. Doesn't make it not art.

    But, if you're butthurt about it and really want to do some good, send some money to naha-inc.org or nrcprograms.org and help some folks on the rez.

    Or if you want some cool stuff to feel good about, buy something awesome from nativethreads.com or some delicious snacks from tankabar.com

  • Winston

    Alright, poster not racist. I'm glad we figured it out. Now, can we discuss something interesting like where I can get my hands on some proper juggalo porn? I want the real stuff, not regular porn folks pretending to be juggalos.

  • noodlez

    YES IT IS AND IT SHOULD BE REPLACED! ASAP!

    YOU MAY NOT BE A RACIST BUT THAT POSTER IS MOS DEFINATELY MOCKING THE AMERICAN INDIAN. SO WHAT YOU GOT INDIAN IN YOUR FAMILY??
    YOU WHITE MOFO.
    ALSO, IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU DUMBASS.

    I BETTER PAUSE 'CAUSE I'M 'BOUT TO GET ALL COURTLAND MILLOY ON YOUR SORRY FAKE WINDIAN BAMMA ASS.
    CHANGE THE DAMN POSTER!

  • WINDIAN

    Everyone is right. We changed our poster.

  • Winston

    Ha! Noodlez, you're so dumb it's cute.

  • http://terminal-boredom.com/forums/index.php?topic=35784.0 Actual Native American Here

    Is that an article? With commentary and exaggerated claims? And an intoxicated thought? Yes, it is all of those things.

    But he is fighting against the threat of cartoon racism. Judge for yourself, I guess.

  • Native American JD

    I'm a punk. But this isn't punk. This is flat out bigotry.

    Boycott the show.

  • Native American JD

    Along with a boycott of the show, Native Americans in DC should show up outside the show and show that (1) We don't look like that; (2) dehumanizing an entire race through stereotypes and caricature isn't funny; and (3) that artistic license doesn't extend bigotry.

    I think I should report this to DC's Human Rights Commission.

  • Native American JD

    OHR doesn't cover general stupidity. Damn.

  • DCMarc

    Perhaps vampires should be offended by this portrayal of their people? It's up to each individual to decide if they are offended. A Native American skate boarder would be more likely to find this awesome, and an elder to be offended (I'm talking likely olds, but ireactions are all individual). If the owner identifies himself as Native, with an affinity for the culture, then the depiction is awesome as the meaning he is trying to impart isn't negative, it's a fusion of his passions and meant in a non-destructive way. If a white supremecist group used the image to promote a rally, then the depiction is a racist slur and, from my perspective the people behind it would be assholes. Intention is everything and it's silly to stick to a knee-jerk response to these things. We lack nuance in our discourse and conciderations; everything has to be black and white (pun intended). And yes, I'd you are a member of a particular sub-group, or have a strong affinity for that group, then you have a privileged position and more latitude in your expressions about the group while facing more tempered critique. Position and perspective matter. Everything about this particular poster situation, to me, screams, "Chill Out," but erveryone has a right to their opinion.

  • KJPataky

    of course its bigoted / wonder what the comments would be if the creature had red or blond hair and freckles

  • AC

    Celebrating Columbus Day is more racist than this poster.

  • Winston

    I think the only solution is that, since the artist draws all characters with these features regardless of race, he should just stop drawing minority characters altogether. There really is no place for an artist that depicts all people, regardless of race, with googly eyes and fangs. That approach is obviously racist. He should only depict certain races as having googly eyes and fangs. I think all of us that are sensitive to that kind of thing would agree that that is the only fair solution. So, I submit, for your approval, a of list of races/ethnic groups/tribes/whatever you wanna call'em I think artist Ben Lyon can safely draw with fangs and googly eyes without pissing off those of us that are sensitive to these type of things:

    French
    Irish
    Dutch
    Laotian
    Nepalese
    Nigerian
    Belgian
    Mongolian

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben-lyon/ Ben Lyon

    Speaking of fangs and googly eyes, here's a picture I drew OF MYSELF...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben-lyon/6887822461/in/photostream

    ...hope the link works. Anyway, I must be racist against German/Jewish/English/French people too!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben-lyon/ Ben Lyon
  • Steve

    You gotta be kidding me? Is this a stunt? Did they hire Donald Trump? Cause it has Racist written all over it. Damn Racism!

  • Exerces

    Nah, it's not racist. And I bet the Indians would like it. But that aside, are we really supposed to believe that White people can never caricature other races? Is such a restriction expected of other races in their own lands? Mexicans in Mexico cannot caricature non-Mexicans, Chinese in China can't caricature non-Chinese, etc.? I think this is unrealistic. Let's face it, White people are expected to disappear. And that's genocide. Genocide against Whites.

  • http://www.divasnrides.com Ron The Don

    News Flash: Freedom of speech doesn't equal from the consequences of your speech. Considering how everyone gets posted and distributed quickly in cyberspace, fallout from something like this doesn't shock me because I've seen it before in other incidents. Listen, art is subjective. What might seen as meaningless in one circle, may be seen a bad form in another circle. I find it ironic when those who label others easily offended are always the one who are offended by the idea that a person's words or actions have consequences.

  • Jeff

    In 1993 or thereabouts, my wife and I founded an alternative weekly newspaper in Dayton, Ohio. Our goal was to treat working people, women, people of color and members of the LGBT community fairly as sources, subjects and audiences for the news. For the most part, we achieved that goal, I think. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we fell short.

    Our cover story one issue was on domestic violence. The art that accompanied the cover story showed a shadowy male figure looming over a woman. Just before we went to press I saw the proof sheet and was alarmed to see that illustration looked like a white woman being menaced by a black man. The artist wasn't a racist, but had somehow failed to pick up on that perspective. The art director and I worked for a long time, delaying the press run, trying to adjust the appearance of the picture.

    We needed a workable piece of art that conveyed the importance of the cover story without confusing the issue. We shaded and adjusted and tinkered for more than two hours. When we were done, I drove the camera-ready copy to the printer. When it came back from the printer the next morning, I was alarmed to see (with fresh eyes) that we had not achieved the compromise we had hoped for.

    Most people didn't notice. But some devoted readers, who understood and appreciated our basic political perspective were appalled. We got lots of calls and faxes expressing anger and confusion about the appearance of the cover.

    At an emergency staff meeting, we discussed what we had done, how much damage it had caused and might continue to cause and what we could do about it. All of the staff were clear: we didn't feel like racists, but the implications of a cover illustration that looked like a black man threatening a white woman were serious. I called our printer to ask what it would cost us to reprint the cover with a different illustration. Though our printer was a strictly commercial venture, they offered to do it for free.

    While we produced and printed a new cover, staff and loyal readers raced out to all our distribution points to collect as many copies as we could, swap the covers and return them to distribution points. It took all day. When it was over, we were emotionally exhausted, covered with ink, and comforted that we had responded positively to a bad situation we had created.

    There are a couple of lessons we took away from that experience. We may not be racists individually, but racism and other forms of exploitive and bigoted attitudes are a part of our society and culture, and we are all human enough to make mistakes that we may have difficulty admitting or, even, understanding. Those of us who are artists and writers and musicians do not always get to define the full meaning of our work. We depend on our audiences to complete our effort and some of them may see in that work something we do not. It is important to acknowledge that the perspective of others can teach us something new.

  • T E N N E N T

    washington dc . . . you freaks are so retarded

  • http://n/a jetrobodine

    Hello every one, no, and they arent indians, Indians are from Country far away in the indian continentm Columbus made a mistake, now, there people have a class system, and the problem i have with people from india who move to the states is, the bring the caste sysytem with them, my best friend had a cist, on his belly, and hsi insurance @ sent him to a [formely from india] doctor, and becouse my friend is black/white mix, the doctor send my best friend back to work and he refused to sign any documents, so, lets all black ball indians , p unless they are runing a gas station and or hotels,

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