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.