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The Court Hotel, cowboys, complaints and the social media cover up

NOTE: The names of those who commented are blacked out in each screenshot for their privacy. 

It started with an event that the Court Hotel, a well known GLBTIQ venue here in Perth, Australia, wanted to hold.

It was a Wild West themed event with a lot of mentions of “Cowboys and Indians” which is inappropriate and racist towards those with Native American heritage. You can see the Google cached version of the Court Hotel’s website’s event prior to any changes here (let me know if it has disappeared) and here is the original image and the screenshot of the text.

Original poster image as created for the Court Hotel's Wild West event prior to changes as downloaded from the cached version of the website at http://www.thecourt.com.au/events_detail_67.html
Original poster image as created for the Court Hotel’s Wild West event prior to changes as downloaded from the cached version of the website at http://www.thecourt.com.au/events_detail_67.html
Screenshot of text description of cowboy and indian themed event by the Court Hotel
Screenshot of text description of cowboy and indian themed event by the Court Hotel

The Court Hotel promoted the event via Twitter, their Facebook page and Facebook advertising.

Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-43-32

The 7 Jan post advertising the event on the Court Hotel's Facebook Page that is still live and violates Facebook's policy with offensive text and possibly copyright laws for the use of the image.
The 7 Jan post advertising the event on the Court Hotel’s Facebook Page that is still live and violates Facebook’s policy with offensive text and possibly copyright laws for the use of the image.

Facebook’s policy dictates that posts should not be racist or offensive. This post (pictured above) on the Facebook page is still live and was posted on 7 January. It has the offensive terminology in the description and also violates copyright laws in the use of the image.

The event was posted on the Court Hotel’s Facebook page and the publication Out In Perth posted an article about it which was the first notice of it that many within the community received.

The Out In Perth article itself acknowledged the main problem with this themed event – most notably that it was inappropriate, racist and offensive to those of Native American heritage to be a) using the terminology and b) to be encouraging people to act in ways that might be deemed culturally offensive by wearing clothing and contributing to stereotypes.

The use of Native American cultural apparel has been a political debate in recent years… if you want to respect this, we recommend that you go out on Friday as a Cowboy.
– Excerpt from original promotional article by Out In Perth, now deleted as a token of respect.

After seeing the comments, the Out In Perth editor, Graeme Watson responded by deleting the post and commenting as captured in the screenshot below.

Screenshot by Justin Boden of the link to the Out In Perth post and the response by its editor to the complaints
Screenshot by Justin Boden of the link to the Out In Perth post and the response by its editor to the complaints

Thank you for your input on our story at OUTinPerth magazine. The story has now been deleted.

Graeme Watson – Editor, OUTinPerth

The event got shared to the Feminist Network Group on Facebook whereby many people started commenting on the event on the Court Hotel’s Facebook page to ask them to reconsider and to complain that it was tasteless, tactless, inappropriate, offensive and racist.

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Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-31-15 Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-31-25 Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-31-34

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates on the post in the Feminist Network Group afterwards indicated that these comments were being deleted by the admins of the Court Hotel Facebook page and that there was no apology or change being made.

Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-31-43
This was one of the comments that was deleted from the page:

To The Court Hotel and all patrons on my friends list.

Unfortunately I will not be attending this event.

I understand that many people feel that the whole ‘Native American’ style is fashionable, hip, edgy, whatever. That it’s ‘fun’ to dress up as an ‘Indian’. It’s not, or at least, it shouldn’t be.

What this is called is ‘cultural appropriation’. In this context, that’s when you take a style, symbol, item of attire, or other part of a culture – ignoring that it may have a lot of significance to the people of that culture – and use it just to make yourself look good.

It trivialises the meaning placed on that attire by the culture that created it.

Native American head dresses and ‘war bonnets’ hold a lot of spiritual and cultural significance to these people. In some groups, they may only be worn by people of a certain gender, specific members of a family, or leaders of a group. In other groups, they are only worn for certain ceremonies; to others, they are worn when mourning the rape, torture, and genocide of their people throughout recent history by white colonialists.

Wearing this attire, when you are not part of the culture, or do not know the importance placed on that item, says to Native American people that you do not care about their customs, their history, their culture.

It’s far beyond offensive to them – it is humiliating, demeaning, and in the end, racist.

You are wearing it because you think it’s cool, fun, fashionable – they wear it because it is one of the only parts of their original culture that they have left. One of the only parts that has been destroyed by the people that invaded their country.

As someone who has been involved in our community for a very long time, who is a National Co-convenor of the Australian Queer Student Network, someone who has taken up official positions in many LGBTIQ organisation in WA and nationally, and someone who wants our community to not contribute to the oppression of another minority community, I ask The Court to please change the theme of this event – in its entirety – and issue a simple apology to any person that was offended or harmed by this faux pas. It is a small price to pay for upholding the rights of a very important cultural group, but also a group that has been discriminated against far more than we have.

If you would like to read more, please start with the links below, then do your own research on Google.

A*** M***

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation

http://nativeappropriations.com/

http://www.autostraddle.com/top-ten-instances-of-open…/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/cultural-appropriation

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/2013-year-in-cultural

http://bitchmagazine.org/…/keha-and-the-ongoing

http://bitchmagazine.org/…/keha-and-the-ongoing

http://stfu-hipsters.tumblr.com/…/thats-not-cool-2

http://www.theguardian.com/…/native-americans-cultural

http://jezebel.com/…/a-much+needed-primer-on-cultural

https://www.facebook.com/notes/native-appropriations/but-why-cant-i-wear-a-hipster-headdress/10150182426095026

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Chanels-Dallas-branded

http://fusion.net/…/native-american-imagery

http://apihtawikosisan.com/…/an-open-letter-to-non…/

http://this-is-not-native.tumblr.com/

This was another:
Another of the comments before it was deleted from the Court Hotel Facebook Page
Another of the comments before it was deleted from the Court Hotel Facebook Page

Then came reports that suggested that the event had been changed. All mentions of “indians” had been removed from the image and the event description but the comments had not been reinstated. Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-27-57 Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-27-31
An apology of sorts was issued:

Screenshot_2014-01-09-23-27-45
But comments were still being deleted if they were deemed “negative” by the Court Hotel’s Facebook page admins, even those that explained why the comment deletion in the first place negated any effect that the apology had.

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If you believe that this event to be held on the 10 January 2014 is offensive and inappropriate even with the changes to the theme, email [email protected] Alternatively, you can report the page or event to Facebook though all mentions of the offensive terminology and references have now been removed.

What is the annoying part of this is the fact that the admins of the group sought to control the social media conversation by actively blocking those who commented and complained and deleting their comments.

The Court Hotel Facebook page admins are attempting to rectify the situation by pretending that it didn’t occur and trying to remove all trace of it.

Given that they missed the cached and easily Googled versions of their website’s event page and images and that they have neglected to account for annoyed fans who happily screencapped images of their comments prior to deletion and that they also neglected to remove prior advertising for the event, they have failed in properly acknowledging what occurred as a faux pas and rectifying the situation adequately and with the respect due to all those who complained and commented.

As one person put it:

Love their approach to social media. We control the conversation you have… idiots.

 

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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