There’s a thin line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. The latter has drawn the ire of the fashion community by way of Paul Frank’s Fashion Night Out event.

The designer hosted a “Dream Catchin” party with a Native American culture theme. Employees and celebrities wore glow-in-the-dark war paint, feather headbands, bow and arrows and posed with prop tomahawks, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jezebel reports Paul Frank’s monkey was dressed in a feather headdress and there were “specialty cocktails with names like “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.”

The soirée had bloggers, including some of Native American descent, in an uproar, calling the event as a mockery of their culture.

Paul Frank offered this apology on Facebook in response:

“Paul Frank celebrates diversity and is inspired by many rich cultures from around the world. The theme of our Fashion’s Night Out event was in no way meant to disrespect the Native American culture, however due to some comments we have received we are removing all photos from the event and would like to formally and sincerely apologize. Thank you everyone for your feedback and support.”

The reactions have been varied. While some feel it is as disrespectful to Native American culture as a party of blackface, others feel it’s not racist, since it’s not meant to be hateful.

What are your thoughts, Clutchettes? Is this form of cultural appropriation racist?

  • http://www.womanist-musings.com/ Renee Martin

    One of the things that bothers me about this is the idea that because he didn’t intend it to be racist that it isn’t racist. Intention doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t suddenly render something harmless. It’s not for him to say whether it is or isn’t racist; that’s for the effected community to decide and if they determine this horrendous party to be racist then it is. But honestly, how could he think that holding a party like this could be deemed anything other than offensive?

  • Keke

    I agree. And for anyone who feels this wasn’t racist, ask yourself what do you actually know about Native cultures besides what you see on tv or read in books? Most Native peoples did not scalp, run around “whooping” and were just as varied in their beliefs, political structures and social norms as any group of people from Africa or Europe.

    That’s like some random guy “celebrating,” Black culture by posing not only in Blackface, but also hosting a minstrel show. Just like demeaning Black culture isn’t right, demeaning Native cultures isn’t right either. Native peoples were basically wiped out by disease, colonization and discrimination. What most people don’t understand is that there were MILLIONS of Natives people when colonists arrived. Ask yourselves why aren’t there millions now? Ask yourself what happened to them and then see if you still think “celebrating,” their culture in this manner is appropriate.

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  • Dusty Bottoms

    Can everybody just lighten up here? In many cases, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Is nobody allowed to copy the style of any culture they are not born into? Hogwash! Everybody needs to stop being so offended and get a life.

  • http://kalihuru.wordpress.com Kalhu

    The hard part about this is that they [Paul Frank] may have had the best intentions and just wanted to throw a fun themed party but what people have to realize is that it’s hard out here for us. As a whole, our [Native American] culture has been relegated to a flat, stereotypical concept in the media and people have to understand that yes, we will be a little more sensitive about situations like this. We’re not trying to lash back about every little thing, it is just that it gets hard when the only portrayals of your people and culture in the media are that of the red-skinned, feather headdress wearing warriors whooping around on a horse.

    Think about African Americans portrayal in the media in the 50′s and how we were only relegated to the mami role. We were probably a little more sensitive about our portrayal back then too and since that time it has been hard fought for to get better representation for us in the media. I am not saying that we are wholly there yet but as an African American and Chicamauga (Cherokee) women I can attest to the fact that I can flip through a magazine or through the channels on my tv and see more representation of my black side than my native side- way more in fact!

    I don’t say this trying to start any arguments with anyone, I just challenge you to think about how hard it would be to live in a country that your family has lived in for generations before anyone even showed up and to not be represented in that same country’s society.

    And lastly, I challenge each and everyone of you to think back to the last time you saw a Native American in the media. Bonus points if it wasn’t Pocahontas or someone fighting off cowboys.

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