Couple of nights ago, at my son's Cub Scout den meeting, the scouts learned and practiced a new song and dance. They're going to perform it for parents and older scouts at next month's pack meeting. I don't know what the dance is called, but if I had to give it a name, I'd call it Tasteless.
Each scout tied a feather around their head, pretending to be "Indians." They formed a large circle around one scout who was selected to be Chief. After the den leader waved his hand, the "Indians" began to dance in a circle around the Chief, patting their hands repeatedly against their lips. "Woo-woo-woo-woo, woo-woo-woo-woo," they sang gleefully.
The Chief would then randomly point at another "Indian," who would ask the question: "It it time for your poocha yet?" I have no idea what a poocha is — as far as I know, it may be a Native American word — but no explanation was offered.
The dance ended with the kids doing the Hokey Pokey (huh?).
Some of you may remember my blog posts from back in the early days (when I was just discovering my voice). Others of you may occasionally read my (super secret) blog, the one with cartoons. You know I'm not shy about dark or racial humor. My cartoons are often culturally insensitive (mostly with my own culture). Heck, I grew up on Richard Pryor and Red Fox. But something about the scene at the Cub Scout meeting just didn't sit well with me. I know it was meant to be all in fun — the kids were having a ball — but I didn't find it very funny at all, I think because it involved kids.
While I sat there, watching the Cub Scouts perform derogatory impersonations of Native Americans, I looked around the room at the parents. Across from me was an African-American mother. There were several Hispanic parents, and one Asian. No one seemed to be bothered. I wondered what would happen if the scouts performed a dance holding spears, pretending to be Africans. Or what if they danced around a Sombrero and sang, "Aye-yi-yii-yiiii," in an exaggerated Mexican accent? What would be said if they impersonated Asians?
Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, I mean, I'm sure there really are Native American ceremonies where people dance in a circle around a Chief while singing chants. I have no idea. But, since scouting is meant to be educational, and a place where boys can learn positive values and survival skills, I think a little education was in order.
I didn't complain. Didn't want to be the trouble-making, complaining parent. Didn't want to spoil the kids fun. But I plan to have a talk with my son. We read JINGLE DANCER when he was a baby, but it's time to read it again.
Before the scouts finished their song and dance, a young African-American kid raised his hand and said: "Oh yea, and their not called Indians. They're called Native Americans."
For the first time during that dance, I smiled.