Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When in Rome..

It's a cliche -certainly - that when one is in Rome, one should do as the Romans do.
Well, when one is in America, one should do what the Americans are doing.

And when one is in Roosevelt, Utah - one should do as the Roosevelt Utahans do... and it appears that what they DON'T DO is the Haka blocking an exit at the conclusion of a football game.

Lets take a look at the events in Roosevelt, Utah and the local police pepper spraying a group of Polynesian dancers performing the Maori cultural dance the Haka at the conclusion of a high school football game. Blogger Seti Matua has a great perspective on this that can be found at It's well written & funny & encompasses the sentiments of many Polynesian people's who've read or watched this story unfold.

I don't live in Utah. I don't attend sporting events if I can help it. I was not at this event & have only read & watched the news feeds that are published. However, my opinion of this is a little different from Matua's.

Well let's be honest, its a lot different. And will probably be offensive to many Polynesians & supporters of the performers seeking only to boost their teams spirit. I have no qualms with boosting one's teams spirit. Let's boost away at it. That's not the issue here.

Let's note that the cultural dance was not performed in a cultural setting for a cultural purpose. The performers were probably not Maori ( in fact the YouTube video says they are Tongan) and one can only wonder how a Maori would feel about the misappropriation of their culture?

Just because we can claim an ounce of Polynesian does not entitle us to commercialization & by extent bastardization of a sacred cultural aspect of our cousins. It just does not. And just because everyone else can & has done it at other football games still doesn't make it right.

From whom did these people learn this cultural chant from? Do they understand the words, the movements, the history of it? Its significance to its people?

You want to talk about cultural insensitivity? Where was the performers PONO for their Maori cousins? Had they been taught correctly, they would have known better ~ that to honor the Haka is NOT to perform it unprepared,  un-initiated and un-blessed by one who does know its importance.

What offering did they give for the chant they took?

(The New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks get a pass because hello! they're representing New Zealand. Whatever their cultural insensitivity's are to indigenous Maori is between them & the All Blacks. They've had their own scuffles with Maori peoples over the use of the Haka at events.)

But back to the Roosevelt's...

Now if people are going to scream about cultural insensitive behavior on the part of the local police unit, lets also take in to consideration that none of the people performing considered that they were also being culturally offensive to any number of other cultures at that event.

Those people didn't ask to be subjected to watching & hearing the Haka being performed.

No one asked them how they felt about it - they were forced to be exposed to it because...

the dancers blocked the exit.

Blocked it with their physical presence in a place where they should not have been performing what they should have saved for a more appropriate time & audience. Whether they blocked it for 1 minute, 5 minutes or a whole hour doesn't give them the right to block it for even one second. They were asked to move & refused to do so.

This isn't ignorance. This is free choice. Where was the respect of the (impromptu) dancers for the athletes, coaches, students & families & friends who are not Polynesian & for whom they didn't give a choice about whether or not they wanted to watch this fine cultural presentation?

That's the point - they took away the ability of those people around them to choose too leave when they blocked the exit without authorization, without consent and refused to move when the proper authorities asked them to move.

Now did they deserve to be pepper sprayed?
I can't say. I wasn't there. I'm not in Law Enforcement.

But I can say that those dancers were every bit as culturally insensitive as they claim the police were too stop them.

They had no business forcing culture on others in a place not culturally rooted in their culture.
It doesn't matter how many Polynesians there are - might does not make right.

Is there a case for race in this instance? Probably so. I don't live in Utah but I've been told that people of a color are not treated well or even equally as the colorless people who have to buy their brown in a bottle to change the color of their skin. I've heard stories about racial profiling ~ how anyone of Polynesian descent & size are marked by others & such. I've read the news about the fear those in pre-dominantly Caucasian neighborhoods feel towards those who are Polynesian.

This is different from cultural insensitivity. Racism should not be tolerated in this day & age. We've come to far as a Nation and as a country to fall back on the lazy habit of racism.

Welcome to America, Haka Dancers. Let's act American and get some lawyers & sue for the police for every dime they don't have.

With love & delicious (cultural) insensitivity~

1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by!