Is my necklace racist?
June 24, 2014 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I inherited a beaded necklace I would like to wear, but first let me run it by you: is it racist?

It belonged to my aunt. Most of the other jewelry I have from her was 1970s Avon and similar costume jewelry. Then there's this, which I know nothing about. Is it just a beaded necklace that's Native American influenced? Or is it bad for me, Whitey McWhiteperson, to wear? I mean that in a cultural appropriation way; I'm not looking for opinions on if it's attractive jewelry.
posted by The corpse in the library to Society & Culture (16 answers total)
Hm. I'd go with Native American inspired. I don't think there's anything inherently racist about wearing actual jewelry made by Native Americans in their own traditional style. I suppose if this is considered a religious or ceremonial item, that might be something else. I'm not really seeing that in this piece.
posted by amanda at 8:04 PM on June 24, 2014

Lots of Native American artisans make beadwork to sell. has a tutorial on how to make a beaded medallion--they're not asking that their readers be enrolled members of a Federally recognized tribe.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:07 PM on June 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, this looks exactly like Native American jewelry I've seen at craft fairs. I think you're fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:09 PM on June 24, 2014

Lots of Native Americans make this stuff for the express purpose of selling it to Whitey McWhiteperson. They won't worry about it, and neither should you.
posted by trip and a half at 8:15 PM on June 24, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm of the opinion that "if you have to ask..." but I don't see anything racist about that necklace. It's just a beaded necklace. Wear it if you'd like!
posted by sockermom at 8:22 PM on June 24, 2014

Wearing a necklace like that is not the same as wearing a headdress to Coachella, for example. You're fine.
posted by elizardbits at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

[One comment deleted. Sorry, this is slightly chatfilter-ish, but we do need to stay within the narrow scope of giving advice about this necklace and not get into debates or expositions on the general topic of appropriation. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 11:14 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

People, not objects, are racist. Worn to mock, it's certainly racist. Worn as "isn't this cute", it's racist. Worn as "I admire the craft and beauty" it's not racist.

Wearing it might be interpreted as racist no matter your intent though. One person's admiration might be another person's cultural appropriation.
posted by vapidave at 11:38 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

This Reddit Post is an amazing and thorough guide to what is and isn't cultural appropriation in terms of Native/First Nations/Indian clothes, jewelry, and hairstyles, and also includes some really beautiful examples on the right ways to do fashion inspiration from Native cultures without being a Coachella Headdress idiot.

I think there may have been a Metafilter post on this same Reddit post, as well, though I can't find it now.

Anyway, I think your necklace is fine!
posted by cilantro at 11:50 PM on June 24, 2014 [12 favorites]

Not only is this not racist, but it doesn't even make me want to call you a racist.

So I think you're in the clear.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:56 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vote not racist. Looks like crafts Native Americans sell at fairs to people of all types.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:19 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

As a Canadian (the first thing that jumped out to me was the beaver and it read 'Canadiana' before it read 'Native'!) -- I am not offended in the slightest.
posted by kmennie at 7:07 AM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not racist. Native American craftspeople need people to buy and wear the things they make. I'd be more worried about the joke remarks you will get, e.g. "Nice beaver!".
posted by w0mbat at 7:13 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

(cilantro, yes, that link was posted here a few months ago)
posted by elizardbits at 7:25 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

It was precisely the Coachella Headdress Idiots that had me concerned. Phew. Thank you for your answers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmm... I think I would be in a quandary about wearing because a. OMG, the beaver! That's so cute and amazing! and b. Who made it and what is it a symbol of to someone and should I know that before wearing it? I'd probably deliberate a bit about wearing it, but on the other hand if I did see someone (white) wearing it, my first thought probably wouldn't be, "My god, that racist whore!"
posted by mermily at 7:19 PM on June 25, 2014

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