A Tribe Called Red are scheduled to play Westfest in Ottawa this Friday, but a few idiots are looking to turn a weekend of music into a white power meet-and-greet. On his Instagram Ian Campeau aka Deejay NDN has posted one of a series of threatening, poorly annotated emails Westfest has received, which decry his "racist t-shirt;" this is likely in reference to his "Caucasians" shirt from Shelf Life Clothing (seen in the picture above). The messages threaten a boycott of the festival, and also issue some clumsy blackmail implying that violence will occur as a result of the "divisive" band performing. Here's where these emails were probably written.
We're big admirers of ATCR over here. They did some ceiling-busting this year when they won Breakthrough Group of the Year at the 2014 Junos, after pointedly refusing to submit their "electric pow wow" album Nation II Nation into the Aboriginal music category. They're not afraid to address the tensions they face as an indigenous group playing for white audiences within a white supremacist society, or to vouch for the continuing oppressions of Native peoples in North America.
The Caucasians shirt is part of that: it's a satire of the Cleveland Indians logo and the pathology that condones such a dehumanizing gaze. For people like the Westfest emailer, having this power imbalance reversed even symbolically is a transgression. Not because it hurts him, but because it exposes the wounds that still aren't being dealt with. Campeau is a veteran in this kind of battle, given that his protests against racist Native American mascots in sports helped get the Nepean Redskins to change their name to the Eagles.
But it is, as Campeau says, "disappointing." False equivalence like this festers in the mythical "post-racial" society, and what band needs that vibe at their concerts? If you're heading to Westfest, consider buying a "Caucasians" shirt in solidarity. And maybe win an argument with an uppity white dude if you can.