Pharrell Gives A Crappy Half-Apology For Wearing That Native American Headdress

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I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that celebrities keep misappropriating other cultures like Pharrell did when he wore that Native American headdress on the cover of Elle. On the one hand, it’s clear that celebrities have no idea that their actions are controversial until the backlash starts, which is ridiculous. But on the other hand, the fact that it’s been happening so often provides the opportunity to maybe educate some people so that situations like this can be avoided in the future.

But for as hopeful as I am that change is possible, Pharrell is in no way contributing with his half-assed apology for the Elle cover. He’s just covering his ass, and he’s doing it with pretty much the shortest way possible. Here’s the entirety of his statement to the New York Daily News.

“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”

For what? Honestly, if you don’t know what people are so upset about, then don’t apologize. But to release a statement that’s as devoid of details as this one is proves that he still doesn’t get it. We have to call it an apology because it has the word ‘sorry’ in it, but what it really is is a shrug. Just a way to get detractors off his back so he can move on to his next harebrained statement.

I don’t expect celebrities to know what to do all the time, and I get that there’s a ton of pressure on them not to mess up, but cultural appropriation is a real thing, and addressing an instance of it should take more than fifteen words.

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    • Olivia Wilson

      I think you accidentally left off the end of his quote? It went, “Ugh, are we done here? I’m waiting on a FedEx delivery of some bindis that I ordered off of Amazon and I don’t want to miss it.”

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Read ‘bindis’ as ‘birds’ and still was not surprised. I was like, “I don’t totally get Olivia’s joke but yeah, Pharrell probably WOULD order a box of birds from Amazon.”

      • Olivia Wilson

        Typical Pharrell.

      • Jenni

        Don’t worry Olivia, I got your birds joke! I LAUGHED SO LOUDLY.

      • Olivia Wilson

        It’s all I wanted.

    • Elizabeth Aspen

      What is with all this apologizing? PC has gotten completely out of control.

      • Sri

        Dude, we get it. You really don’t care about cultural appropriation. You complain about other people caring about it every goddamn time it comes up. Look, I’m really sorry that it annoys you so much that a people that had their culture ripped away from them might be offended when people then wear a piece of that culture as a fashion statement. I’ll make sure to tell all of my family living in poverty back on the rez that this is totally a non issue, because Elizabeth Aspen from the internet says so.

      • MCR

        See, without any background in Native issues, I get the problem without even straining. “…a people that had their culture ripped away from them might be offended when people then wear a piece of that culture as a fashion statement.” Pretty straightforward. Somebody text that to Pharrell, and he can put the finishing touches on his apology.

      • Isabelle

        But if he doesn’t see the issue or doesn’t feel genuine guilt, than why would anyone want a phony or forced apology? That’s what I don’t understand, apologizes and compliments should always be genuine or just not said.

      • Sri

        Yeah, I would rather he learn why it was fucked up and issue a genuine apology, but I’ll take a half assed apology over saying nothing, which woul imply that there was nothing to apologize for in the first place. I feel a little bad, since I’m not sure how much control he has over his own photo shoots. I mostly want whoever had the idea to apologize, unless, as you pointed out below, that is a headdress made for him as part of his culture, in which case he should have issued a statement saying that.

      • CMJ

        Cultural appropriation has gotten out of control.

        FIXED IT.

    • Isabelle

      I think they don’t understand how offensive they’re being because there’s always someone to find something offensive. And Pharrell is Native American so if it’s his cultural and he wants to represent that on the cover of a magazine, I fail to see the issue.

      • FauxRealFaux

        Pharrell is not Native American he is black.

      • Isabelle

        He has Native American ancestry.

      • FauxRealFaux

        No, he does not.

      • Sri

        I tried to look up his background, but all I could find was an article claiming that he is part Filipino, as well as another article claiming that he isn’t. Really, though, it’s a nonissue, because Native American culture isn’t really a homogeneous thing. There are a bunch of different peoples and cultures that make up what people sometimes think of as Native American. If he is a member of a culture that uses the headdress, it’s still generally not a fashion statement. They are used as symbols of honor and good deeds, and are usually only worn for formal events. What he’s wearing looks like a pretty well made costume piece, not something made for him to celebrate his actions. If it was made for him, I do apologize (not that he would read this and care, anyway) but way way more often than not, it’s not someone who has any connection to the cultures that use headdresses wearing it to make a statement, it’s an accessory to make someone look edgy and editorial.

      • Isabelle

        I can’t really get on board with the getting offended at the drop of a hat thing that keeps happening almost everyday in the media. We sound like such whiners. The irritating thing is there are real issues that won’t get solved because people are getting upset over little unimportant cultural things that really don’t matter in the long run. I’m starting to believe Russell Brand in the sense that the media is purposefully distracting us from the real issues by using fear tactics and sensational BS like this. If we used this same angry energy we might actually see a change in politics . It’s sad

      • Sri

        Ok, but here’s the thing: As a nation, we made sure that Native Americans were “reeducated” so that they behaved in a “civilized” (AKA white) way. We also killed a hell of a lot of them. We also stuck them on tiny patches of land and told them to fend for themselves. To this day, many Native Americans are stuck on reservations, living in poverty. They can’t move away because they don’t have money, they can’t get money because they can’t get jobs, and they can’t get jobs because there aren’t a lot of opportunities near a lot of reservations. Then you get into the fact that it’s unacceptable for Native Americans to dress in the clothes of their culture, but we can make cheap knockoff costumes depicting the tropes of the “wanton Indian princess” and the “drunk Indian” that are still problematic today. These tropes contribute to bias against Native Americans in the job market, in addition to making Native American women at much higher risk for sexual assault than their peers. This is a HUGE systemic issue, but it’s all tied together.

        Then, we get Elle and Parrell being all cutesy making this piece of someone’s history, a piece of history that was taken away from them by force, and turning into a fashion statement. What we are, in fact, saying, when we allow this sort of thing, is saying that the culture is a joke, a plaything. It was taken away from the people it belonged to, because it posed a risk to the “American way of life” and then made into a huge joke. I can’t take down the systemic issues of racism all by myself, but I can try to educate people on how their casual racism, like turning a culture into a costume, can contribute to the larger system.

        Honestly, I’m so goddamn sick of people telling me not to be offended by this because it’s “not important.” My family lost its culture because it was deemed unacceptable for our consumption, and then it was repackaged to be used by other people for shits and giggles. Tell me how that isn’t important. Also, people offended by shit like this? We’re capable of being offended by this and working on other societal problems. I’m a multifaceted human being, capable of knowing about more than one thing at a time. I promise.

      • Isabelle

        Yea, I understand that what we did to the Native American is never given the consideration and discussion it deserves but seriously? Taking issue with this is going to do that how? I don’t understand why the PC police and the. PC culture people are so hellbent on creating can’t see how much they absolutely irritating and alienating people from talking about the serious issue at hand. Intention is what is important, if people intent to offend than yes take issue with it but learn when to drop it. Some people do learn their lesson and we need to learn when to drop that too .

      • MCR

        First, if Pharrell had believed he was using the headpiece appropriately as a celebration of his Native American culture, he would have explained this rather than apologizing.
        Second, it is possible for someone to use cultural artifacts in an offensive way regardless of his background. Picture someone wearing Jewish artifacts, like a prayer shawl and phylactery, for a fashion shoot. The model could not really justify it by claiming her great-grandfather was Jewish. It’s simply inappropriate.
        Third, even if many people take offence at trifles, that doesn’t absolve everyone of the responsibility to avoid truly offensive gestures when we do become aware of them. The apology here is appropriate. I’m not so sure the ignorance is understandable, since Native Americans have been speaking out on these issues for years. Why was he unaware of the problem?

      • Isabelle

        But people don’t owe you an explanation. I doubt he thinks he did anything wrong because he is not sending out an apology. If anything I think he deserves respect for doing what he wanted to do with pride and doesn’t feel the need to bend to people wanting a forced apology out of him. But no one can say what is going through his head but him

    • MCR

      What I haven’t seen is an apology from Elle.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Word.

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