When Eniko and Kevin Hart planned their son Kenzo’s first birthday party, it’s possible they were thinking of nothing but the kind of themed birthday parties they’d attended as children, then selected one that seemed like it would appeal most to their toddler. But once Eniko posted the photos from the cowboys and Indians party, they raised a storm of opinions about what such a theme really means.
“Zos cowboys & indians party was nothing but amazing! Thanks to everyone for coming.. we love you guys!” Eniko Hart wrote on Instagram Thursday, sharing photos of her family and friends decked out in cowboy costumes or draped in Native American blankets next to a teepee at an outdoor venue.
In the comments, amid the cooing — that is one very cute little boy — came critiques from Native Americans. Just as they often call for an end to dressing up in “Indian” costumes during Halloween, indigenous people have long called cowboys and Indians parties offensive.
“Disgusting. This is equivalent to having a kkk and black slaves party. #interminorityappropriation,” wrote @smitmk01.
Many called upon African-Americans like the Harts to see the parallels between blackface and turning native culture into costumes.
“So when ppl do blackface or dress as slave and owner for halloween ya cool with it? Yuuuuuup thats what i thought,” wrote @gymandtattooposts.
Adrienne K. on the website NativeAppropriations.com further uses the comparison between the way white Americans used negative stereotypes of both groups as a means to create the identity of a dominant white American culture.
“So, it’s clear there are large similarities between blackface and playing Indian — both are intentional acts that draw upon stereotypes and a racist history to enact whiteness — but our Nation has created a narrative in which blackface=racist, while redface=normal,” she writes. “Just because our national narrative and history has somehow normalized the phenomenon does not excuse its roots in the process of systematic erasure of the First Peoples from our homelands.”
That argument played out somewhat less eloquently on Eniko Hart’s feed, with many defending the party and calling the haters overly sensitive.
“I truly hope you and Kevin don’t apologize for this!!”@through1eye wrote to Eniko. “Welcome to the generation of offended. It’s a sad day when a child can’t even have an innocent cowboy and indian themed party.”
Neither Eniko nor Kevin Hart has commented on the controversy.