Yesterday, prior to the airing of The Real Housewives of New York City, we looked at a debate the show's subjects had over the terms "Native American" and "Indian"—specifically the belief held by Carole Radziwill that Native American is the proper term and Indian is "racist."
While that strange discussion was an opportunity for us to shine a light on something that confuses some non-Indians, other moments of the scene (which you can watch at BravoTV.com) were not so teachable. Luann De Lesseps' smacking her lips with her hand while emitting a "woo-woo-woo-woo-woo" is an insulting gesture that (to paraphrase Carole) "everyone over third grade" knows not to do.
The discussion continued:
Sonja Morgan: "But her family didn't scalp. They only burned down your house."
LuAnn: "Jacques always calls me his wild Indian."
Now we're out of the realm of semantics and back into the sadly familiar one of stereotypes. Luann De Lesseps, who herself claims Native heritage, gets credit for not suffering from Carole's incorrect political correctness; but many Natives would not find this a pleasant scene to watch.
Celebuzz.com has posted a statement released by Luann in which she addresses the controversy. Her comments kick off with today's de rigeur non-apology apology, shifting the burden to the aggrieved and taking a shot at anyone who disagrees: "If anyone thought that something I did on last night’s episode was offensive, I’m sorry. To insinuate that I am insensitive or racist is insulting and flat out, not true."
It is too much to expect the more straightforward "I said something wrong and I'm sorry" these days—although her statement is really only about the semantic debate, not the hand gesture or "wild Indian" crack. The rest of the statement isn't too bad, and even cites a reference book and the U.S. Census Bureau.
In a different cut (posted to Celebuzz), the ladies discuss "aborigines" (Sonja had to look it up): What they are (Australia, yes; Canada up for debate) and what the word means (LuAnn's boyfriend Jacques Azoulay ventures that "it's a kind way to say 'savage'").
The Real Housewives of New York City didn't have a monopoly on Indian-related news yesterday; Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey also had a brush with Native culture, donning a feather headdress for a picture she Tweeted. A blogger at WetPaint.com described the normally sacred item as a "Pocahontas-inspired accessory." And careful with that hand, Teresa...