By Tony Hao

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month so we want to take this moment to address Diesel clothing company’s ” Be Stupid” campaign which features a white man dressed up as an Indigenous person wearing a sacred headdress and holding a bow and arrow with the words “BE STUPID” at the bottom of the ad in the New York subway system. The ads were developed at the global ad agency Anomaly.

Native communities experience higher rates of suicide compared to all other racial groups in the U.S. In 2019, the second leading cause of death for Natives between the ages of 10- 34 was suicide. Racism undeniably plays a role in the mental health of Indigenous peoples, as well as plays a part in the lack of our access to mental health care. Racism directed toward Indigenous people is a common problem throughout the world. In the United States, research suggests that both discrimination and harassment are widely experienced among Native Americans.

According to Rebecca Nagle “The First Nations Development Institute, a national organization dedicated to Native economic development, and Echo Hawk Consulting conducted extensive two-year research project to uncover dominant stories and narratives about Indigenous people in the US, and how these views affect public opinion and public policy. The study found that largest barrier to public sympathy for Native rights was “the invisibility and erasure of Native Americans in all aspects of modern U.S. society.” Representation of contemporary Native Americans was found to be almost completely absent from K-12 education, pop culture, news media, and politics. Two-thirds of respondents said they don’t know a single Native person. Only 13 percent of state history curriculum standards about Native Americans cover events after the year 1900. For the average U.S. citizen, the main exposure to contemporary Native Americans is through media and pop culture.”

In short, there are no non-violent forms of racism. Depictions of Indigenous peoples like the one in Diesel’s ad have consequences for Indigenous people’s mental health, the suicide rates of our youth and the way Americans view Indigenous peoples. Diesel must take down all of its ads, issue an apology, and work with the Indigenous communities of New York to support Indigenous programs. It is 2022, and this type of advertising that is dehumanizing and full of harmful stereotypes must stop.


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