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Russian Ice Skaters Go Aboriginal…Offensive or Just Lame?

23 February 2010 8 Comments

The Winter Olympics are lame, not just because they’re all about frolicking in the ice and snow, which is lame on it’s own. The weakness is in its blatant stepchild status to the Real Summer Olympics. Think about it: half of the summer sports have nothing to do with the need to be outside (volleyball, basketball, swimming, etc) and could easily be part of the Winter Olympics instead. That has second-fiddle written all over it, wouldn’t you say? And then there’s extra-lame sports like ice skating, whose costumes are pretty much always ridiculous, but then this kind of thing happens.

Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin Aboriginal-themed costumes and dance stirred controversy during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Feb. 21, 2010. Australian media cited aboriginal leaders as complaining that the routine contained inauthentic steps and showy costumes. “It’s very offensive,” Sol Bellear of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council said. “We see it as stealing Aboriginal culture and it is yet another example of the Aboriginal people of Australia being exploited.” Their coach, Natalia Linichuk, responded to the accusations, saying, “Aboriginal, it translates from Latin language, it’s from the beginning. We try to represent a picture of this time when Aboriginal people start being in the world. It’s no customs, no country, nothing.” (Reuters)

I’m not going to break out a poll for this one. I’m just sharing this image to try and wrap my own head around it because while I don’t consider Australian Aborigines “black,” I watched Spike Lee’s Bamboozled last night, maybe I’m being a little sensitive, and I’d love to hear your opinions.

I don’t think that these costumes particularly look Australian Aboriginal, but the skaters are definitely wearing some sort of “brown-face” body suiting that aside from being creepy is kind of racist. I know it’s an American thing to be offended by that kind of stuff but come on – know your audience. Meanwhile, the coach’s response that they were portraying the people of  “no customs, no country, no culture” displays just why imperialism has thrived so well on this planet. There was no such a time, you vodka-swilling idiots. There are still hunter-gatherer societies that exist today and the perception that they have no customs or country is what keeps them oppressed geopolitically. Not to mention that they just have to be brown…not a good look, Oksana and Maxim.

What do you think?


  • BLACKkittenROAR said:

    Wow. This is absolutely ridiculous…when are “some” people going to realize doing this sort of thing is not okay? Apparently they consulted with Canadian Aboriginals before they performed…one question though…did they not realize that Canadian Aboriginals and Australian Aboriginals are two very diverse and different groups?
    And that crap about Aboriginals having no customs and culture is pure vile bullsh**. Are tribal markings not an indication of culture and customs (ones they decided to completely disregard and disrespect)?
    I really don’t think its just an “American thing” to be offended, cause crap like this pisses me off every day of my life.

  • Corporate AfroPuff said:

    Thembi, they fact that you even think you may be the one being sensitive is just part of the C-O-N-spiracy! Black face. Period. And Russians still celebrate blackface. In fact, in many parts of the world, we don’t realize that blackface has made it all the way around the world and as comedy, not as a learning or teaching tool. Remember the Australian blackface Jackson 5 incident? Plus, in these other parts of the world where people start doing sports when they are like 3 and that’s all they do, they do not go to school nor are they really very smart or educated in any way, which is why they thought this would be “provocative” not realizing they are like 100 years late. Plus, it’s totally lame.

  • Will Parallel Park 4U said:

    i didn’t see this event but from these pics…i thought they were gingerbread people. they look like extras from “hansel & gretel” — not what i thought aboriginal aussies looked like at all!

  • jennine said:

    Sorry to burst your bubble Aboriginal people do class themselves, and are in fact black people. To declare that you do not infact class them as black, is as racist as the idiot ice skaters. American black people really do not understand black culture or identity, outside of their African American bubble.

  • superwoman said:

    i’m southern african, and this seems so raciallly and culturally insensitive to me… and how do they think that consulting with canadian aboriginals would make this ok?

    i’m also interested in why you don’t consider aboriginals black? what race are they to you? to me, if anything, as descendants of the ‘first’ people, they are almost the ‘original’ blacks, much like the san and khoi of southern africa….

  • Thembi (author) said:

    The fact of the matter is that Aboriginal Australians are of Asian, not African descent. While all humans are descended from the African continent, the indigenous people of Australia came from Africa to the Middle East to India to Polynesia then down into Australia. They are genetically more related to Asians than Africans. My definition of black is African or of the African diaspora. Only taking what white people choose to call black people into consideration is doing all people of color a disservice; we’ve been taught that not-white = black and that’s one of the most culturally limiting and oppressive ideas in white supremacy. In reality we’re way more diverse than that and should positively recognize it.

  • freebie said:

    I am a white person who grew up around vancouver, grew up around first nations people & had first nations teachers in university. these communities have worked hard & smart to retain & promote their culture & languages. their presence in this part of the world is amazing & seriously influential. so yeah, having dorks from russia show up dressed like this is lame, yes.

  • superwoman said:

    Hmmm, interesting – live and learn. Thx for the clarification…

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