Skip

The Curse of Chief Wahoo
May 9, 2012 7:56 AM   Subscribe

The Curse of Chief Wahoo. "Are we paying the price for embracing America's last acceptable racist symbol?".
posted by josher71 (138 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit, dude. Please don't remind me that there are still professional sports teams in America called the Indians and the Braves.

Some things are just too fucked up to try and have conversations about. I can't even think of a "Having Chief Wahoo as your mascot is like..." analogy that is anywhere close to showing how absurd this is, without going Godwin or beyond.
posted by 256 at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know quite a few people who don't consider it to be acceptable at all.
posted by schmod at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2012


Going back to "Cleveland Spiders" would be sort of cool, no?
posted by jquinby at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Once while hiking in Eastern Oregon, I met and started talking to a group of teen boys from the Umatilla tribe (there was free salmon to be had in the river we were hiking up, but none of these kids had their tribal cards on them).

They were nice guys, very easy to talk to, so I asked them about the whole sports team nickname stuff, and did it bother them that there were the Redskins, the Braves, et al?

One of them says, "Nah, that's just whitey liberal stuff. Doesn't matter to us."

A small sample, but still.
posted by Danf at 8:05 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

only 7000 items?
posted by clavdivs at 8:09 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dr. David Pilgrim, an expert in racial imagery

eponytragisterical
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on May 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


Despite being virtually identical physically, I'm pretty sure Chief Wahoo is less offensive than the counterpart at the Indians Minor League affiliate, the Kinston Indians (RIP K-Tribe), who was called Tom E. Hawk.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:10 AM on May 9, 2012


UIUC dumped Illiniwek five years ago, and that guy was practically dignified compared to Chief Freaking Wahoo.
posted by theodolite at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2012


Holy shit, dude. Please don't remind me that there are still professional sports teams in America called the Indians and the Braves.

The Braves don't bother me, much for the same reason that teams called "Trojans" or "Spartans" don't bother me - there's no serious caricature in the team's marketing of its logo (a tomahawk and a reasonably realistic picture of a Native warrior). The tomahawk-chop chant is annoying, granted, but it's unofficial.

But the Redskins' name is pathetic and the Wahoo mascot of the Indians is terrible.
posted by mightygodking at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


A small sample, but still.

From the article:
Many anti-Wahoo activists are loath to engage any evidence of Native support for symbols like Wahoo. Andy Baskin, a morning personality at 92.3 and sports director at Cleveland's NewsNet5, recently spoke on his radio show about visiting a reservation in the Southwest and seeing children wearing Chief Wahoo hats.

"There were African Americans who were OK with sitting on the back of the bus too," Farrar responds.

"No minority is a monolithic group," adds Higginbotham. "It's hard enough to assimilate without taking on these battles." (Baskin, incidentally, has concluded that the Wahoo tradition is not one worth holding on to.)

Ferris State's David Pilgrim points out that the U.S. Constitution provides for a Bill of Rights and an independent judiciary precisely because of the problems with leaving certain issues to majorities, expressing his frustration with this fundamental element of protest dynamics. "There's only so much energy for these things when you're a member of the oppressed race," he says. "The dominant culture has all the advantages. The force we're fighting doesn't have to do anything but the same thing that it's always been doing."
posted by zamboni at 8:12 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


They could keep the name "Indians" and change the mascot to Ashton Kutcher in 'brownface'...
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2012


"In 1912 the teams name was changed to "Cleveland Molly McGuires" after the coal miners who were trying to establish a union and were regarded as "heroes". " from Wikipeida.

I'd root for them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:14 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chief Wahoo is ridiculous but unless you pay close attention you are not going to even notice it. The Washington Redskins, however, are inescapable. And in the country's capital city. That is two orders maginitude worse than Chief Wahoo.
posted by bukvich at 8:14 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Braves don't bother me, much for the same reason that teams called "Trojans" or "Spartans" don't bother me - there's no serious caricature in the team's marketing of its logo

Notre Dame seems to pull it off, but that was self-adopted.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:14 AM on May 9, 2012


Yeah that Illiniwek mascot is pretty damned regal.

(Okay not the joker in the suit, but the logo)
posted by Windopaene at 8:15 AM on May 9, 2012


Yeah, I agree the Braves' logo and whatnot lacks the overt and appalling racism of the Redskins', but it's still a level of cultural appropriation that is creepy to see in this day and age.
posted by elizardbits at 8:15 AM on May 9, 2012


Well, if it's "White People Point to Minorities Who Happen To Agree With Our Opinion Hour", I'll link to Native Appropriations and her continuing series of blog posts on "Indian Mascots."
If the only way Native peoples are viewed in the US are as racist stereotypical mascots, (or in movies, tv, and advertising) is it better to be invisible, or seen as a stereotype?
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I disagree about the Braves being more acceptable. Have you ever been to Turner Field when the PA system plays their little war chant tune and 40,000 people start singing along and doing the Tomahawk Chop? It is one of the creepier things I have seen.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:17 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


In Cleveland, they probably serve as good examples, but I suspect those caps would sell on the coasts.
posted by RogerB at 8:19 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


(And somehow made even creepier by the fact that Braves fans are largely of the fair-weather variety. It's like these families show up in the 3rd inning and leave in the 7th just to do the Tomahawk Chop. I know that's not fair, but, seriously.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:19 AM on May 9, 2012


While I think using indigenous peoples for team mascots/names is pretty low, what could be said about teams like the Celtics or Notre Dame's Fighting Irish?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is one of the creepier things I have seen.

I remember when that thing started to take off - when the Braves made their first run at the Series in...91? 92? Always understood it to have been appropriated from FSU though I could be wrong.
posted by jquinby at 8:21 AM on May 9, 2012


"In 1912 the teams name was changed to "Cleveland Molly McGuires" after the coal miners who were trying to establish a union and were regarded as "heroes". " from Wikipeida.

I'd root for them.


Wow! Did not expect that since the Molly Maguires were in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal regions. My mother's side of the family is actually related by marriage to Molly Maguire ringleader, "Black Jack" Kehoe. I'll have to tell my uncle.
posted by jonp72 at 8:22 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


They wouldn't even have to change the mascot much. Just remove the feathers and pick a different color. Maybe give it a military cap to justify the "chief" bit.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:22 AM on May 9, 2012


While I think using indigenous peoples for team mascots/names is pretty low, what could be said about teams like the Celtics or Notre Dame's Fighting Irish?

Still tasteless, but not such a big deal, because the Irish have it a lot better in America now. The same can't be said for indigenous Americans.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:24 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


My college had had the Indian symbol as its mascot/sports symbol for decades, until the early 1970s, but a lot of alums and not a few students still want it to be the symbol (or at least, this was true when I was there in the 80s). They'd argue that Chief So-and-So of [some tribe] had said it was okay by him; when actual Native students at the college would point out that that chief didn't go to our school and they did, and they hated it....well, they were generally met with a lot of condescending and ignorant bullshit. As American Indians, this was something they were quite used to.
posted by rtha at 8:26 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my basement, I've a huge framed poster of my biological grandfather, WL Coller. He traveled the country as the "World's Champion Trick Bait Caster" (think fishing pole). He went by "Chief Coller" and frequently would appear in full Native American garb, including a huge feathered head-dress. My guess is that the title came from his background growing up in Tecumseh, Michigan, 'cuz I doubt that it came from his English/Welsh heritage. I always wondered if anyone was offended by his costume and assumed title, but, back then, I sort of doubt it caused many problems.


unrelated side fact: WL, or Bill, was a bit of a ladies man, he was also the only male member of an otherwise all female traveling band, a fact that, according to my uncle, contributed to his eventual divorce from my grandmother.
posted by HuronBob at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


what could be said about teams like the Celtics or Notre Dame's Fighting Irish?

irish-americans aren't socially, economically or culturally disadvantaged nowadays - and quite a few of them are fond of the celtics, notre dame and the leprechaun logo
posted by pyramid termite at 8:27 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


what could be said about teams like the Celtics or Notre Dame's Fighting Irish?

Those team names are TOTALLY different. In both of those cases, the people of the community identify with that name. It is race term being used as a symbol of pride by the people within that race.

There is no comparison there to outsiders taking your ethnic group, turning it into a baffoon clown, and using it as their symbol.
posted by Flood at 8:28 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


A small sample, but still.

Not a sample at all actually. A few random kids in Oregon, along a salmon stream are probably not a good gauge of what actual opinion is in indigeninous circles. Like was pointed out in the article, no minority is monolithic group.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:29 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's an article with some thoughts on the Irish mascots and questions of equivalency.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:30 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


> There is no comparison there to outsiders taking your ethnic group, turning it into a baffoon clown, and using it as their symbol.

Oh, I don't know. I always found it odd to see a bunch of big African-American dudes being associated with this guy. But yeah, I was mostly playing devil's advocate and there are differences. Still, it's all very silly.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 AM on May 9, 2012


This has been an ongoing issue in college sports as well - culminating in the 2005 when the NCAA listed 19 schools with logos that were hostile and abusive. One of the schools, University of North Dakota (UND), with it's Fighting Sioux logo, sued to retain it. And the state legislature even found time to pass a law mandating it's use. Of course there was shirts.

One of the stipulations NCAA required to keep the logo was the approval of two tribes, and one approved the other, Standing Rock, did not. Not only are "Indians" not a monolitic group, many tibes have much more pressing problems like massive unemployment, some the highest violence in the nation, a staggering suicide rate, and substance abuse, to name a few. For example, as of 2008, 60% of housing on Standing Rock is substandard, without adequate heating and many without running water.

Eventually, with the help of many other colleges shunning UND, the school and state saw the light and agreed to drop the logo. Now there is a referendum coming up - to allow the fine citizens of North Dakota the opportunity to merrily continue to be as racist as they please.
posted by zenon at 8:30 AM on May 9, 2012


One of them says, "Nah, that's just whitey liberal stuff. Doesn't matter to us."

White people shouldn't need indigenous peoples' permission not to stereotype, objectify or otherwise marginalize them.
posted by Catchfire at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I went looking for the previous hook-nosed Chief Wahoo (1946-50) - here it is, along with more on the source of Cleveland's favourite stereotype.
A man of few syllables, poor noun-verb agreements, and an eschewer of indefinite articles, the Chief appeared as a sidekick in The Great Gusto, drawn by Elmer Woggon and written by Allen Saunders. The strip first appeared in 1936. Chief Wahoo gave his name to the strip for awhile, then played second fiddle to Steve Roper, an adventure hero. Wahoo dropped out of the strip in 1947, but caught on in ’46 as the Cleveland Indians’ mascot.
The wikipedia article for Steve Roper has Chief Wahoo's original appearance in the strip.
posted by zamboni at 8:34 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Tomahawk Chop, for the uninitiated.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2012


While we're on the subject of changing team names,
there's no jazz in Utah and few lakes in LA.
Just this once give me the benefit of the doubt
the Bullets became the Wizards to pilots, get out.

And you'll go, "Wah wah wah, you're so PC!"
And I will say, "Hey wait: remind me again how it came to be
that being a stupid American is a desirable trait."

Wouldn't that be offensive if we cheered,
"Rah rah rah," for the Carolina negroes with a beat box cheer and a big foam afro.
The Minnesota Vikes became the New York Kikes with dollar bills on their helmets
cause thats what they're like, ya know?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uUiCL3QzpU
posted by weinbot at 8:36 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The wikipedia article for Steve Roper has Chief Wahoo's original appearance in the strip.

Whoops! It's actually the first meeting of Steve Roper and Chief Wahoo in the strip.
posted by zamboni at 8:38 AM on May 9, 2012


Serious question: Is the Boston Celtics logo as grotesquely offensive as Chief Wahoo? I do not think so, but I cannot account for why.
posted by weinbot at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2012


An excellent blog I read, called Uni-Watch, has been running a contest to rename the Washington DC and Cleveland sports teams. They're down to three entries left, and they all look pretty good.
posted by King Bee at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2012


The dumbest aspect of this whole debate is that sports logos get changed all the time, especially when teams have been terrible for as long as the Indians have and thus have something to gain from establishing a "new look" for the team. If there wasn't such a big backlash against changing it for anti-racist reasons it probably would have been updated to something more modern anyway.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:42 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe getting rid of any portrayal of Native Americans that seems overly jocular is going to effect a radical improvement in the standards of health and prosperity in Native communities.

Obviously, I'll believe anything.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 8:44 AM on May 9, 2012


Ward Churchill still has the definitive take on these mascots.
posted by euphorb at 8:46 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Celtics and the Fighting Irish do leave a little bit of a sour taste. But one thing that needs to be remembered is that the Celtics and the Fighting Irish were both, to one degree or another, operated by, managed by, and made up of Irishmen.
posted by 256 at 8:47 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


As mentioned in the article, Wisconsin passed a law in 2010 allowing residents to complain about race-based team names in their local districts. A high school student complained about his team name (The Indians). A judge ruled that the state was barred from forcing the school to change their name. Some choice comments on that article:
Basically anything can be offensive to a few people. If I start the Milwaukee Wax are the candle companies going to sue me?

Haha true. Do you know what vegetarian native american's eat? Chips! [I don't get this one]

If I were a native American I would be offended by being labeled as as a native.The word native has a negativity about it......................wait just a minute.....I too am a native American.....was born right here in America......and I really hate it that those mexican american natives think that they can just walk in here like they used to own the place....lets face it.......these guys are all just getting too big for their loin cloths.....screw it ...I will side with them ...I will boycott any casino that has a native American name!
On Wisconsin indeed.
posted by desjardins at 8:48 AM on May 9, 2012


[I just got the "chips" joke. Lame.]
posted by desjardins at 8:49 AM on May 9, 2012


I believe getting rid of any portrayal of Native Americans that seems overly jocular is going to effect a radical improvement in the standards of health and prosperity in Native communities.

Please explain more about the jocularity of the mascot, and how it is related to economics or public health. I'm sure it will be very interesting.
posted by zamboni at 8:53 AM on May 9, 2012


Spanish candy. On your ass: M & F.

Go on, eat 'em and wear 'em ironically.
posted by chavenet at 8:54 AM on May 9, 2012


> Please explain more about the jocularity of the mascot, and how it is related to economics or public health. I'm sure it will be very interesting.

I believe that was the joke, such as it was. The idea being that Native American communities won't really be directly improved by name changes. Still, it's not a zero sum kind of thing so I think that snark was kind of extraneous.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:58 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cleveland just kind of sucks.
posted by cashman at 9:00 AM on May 9, 2012


An excellent blog I read, called Uni-Watch, has been running a contest to rename the Washington DC and Cleveland sports teams. They're down to three entries left, and they all look pretty good.

As lovely as the first two logos are here, I think they would avoid choosing the spiders because of the logistics of brand conflicts with spiderman, and nobody is going to go with "the municipals".

But that bulldogs logo is nice.
posted by cashman at 9:04 AM on May 9, 2012


I think that snark was kind of extraneous

Well, I'm wondering how much of this is just pretending that improving the portrayal of Native Americans is somehow going to make their real issues ---the social problems of disenfranchisement--- go away.

Because if you think the worst thing we nice white folks ever did was put a Native American on a baseball cap, maybe there's a perspective issue here.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:06 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


at my husband's san diego high school (randomly, the high school where Cameron Crowe went undercover to "research" for Fast Times at Ridgemont High), the mascot is still the chieftains, despite some NCAA pressure. it's not a wealthy school, but they just spend years renovating the football field -- which now has a giant chieftain head in the center. it just astounds me that during the decision-making process of this illustrated field, fully aware that the logo was problematic, and would only become more of a problem as the appropriation conversation evolved and reached the teens themselves -- which it has -- they went ahead with it.
posted by changeling at 9:06 AM on May 9, 2012


Now there is a referendum coming up - to allow the fine citizens of North Dakota the opportunity to merrily continue to be as racist as they please.

The UND Fighting Sioux issue is very, very complex (I knew this would come up in this thread, and I'm happy to dig into it over MeMail). For one thing, the current logo was designed by a Native American and for another thing, the ballot measure and lawsuits brought to keep the logo were brought by the leaders of the Spirit Lake tribe. There's also been a constitutional crisis (the state legislature tried to deny the sovereignty of the state board of higher ed, leading to some political maneuvering to say the least) and in essence, this issue is tearing the state apart. It ain't merry and it's certainly not blithe.*

The opinion of the local Native American tribes being divided is part of what makes the whole thing problematic (the NCAA sort of assumed that asking the tribes in the areas affected would solve the problem. What happens when there's two tribes and they don't agree?). To be very clear, my personal opinion is to drop the logo like the hot potato it's become (I've worked on a rez and saw a lot of poverty firsthand and I refuse to buy Sioux logo clothing) and a lot of the people who actually are involved in this issue agree. No one knows how Measure 4 is going to go, but it's probably going to be close. To characterize the citizens of North Dakota as 'merrily contin[uing]' to be racist is to vastly oversimplify the issue.

*There's a good FPP in there but unfortunately I can't be the one to make it

As for this article, I sure as heck don't think there's a place for caricatures of Native Americans in modern professional sports. It's time to move on. The teams currently known as the Indians, the Braves, and the Redskins should lead the way.
posted by librarylis at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


weinbot: "Serious question: Is the Boston Celtics logo as grotesquely offensive as Chief Wahoo? I do not think so, but I cannot account for why."

The logo is a little less offensive, because it's a little less cartoony. The Fighting Irish logo, however, is just as problematic as Chief Wahoo. But the logo is only a small part of the problem, and many of the other reasons that it is well past time the Cleveland Indians branding went away don't apply as strongly to the Fighting Irish.
posted by 256 at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think they would avoid choosing the spiders because of the logistics of brand conflicts with spiderman

But the whole point is that the Cleveland Spiders were a baseball team already, long before Spider-Man existed.
posted by RogerB at 9:10 AM on May 9, 2012


Anyway, if I owned a professional team I'd call it "The Plague". Maybe the farm teams could be named after STIs.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:12 AM on May 9, 2012


yeah, i can just see the headlines right now - "spiders get stomped by white sox" - "tigers go all garfield on spiders"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because if you think the worst thing we nice white folks ever did was put a Native American on a baseball cap,

I don't think there's a single person who believes this.

I also don't think there's anyone who honestly believes that making a sports team stop using a caricature of an Indian is going to make the injustices perpetrated upon Native tribes go away.

But a lot of the Indian kids I knew in college would have been fucking thrilled to not have "Wah-hoo-wah!" or "Scalp 'em!" shouted at them at games or around campus. They would have been delighted to have the condescending "We're just doing it to honor your awesome heritage [that we don't actually know shit about]" shit stop.
posted by rtha at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


You'd never see a team called the Cleveland Negros or the Cleveland Jews, accompanied by a caricature of the race, he says.

Oh god, I would find the idea of a sports team called the $_CITY Jews utterly hilarious. I assume it would have to be a skeeball team or something. Maybe mahjong.
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Serious question: Is the Boston Celtics logo as grotesquely offensive as Chief Wahoo? I do not think so, but I cannot account for why.

Yeah, about the only way to make that more stereotypical would be to have a whiskey flask sticking out of his pocket.

posted by e1c at 9:14 AM on May 9, 2012


we are not a predominantly sport folk.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2012


sportY
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2012


If they truly intend these logos to honor Native heritage, I'm sure they wouldn't mind donating all the profits from clothes containing those logos to local tribes...
posted by miyabo at 9:17 AM on May 9, 2012


RogerB, there are both Chinese and Jewish populations in Cleveland in particular and Ohio in general. In fact, since Jewish identity in particular is important in parts of Cleveland, those hats would probably be a great object lesson. This isn't a problem confined to the center of the country - my high school in New Hampshire has an Indian head as one of our many mascots (yay Little Green?), and efforts to change it have been met with anger and dismay.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:18 AM on May 9, 2012


The Pittsburgh Hebrews.
posted by griphus at 9:19 AM on May 9, 2012


I went to a high school whose teams were the 'Redmen'. There wasn't much controversy to it then (namely because of a lack of awareness, I'm guessing), but there was some prodding to get it changed. There was no cartoon character, just the name.

A name change was resisted on the basis that the Redskins and the Indians were out there, so how racist could the name 'Redmen' be? (That is, the professional use of racist terminology was used to defend racist terminology by amateurs.)

The change proposal didn't go anywhere. I think the fundamental problem is that in changing, there's an admission that the prior use was wrong, and people either didn't want to admit that, or they honestly didn't feel that they had done anything wrong. I suspect the same thing is at play here.

I'm guessing that the key to changing things like these is to minimize that admission aspect, the blame or guilt which attaches to it. Simply keep the discussion at the level of 'using it was normal then, but times change, and now we see it as inappropriate'. That approach may be a convenient fiction, in that there's certainly accountability associated with the prior use, but at least it progresses the conversation, and gets that racist shit out of the way.

Then again, when dealing with racists, reason and logic don't have much to do with it, so who the hell knows?
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


there are both Chinese and Jewish populations in Cleveland in particular and Ohio in general

The ironic population, however, is quite depleted.
posted by RogerB at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2012


Also! The Philadelphia Sphas
The name "Spha" was originally an acronym, derived from South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, and naturally the team's players were primarily Jewish. Many pundits of the time tried to explain this on the basis of genetics, stating that Jews were naturally more dexterous, had better rhythm, and more intrinsic athletic ability, exactly the same sort of comments that would later be made about basketball with regard to African Americans in later years. At times writers used more specifically (and derogatory) Jewish stereotypes: Paul Gallico stated that they did well because "the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind".
The past is a foreign country.
posted by griphus at 9:22 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I also don't think there's anyone who honestly believes that making a sports team stop using a caricature of an Indian is going to make the injustices perpetrated upon Native tribes go away.

Hey, I'm not saying that we should be thrilled about "Tomahawk Chop" nonsense either. But we have a habit of focusing on solving problems just because they're visible, not because they're important. I think we really need to discuss why Native American communities have such problems with health, education, and economic opportunities. But we nice white people would rather talk about mascots on baseball caps, and pat ourselves on the back for our concern.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:22 AM on May 9, 2012


Surprise! Some people in this thread who are concerned about mascots on baseball caps are not actually white! I know, shocking, right?
posted by elizardbits at 9:25 AM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


A substantial number of American Indians have protested that use of native names, images and symbols as sports team mascots and the like is, by definition, a virulently racist practice. Given the historical relationship between Indians and non-Indians during what has been called the "Conquest of America," American Indian Movement leader (and American Indian Anti-Defamation Council founder) Russell Means has compared the practice to contemporary Germans naming their soccer teams the "Jews," Hebrews," and "Yids," while adorning their uniforms with grotesque caricatures of Jewish faces taken from the Nazis' anti-Semetic propoganda of the 1930's. Numerous demonstrations have occurred in conjunction with games - most notably during the November 15, 1992 match-up between the Chiefs and Redskins in Kansas City - by angry Indians and their supporters.

In response, a number of players - especially African Americans and other minority athletes - have been trotted out by professional team owners like Ted Turner, as well as university and public school officials, to announce that they mean not to insult but to honor native people. They have been joined by the television networks and most major newspapers, all of which have editorialized that Indian discomfort with the situation is "no big deal," insisting that the whole things is just "good, clean fun." The country needs more such fun, they've argued, and a "few disgruntled Native Americans" have no right to undermine the nation's enjoyment of it's leisure time by complaining. This is especially the case, some have argued, "in hard times like these." It has even been contended that Indian outrage at being systematically degraded - rather than the degradation itself - creates "a serious barrier to the sort of intergroup communication so necessary in a multicultural society such as ours."

Okay. let's communicate. We are frankly dubious that those advancing such positions really believe their own rhetoric but, just for the sake of argument, let's accept the premise that they are sincere. If what they say is true, then isn't it time we spread such "inoffensiveness" and "good cheer" around among all the groups so that everybody can participate equally in fostering the national round of laughs they call for? Sure it is - the country can't have too much fun or "intergroup" involvement - so the more, the merrier. Simple consistency demands that anyone who thinks the Tomahawk Chop is a swell pastime must be just as hearty in their endorsement of the following ideas - by the logic used to defend the defamation of American Indians - should help us all really start yukking it up.

First, as a counterpart to the Redskins, we need an NFL team called "Niggers" to honor Afro-Americans. Half-time festivities for fans might include a simulated stewing of the opposing coach in a large pot while players and cheerleaders dance around it, garbed in leopard skins and wearing fake bones in their noses. This concept obviously goes along with the kind of gaiety attending the Chop, but also with the actions of the Kansas Chiefs, whose team members - prominently including black members - lately appeared on a poster ,looking "fierce" and "savage" by way of wearing Indian regalia. Just a bit of harmless "morale boosting," says the Chief's front office. You bet.

So that the newly-formed Niggers sports club won't end up too out of sync while expressing the "spirit" and "identity" of Afro-Americans in the above fashion, a baseball franchise - let's call this one the "Sambos" - should be formed. How about a basketball team called the "spearchuckers/" A hockey team called the "Jungle Bunnies/" Maybe the "essence of these teams could be depicted by images of tiny black faces adorned with huge pairs of lips. The players could appear on TV every week or so gnawing on chicken legs and spitting watermelon seeds at one another. Catchy, eh? Well, there's "nothing to be upset about," according to those who love wearing "war bonnets" to the Super Bowl or having "Chief Illiniwik" dance around the sports arenas of Urbana, Illinois.

And why stop there? There are plenty of other groups to include. "Hispanics?" They can be "represented" by the Galveston "Greasers" and the San Diego "Spics," at least until the Wisconsin "Wetbacks" and Baltimore "Beaners" get off the ground. Asian Americans? How about the "slopes," "Dinks," "Gooks," and "Zipperheads?" Owners of the latter teams might get their logo ideas from editorial page cartoons printed in the nation's newspapers during World War II: slanteyes, buck teeth, big glasses, but nothing racially insulting or derogatory, according to the editors and artists involved at the time. Indeed, this Second World War-vintage stuff can be seen as just another barrel of laughs at least by what current editors say are their "local standards" concerning American Indians.

Let's see. Who's been left out Teams like the Kansas City "Kikes," Hanover "Honkies," San Leandro "Shylock," Daytona "Dagos," and Pittsburg "Polacks" will fill a certain social void among white folk. Have a religious belief? Let's all go for the gusto and gear up the Milwaukee "Mackeral Snappers" and Hollywood "Holy Rollers." The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame can be rechristened the "Drunken Irish" or "Papist Pigs." Issues of gender and sexual preference can be addressed through creation of teams like the St. Louis "Sluts," Boston "Bimbos," Detroit "Dykes," and the Fresno "Fags." How about the Gainsville "Gimps" and the richmond "Retards," so the physically and mentally impaired won't be excluded from our fun and games?


Ward Churchill, "Let's spread the fun around."
posted by docgonzo at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2012


Syracuse University used a figure called the "Saltine Warrior" for at least four decades before switching to using The Orange as an overall sports team name. The mascot is a guy in a furry orange spherical suit--a fruit (literally). As far as I know, nobody in town has a problem with their teams being symbolized by citrus--in fact, they've embraced it, even calling one fan group The Sour Citrus Society.

These Cleveland folks need to get over themselves. When something dishonors others, it needs to be reconsidered and eliminated. If we can do it, so can they.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:27 AM on May 9, 2012


Syracuse University used a figure called the "Saltine Warrior" for at least four decades

The Syracuse Crackers?!?!
posted by entropicamericana at 9:29 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ward Churchill speaks for the humorless fuck in all of us, regardless of race or color.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


But we nice white people would rather talk about mascots on baseball caps, and pat ourselves on the back for our concern.

This thread is about mascots on baseball caps. I suggest you make a FPP on health, environmental, and poverty issues affecting Native Americans. I would be delighted to read it. We have discussed those topics before, you know.
posted by desjardins at 9:33 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Going back to "Cleveland Spiders" would be sort of cool, no?

But what of the offence towards Shelob!?!
posted by Fizz at 9:33 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Florida State University and the Seminole Tribe of Florida (and the Oklahoma Seminole) have a respectful and beneficial relationship Miyabo.

That said, comparing FSU's relationship with the Seminole Tribe to Chief Wahoo would be so strained that it's liable to collapse into an irony singularity from which not even sarcasm can escape. That it's possible to have a respectful relationship is part of what makes Chief Wahoo so expecially revolting.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:34 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"My Friend Ruthy was full blooded Chero. a daughter of a high ranking Chief, i asked her was she offended or a solution..she said..we have so many other problems that deserve attention, lets move on..i added It was ment as fun not as a rub..there was no intent..just an ball club..a way to identify so now we have dogs ? woof woof, can they make something out of that now too..gee wiz im irish im catholic im short im a white woman who got no minority help in business, i was a CEO CFO im retired..& im tired.. get over it.."

This is an issue that is going to be decided at the top. I don't see the groundswell of decency happening in Cleveland. Not that the fans are better or worse than anyone else, but it's tough to engage the conscience of people, much less do so when sports are involved.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 9:34 AM on May 9, 2012


Hey, I'm not saying that we should be thrilled about "Tomahawk Chop" nonsense either. But we have a habit of focusing on solving problems just because they're visible, not because they're important.

Adrienne at Native Appropriations addresses this all the time. On this specific topic:
Don't you have BIGGER issues to worry about? Like poverty and alcoholism?!
Yeah, we do. But most people, because they're so inundated with these images all. the. time. don't have the wherewithal to realize that Native peoples exist in contemporary society. The collective American consciousness has reduced us to a easily-digestible stereotype, and in that act, erased our ongoing struggles. In order for us to move forward as a people, we need to acknowledge and interrogate these stereotypes, so we can move past them. The two go hand-in-hand.
For Native Americans (who, remember, are not a historical artifact), it seems to me like visibility is absolutely part and parcel of other problems.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've known a few Native Americans who did not consider this a very big deal. Of course, they felt that way because they just thought it was par for the course for white people.

As it is entirely possible to both work on poverty issues and address a mascot, I would love it if this was not par for the course for white people. It's a fucking embarrassment.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:41 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]




Yeah, as a white person I don't think "Oh, this group that we've been oppressing for hundreds of years doesn't seem to care about it that much" is a very high standard. Maybe instead of changing something only when people are angry about it, we can stop for a second and think, "Is this a morally appropriate thing for us to do, considering the situation?"

The situation being that we flat out stole their land and livelihood and continue to profit enormously from it. I think changing a couple mascots so that we're no longer pretending that we've wiped them off the face of the earth is literally the least we can do.
posted by muddgirl at 9:46 AM on May 9, 2012


But we have a habit of focusing on solving problems just because they're visible, not because they're important. I think we really need to discuss why Native American communities have such problems with health, education, and economic opportunities. But we nice white people would rather talk about mascots on baseball caps, and pat ourselves on the back for our concern.

Lunch counter seating wasn't one of the most important problems for blacks in 1960, either.

I don't think that the ease with which we could solve the highly visible issue of racist mascots means that it's not worth solving.
posted by argonauta at 9:47 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Syracuse University used a figure called the "Saltine Warrior" for at least four decades before switching to using The Orange as an overall sports team name. The mascot is a guy in a furry orange spherical suit--a fruit (literally). As far as I know, nobody in town has a problem with their teams being symbolized by citrus--in fact, they've embraced it, even calling one fan group The Sour Citrus Society.

Huh, I had always assumed that the Orange mascot had some relation to William of Orange and the Orangemen in Ireland, but it looks like not. It's funny because you picked the one mascot (other than a Native American ones) I had always assumed was offensive.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:51 AM on May 9, 2012


Once while hiking in Eastern Oregon, I met and started talking to a group of teen boys from the Umatilla tribe (there was free salmon to be had in the river we were hiking up, but none of these kids had their tribal cards on them).

They were nice guys, very easy to talk to, so I asked them about the whole sports team nickname stuff, and did it bother them that there were the Redskins, the Braves, et al?

One of them says, "Nah, that's just whitey liberal stuff. Doesn't matter to us."


Well, I'll see you and I'll raise you several - I personally know five Native people, some of whom have visited me in my home, who hate that racist mascot shit.

I mean honestly, how is this supposed to work? We poll all the Native people there are and if there are 200,000 who don't care and 190,900 who do care, it's okay to have racist mascots?

Would that extend to other things, where if you poll enough women who think that wearing a mini skirt is slutty and makes you a target for rape, then it's okay to sexually harass women in mini skirts?

I would totes get behind the white folks who so often point to POC saying "nah, we don't care about that liberal white people stuff" if those same white people were at the absolute cutting radical edge of support for POC activist projects. And yet, somehow, they seldom are.
posted by Frowner at 9:53 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ward Churchill speaks for the humorless fuck in all of us, regardless of race or color.

Yup. He was a resident professor at our university for one year. He organized some good awareness events while there, but was a very odd duck and I wasn't surprised to hear about what happened to him later.
posted by Melismata at 9:54 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


A small sample, but still.

Danf, since your small sample is outnumbered by the counter-opinions in TFA itself, it's not even noteworthy if your logic had justified it.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:55 AM on May 9, 2012


I don't think that the ease with which we could solve the highly visible issue of racist mascots means that it's not worth solving.

I already said I don't think anyone should be happy about it. The town next to mine recently changed their mascot name from the Redmen, and I think that was a wise decision.

I'm just wary of people thinking they're doing something significant with these cosmetic issues. The media portrayal of Native Americans only seems important because it's the only time white people have to bother thinking about them. Now we'll have even less reason to do so.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:56 AM on May 9, 2012


Also, regardless of race, gender, class, or the issues at hand: since when are teenagers (mother nature's little solipsists!) a reliable source as to whether we should care about something that doesn't immediately impact the personal lives of the teenagers involved?
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on May 9, 2012


Danf is getting a little bit piled on for his comment. But in other comments, people are pointing out that native groups are clearly not unified in any position on this issue.
Let's let people contribute their anecdotes and be part of the conversation.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hey, I was born in Cleveland, OH, and my mother grew up in Wahoo, NE. (Though Chief Wahoo looks more like my zayde from NJ.)

The only thing I've got to add is for the people who are wondering if there is any difference between Irish caricatures and Indian caricatures. A while back, in a dark mood, I was wondering what Europe would look like if the Nazis had been able to hold control over Germany and some of the conquered areas. Specifically, what would they say about the Jews. I'd heard that they had collected Jewish artifacts, while killing off the people. So there would be museums on Judaism, and they would probably leave a few people around, out of the same collecting/documenting urge. My brain then helpfully supplied "yeah, like Indians are in America."

Well shit. That was an unpleasant thought to carry around: "The American Indians are the remnants of a (mostly successful) genocide." How come it's not commonly spoken of? Maybe it doesn't technically qualify? Here's the test I came up with: complete the following phrase — not necessarily the way you think is true, but there's a common phrase, and I'm betting you know it.
The only good Indian, is ...........
That was enough for me.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


The tomahawk chop has its issues, but at least the Braves got rid of the Chief Noc-a-homa. Fans went as far as attributing him leaving a curse on the team when they finally got rid of his teepee in the outfield - the one that he would come out of and do a war dance whenever the Braves hit a home run. The Braves broke that curse in 1991, when Terry Pendelton (initials T.P., get it?) came to the team and won an MVP award.

The Braves aren't the first baseball team in Atlanta with a racial/ethnic name. Their previous minor league team was the Atlanta Crackers. And then the Negro League team in Atlanta followed league trend of simply adding "Black" to the beginning of the city's "white" team, giving the city the Atlanta Black Crackers.

And there was the intramural team at the University of Northern Colorado whose Native American members decided to turn things around, the Fighting Whites.
posted by thecjm at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cheif Wahoo sits atop the House of Statistics in East Berlin.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:13 AM on May 9, 2012


Meanwhile, Germans have their own (paywalled New Yorker link) intense fascination with Native Americans.
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on May 9, 2012


"The American Indians are the remnants of a (mostly successful) genocide."

The only certain thing is that what the Europeans and their descendants did to the Native American tribes was absolutely atrocious and shameful. We're allowed to feel outrage at something even if it's not technically genocide.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 10:17 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Serious question: Is the Boston Celtics logo as grotesquely offensive as Chief Wahoo? I do not think so, but I cannot account for why.

Oh Chist on a cracker. Does somebody need to point out that the Celtic Logo is a goddam leprechaun! A leprechaun (from wikipedia):

is a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danann of Irish mythology.[1] The leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If ever captured by a human, the leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release. Popular depiction shows the leprechaun as being no taller than a small child,[2] with a beard and hat, although they may originally have been perceived as the tallest of the mound-dwellers (the Tuatha Dé Danann).

OK. SO can we not be offended by the fact that the Celtics chose a goddam fairy as their logo. It is not a crass representation of real Irish humans!
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Flood: " In both of those cases, the people of the community identify with that name."

No. My father's side of the family is predominately Irish (Mom's side is Welsh-French). All four of my dad's great-grandfathers were full-blooded Irish. And I personally can't stand the Notre Dame mascot*. It's a caricature of a stereotype, a stereotype pushed originally by racism. You might argue that some Irish adopted the stereotype to make it their own, the same way that some people argue the N-word has been adopted by members of the black community. But keep in mind that there are a large number of people (black or Irish) who still find the word/stereotype offensive.

In the case of Notre Dame, the school is as Irish as it is Catholic - which means it uses the two promotionally but neither accurately reflect the makeup of the student body, the fan base, or the community (South Bend, IN seems to be predominately Polish - Dyngus Day is a bigger celebration there than any holidays of Irish origin).

*Full disclosure: I'm a second-generation Michigan State grad, so I might also be a bit biased.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only certain thing is that what the Europeans and their descendants did to the Native American tribes was absolutely atrocious and shameful. We're allowed to feel outrage at something even if it's not technically genocide.

I think you are agreeing with Benito. Strauss.
posted by josher71 at 10:49 AM on May 9, 2012


Seymour Zamboni is right. If you search Google for "Notre Dame mascot" the first things that come up are "Notre Dame Leprechaun." Here's the wiki article. It has nothing to do with caricaturing actual Irish people.
posted by desjardins at 10:53 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and caution live frogs? Virulent racism against the Irish was pretty much a moot point as of 1965, when the mascot was adopted. 1865? Sure, you'd have a point.
posted by desjardins at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seymour Zamboni, except the team is called the Celtics and not the Leprechauns.

FWIW, I am a Celtics fan.
posted by weinbot at 11:00 AM on May 9, 2012


Seymour Zamboni, it's also oddy that you refer to the Wikipedia article about leprechauns because, not more than half a page below the paragraph you reference, you'd also find:

Irish people can find the popularised image of a leprechaun to be little more than a series of Irish stereotypes.[23]
posted by weinbot at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2012


I don't know that much about sports or sports rivalries, but I'm from the DC area, so there are lots of Redskins fans about. Apparently there are also a lot of Cowboys fans, who are in conflict with Redskins fans. I had always assumed this was some storied sports rivalry, based on former team-mates / club owners / maybe something that had happened between Dallas and Washington DC that might have lead to this rivalry. Turns out, it's just because "Cowboys and Indians" is a thing.

I feel like this is remarkably stupid, and historically insensitive, then again, I made stickers and shirts with a pic of Andrew Jackson from the $20, so maybe I'm the wrong guy to ask.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:04 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Native Americans aren't so much offended by the NAME of the Redskins, but the performance of the team itself AMIRITE GUYS?!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2012


"...and they weren't even Indians! We called them that - by accident! - and we still call them that!"
posted by FatherDagon at 11:06 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'm not saying that we should be thrilled about "Tomahawk Chop" nonsense either. But we have a habit of focusing on solving problems just because they're visible, not because they're important. I think we really need to discuss why Native American communities have such problems with health, education, and economic opportunities. But we nice white people would rather talk about mascots on baseball caps, and pat ourselves on the back for our concern.

The use of images that portray Native Americans as savages let's people feel OK about letting those problems persist. They're not real people - just cartoons.

Also, everyone, can we remember that there are Native Americans in this very community? Please talk about us a real people, people who are here and participating.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


My point was that the inaccuracy of the statement "the people of the community identify with that name" has nothing to do with when the name was put in place. It has everything to do with the fact that not all of the people in that community identify with that name. This is the issue with the Indians. You aren't going to get the majority of Native Americans to agree that the name is OK even if the mascot is removed, probably because of the historical negative connotation caused by the caricature-as-mascot. In the case of the Florida Seminoles, the Seminole tribe endorsed the name. That won't happen here.

And even if you agree that a leprechaun is not a racist image, the phrase "Fighting Irish" doesn't say anything about a leprechaun. If the university was 100% Irish Americans and all liked the name, great. But it isn't, and anyone who isn't Irish American has no right to tell someone who is that they shouldn't be offended by the name. Same thing applies to telling a Native American that he/she should not be upset about Chief Wahoo.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2012


Chief Wahoo logo revised for the Cleveland Jews. [Disclaimer: I don't endorse this or the current Indian's logo.]
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:15 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMe,

How much would a tattoo with this amount of solid black hurt?
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2012


Oh man, I want that on a t-shirt.
posted by elizardbits at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2012


Dear AskMe,

How much would a tattoo with this amount of solid black hurt?


Generally the formula is that you'll endure 1.7 μY* per mm², adjusted by your Wussiness Quotient and the artist's Registered Maliciousness.

*microYowches
posted by FatherDagon at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The use of images that portray Native Americans as savages let's people feel OK about letting those problems persist. They're not real people - just cartoons.

I get what you're saying. I've already said a couple of times now that I think teams shouldn't use racist imagery. But whether or not a kid gets to wear a hockey shirt with Chief Blackhawk on it, people's indifference to the real problems of Native American communities will persist.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2012


> ut whether or not a kid gets to wear a hockey shirt with Chief Blackhawk on it, people's indifference to the real problems of Native American communities will persist.

So what? We're all still going to die so why bother changing anything because it's just all a veneer anyway, man.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:30 AM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


So what? We're all still going to die so why bother changing anything because it's just all a veneer anyway, man.

Wow. You demolished an argument no one ever made.

Impressive.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2012


people's indifference to the real problems of Native American communities will persist

Hi there. Native Americans in this very thread right here on metafilter have stated that this is a real problem in Native American communities. Being upset about racist depictions of Native Americans in sports team mascot imagery does not prevent you from ALSO being upset about the many many socioeconomic/racist/health struggles faced by these communities, nor does it in any way detract from or minimize these problems. I appreciate that you are aware of and rightfully outraged by the overwhelmingly shitty status quo for Native Americans, but your efforts to redirect this thread are not helpful. You do not get to decide on behalf of Native Americans what does and what does not constitute a "real" problem.
posted by elizardbits at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, honestly, you're not even making an argument.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2012


So I'll begin by saying "sorry" for continuing to turn this into a thread about white people, but: there are some worthwhile lessons to be learned from comparing NA mascots to mascots for the celtics or notre dame.

One of the ways to think about this sort of thing is to ask yourself: "is it even possible to caricature the entire white population this way?" I think it obviously isn't. There are easily-recognizable caricatures of black people, Jews, latino/as, asians, etc. But there's simply no possible crude drawing you could come up with where people would look at it and go "haha white people! I get it."

The thing with the Irish, then, is that they weren't always white. In fact, in a sort of horrifyingly apropos twist, the genocide of the native peoples of the Western hemisphere was modeled on what the English had done to the Irish. When the English first encountered the native tribes, they literally wrote home about how they dressed like the Irish and acted like the Irish and they were savages, just like the Irish.

But times have changed, and I would contend that Irishness - to any extent it exists any more - is no longer a genuine racial marker. No one even tries to look at someone and say "yep, she's Irish." People were t-shirts that say they're Irish, kiss them, but that's it. No one actually discriminates (in the sense of "distinguishes a difference between") the Irish or any other white people, because Irish has become white. There is no apparatus of institutional oppression operating upon persons of Irish descent.

Native Americans never became white, and further I'd like to get past the point where the only way to not be oppressed is to become white. So yeah, this mascot and others like it have got to go. And no, the contest to do so is not irrelevant to the wider problems faced by the tribes; it is part and parcel of it. This is not least because the people fighting for the status quo have adopted the "who gives a shit?" position because, in their minds, Native Americans don't count. They're not people whose opinions or lives matter, they're just cartoons.

The small stuff matters too, if it's even accurate to characterize this as small.
posted by kavasa at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm just wary of people thinking they're doing something significant with these cosmetic issues.

Can you demonstrate where - even if only in this thread - anyone has said this, or indicated that this is what they believe?

Because your argument reads like "If you're not out there ending injustice and poverty on the rez, then whatever you're doing around these issues is pointless."

I don't think I know anyone who thinks that ending racially stereotyped logos on sports teams will solve Native problems, and that we can quit when the Redskins become....some other team name.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm wondering how much of this is just pretending that improving the portrayal of Native Americans is somehow going to make their real issues ---the social problems of disenfranchisement--- go away.

This is actually something you've wondered? I'm wondering how much of the above is just trying to compensate for a terrible and out of place "joke".

Because if you think the worst thing we nice white folks ever did was put a Native American on a baseball cap, maybe there's a perspective issue here.

No one thinks that, I can't imagine anyone thinking that, ever.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:53 AM on May 9, 2012


If it's really no big deal, as those defending it seem to say frequently, then its no big deal to change it.
posted by agregoli at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


librarylis: The Fighting Sioux issue is pretty simple: it is a caricature that legitimizes patterns of prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. I know, I was an athlete at UND. I wore the Fighting Sioux. I know people with it tattooed on their bodies forever.

It isn't terrible important who designed UND's current logo, or how the fans of the logo think Indians should feel about it, or that it is tradition, because it is ethically and morally bad. That said, the new logo was designed by Bennett Brien in 1999, who is Chippewa, not Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, or "Sioux" and that would be like getting a German fella to design a logo for the French nation.

On the "Sioux" subject - it should be noted that the term Sioux is an exonym, meaning someone else assigned the tribe that name, and was derived from Nadouessioux by the French traders and settlers. Nadouessioux isn't well liked as is associated with "snakes" or "foreign speaker", and at this point you are stepping deep into tribal politics and identity issues. Not a place for an institution of higher learning. Seriously - why would UND continue to agrevate an already injured population, for the trifle amusement of it's sports fans and it's fair weather alumni? Especially considering that UND's history with the logo is so shamefull - just look at them (from here.)

UND and the state hasn't just dragged their feet on the issue - they have repeatedly done everything in their power to fight for the logo. Not everyone in the state are blithe racists, just several administrations of the school, most of it student body for decades, the State Board of Higher Education, the state legislature and one super rich guy*. I've been witness to physical altercations, threats of violence and lost friends over the issue. It is an emotional issue, but a simple and ethical one. It is hard because it challenges North Dakotans directly on their much touted "niceness", and worst of all involves their beloved hockey.

Not everyone in the state are racist, the University Senate (mostly faculty) voted to get rid of the logo in 1993, the Student Senate approved a similar measure (but was vetoed by it's student body president) the following year. I've also seen remarkable transformations- people who I though would die supporting the damn logo coming around. It is an embarrassment, but because most UND graduates have left the state, we aren't there to vote.

*Some rich guy gave the school 100 mil and demanded a new stadium and to keep the logo, and how much of the 100 mil gift went to the stadium? 110. And he got a tax write off for his proceeds from selling the Vegas speedway. And his firms built the stadium. And his family trust was given the land the stadium sits on, and now retain control of its use. Reportedly it is a very nice stadium.
posted by zenon at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personal opinion on native american mascots/portrayals at sporting events follows*:

Leave the good and/or approved alone.
Don't support the bad.
Use care when discussing it, it's often quite complex.

Last, come to a powwow near you, it's a good time for all.

*This message brought to you by a Native American living with a significant other attending the university named in my first link. Hell, even I know this stuff can get really murky, on the ethics front and others, really fast.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:11 PM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, dammit, you just reminded me - the Stanford powwow is this weekend, and I don't think we're going to be able to go. Crap. Another year without fry bread.
posted by rtha at 12:28 PM on May 9, 2012


A year without fry bread is a year without meaning.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


No kidding. I could make my own, blahblahblah, but nothing tastes like powwow frybread.
posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2012


Same with roasted corn that's dipped in the vat of molten butter. Seemingly simple but deceptively amazing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:42 PM on May 9, 2012


frybread....last time I had it, it was piled up with things. "Navajo Taco" is how it was sold, if if I'm remembering right. What I do remember is that it was sublime.
posted by jquinby at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2012


Yup, you can get it with a sort of chili/stew on top - sometimes beef, sometimes mutton, depending on where you are, and of course beans - and the times I've had it, shredded lettuce and cheese. God, now I'm hungry.
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2012


SHUTTTTT UPPPPP with the food talk I'm still at work and anyway I don't think there are any powwows around here
posted by desjardins at 1:37 PM on May 9, 2012


desjardins: I found one tribe NE of Green Bay, that seems to be not too far from what you have listed in your profile. They do have a powwow but I leave that for you to click on 'Events' on their webpage to find out about.

There may be more, no idea and my search was quite hurried.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2012


List of powwows in Wisconsin!
posted by rtha at 3:02 PM on May 9, 2012


Irish American here and, ignoring the other issues in this thread, I can't believe it's progressed to this point without someone doing a little bit of homework re: "Fighting Irish". If anything, the appellation is complementary of the proverbial Celtic fighting spirit. There are several supposed origins to the name and none of them are derogatory in nature.

-The Fighting 69th Brigade from the Civil War.
-A classic football matchup between Notre Dame and Northwestern (or UMichigan depending on what you believe)
-A giant street brawl/riot/war between Irish Catholics and the KKK after the Klan tried to drive them out of South Bend.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2012


zenon, I'm torn between continuing the conversation (we agree in large part, by the way--I'd just discuss a few things that have come up recently) because it's an excellent example of what the article is talking about, and thinking it's potentially a derail in this thread, which seems to have changed conversational course. I'm happy to talk about it with you further if you'd like, perhaps over MeMail.

The Ralph is a dazzling monument to hockey, if you can ignore the logos strewn everywhere
posted by librarylis at 5:25 PM on May 9, 2012


Syracuse University used a figure called the "Saltine Warrior" for at least four decades before switching to using The Orange as an overall sports team name. The mascot is a guy in a furry orange spherical suit--a fruit (literally). As far as I know, nobody in town has a problem with their teams being symbolized by citrus--in fact, they've embraced it, even calling one fan group The Sour Citrus Society.

Huh, I had always assumed that the Orange mascot had some relation to William of Orange and the Orangemen in Ireland, but it looks like not. It's funny because you picked the one mascot (other than a Native American ones) I had always assumed was offensive.


The school changed from the "Orange(wo)men" to the "Orange" in 2004. The school's official history is that the teams were simply named after the school's color, but changing to the Orange distanced the school both from the Northern Irish history AND from accusations that the name was a sort of punny reference to Native Americans (see Saltine Warrior discussion below). Officially, the change was undertaken to "create a very clean, refined and unique identity that by design fuses elements of the past with the aesthetic values of the future" (!). (Presumably cashing in on rebranded jerseys and t-shirts was also a consideration; the change was, according to SU, initiated by Nike).

And...the Saltine Warrior was also a Native American caricature whose existence was deeply offensive to many people of the Onondaga nation.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:33 PM on May 9, 2012


Do any of you all have the means to get me a PDF copy of a 1998 article in the Cleveland Law Review? The Wikipedia page on Chief Wahoo is a mess and I'm trying to clean it up.

Specifically, I'm looking for this, which contains a history of Chief Wahoo. Thanks in advance if you can help.
posted by compartment at 10:44 PM on May 9, 2012


oneswellfoop: "They could keep the name "Indians" and change the mascot to Ashton Kutcher in 'brownface'..."

I tried to understand why people were getting so worked up about that. I just found it embarrassing and stupid, like the Mike Myers impression of a baby-eating Scotsman.
posted by vanar sena at 1:05 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cleveland is wrong, wrong, wrong about this. Change the stupid name of your stupid team already.

It won't change the underlying assumptions underpinning professional sport, or they'd have to change teams names to things like the "Oakland Wife-Beating Homophobe Type-A's", but it's a start.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:08 AM on May 10, 2012


« Older "My right to choose? What about my right to choose...   |   Test Everything Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post