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Life imitates art.
April 10, 2014 4:27 AM   Subscribe

In 2002, Lalo Alcaraz drew a depressing political cartoon. In 2014, it happened in real life.
posted by Faint of Butt (98 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Life imitates art imitates life.
posted by Renoroc at 4:30 AM on April 10


Where's the photo of the cartoonist having an awkward meeting with a heavy guy with jutting teeth?
posted by nathancaswell at 4:34 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Noticed by a_girl_irl a few days ago; apparently Jay Chen made a similar cartoon some years earlier, also.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:57 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


A few years from now we will look back in disbelief that there was a time when racist mascots and Native Americans had encounters like this, because they will have been discarded unceremoniously.

You know, through disenrollment.
posted by etc. at 4:58 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


Anyone know what happened with these guys? Did they speak to each other?
posted by Shebear at 5:08 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


“It took me about a day to really start tripping out on it,” Alcaraz told BuzzFeed.

Seeing the cartoon and photo side by side accelerates that process significantly.
posted by klarck at 5:09 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I imagine the fan in the cartoon was somewhat more respectful than the fan in the photo. People let their sporting allegiances get in the way of thinking rationally about a subject. They should change the logo.
posted by arcticseal at 5:14 AM on April 10


Shebear: Anyone know what happened with these guys? Did they speak to each other?

Here's a first hand report.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:15 AM on April 10 [11 favorites]


Buzzfeed can't be arsed to link to primary sources even though they're a keyword search away because they're all about maximizing ad revenue through content churning in-site links and clickbaity headlines.

The photo isn't half as remarkable as the story behind it.

Peter Pattakos took the picture. Read his blog entry about the encounter. He puts more consideration into what went down than the "Hey look at this shithead" meme his photo has become. He also links to other first-hand accounts.
posted by ardgedee at 5:18 AM on April 10 [36 favorites]


Anyone know what happened with these guys? Did they speak to each other?

Here's the story from the guy who took the photo.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:19 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Chord. Struck a chord.
posted by grateful at 5:44 AM on April 10 [23 favorites]


[From ardegee's link above.]

At one point during the conversation I showed Rodriguez a copy of Aaron Sechrist’s artwork from the 2012 Scene cover story on the logo depicting a Chief Wahoo bobblehead next to a blackfaced lawn jockey drawn in the same style. I asked him if he’d ever show up at a baseball game in blackface, to which he replied that he wouldn’t. I then asked him why redface was any more excusable and he struggled to come up with an answer. As Allard notes in his piece, Rodriguez could only repeat that “he was an Indians fan.”

Perfect.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:45 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


"struck a cord" heh.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:48 AM on April 10


As the article says, the fan doesn't seem to be overtly racist, but isn't connecting the dots. As long as the team promotes the logo, then fans will continue to wear it. That's why the team needs to be the driver behind this.
posted by arcticseal at 5:49 AM on April 10 [23 favorites]


For the most part, though, passers-by hurled insults. . . . Others launched the familiar hate speech — "Go back to the reservation," etc."

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:56 AM on April 10 [13 favorites]


Here's a first hand report.

The list of excuses is just absolutely horrifying, even if a lot of it is pretty familiar. The last line--Obnoxious Indian battle cry ululation stuff--was a good coda to that piece.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:01 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Oh man, of course their stadium is called Progressive Field. I know it is coincidental, but damn.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 6:05 AM on April 10 [8 favorites]


That's why the team needs to be the driver behind this.

Great idea! They should change their name to the Cleveland Ballers. Just think about the merchandising potential. Every fan would have to upgrade. A million new Baller hats, Baller t-shirts, big Baller foam fingers.....
posted by valkane at 6:09 AM on April 10


Tomorrow - Chief Wahoo declares it was satire all along!
posted by asok at 6:09 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


valkane: They should change their name to the Cleveland Ballers.

I know you joke, but they have an amazingly kick-ass historical name to revert to, should they choose. I predict they change their name within the next 10 years.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:12 AM on April 10 [19 favorites]


morans
posted by exit at 6:16 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Mat tweeted a link to this ESPN story about De-chiefing the other day. I particularly like this idea for a new mascot/logo.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:25 AM on April 10


I know you joke,

No, I was (pretty much) serious. I picked a name I thought maybe would appeal to someone who would dress up like the guy in the picture. Nothing against sports fans, but I figured those guys would have as much fun screaming "Go Ballers!" as they have now. You know, cuz it's "edgy."

And I was totally serious about the merchandising thing. I think too-often marketing types are terrified of any kind of change based on the religion of branding. I think when handled correctly, metamorphosis of a brand can be a win-win situation.

But I totally understand your interpretation, and I appreciate the link, because I didn't know that about Cleveland. But I'm afraid I can't endorse that name, because I'm terrified of spiders.

Except for Spiderman. So maybe it would work? I'm conflicted.
posted by valkane at 6:27 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


A million new Baller hats, Baller t-shirts, big Baller foam fingers.....

I want the franchise for officially licensed TruckNutz.
posted by localroger at 6:28 AM on April 10 [8 favorites]


Races that white people have noticed it's not cool to impersonate:
1. Black people (usually)
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:31 AM on April 10 [34 favorites]


the fan doesn't seem to be overtly racist, but isn't connecting the dots...

That is a great description of race relations in the US in so many contexts.
posted by TedW at 6:37 AM on April 10 [29 favorites]


Spokane Indians Take Historic Step With Logo in Salish Language, Beginning in the 2014 season, the Spokane Indians baseball team will sport the team name in Salish on home jerseys.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:41 AM on April 10 [12 favorites]


I know you joke, but they have an amazingly kick-ass historical name to revert to, should they choose. I predict they change their name within the next 10 years.

If I were a Cleveland fan, I'd be sorely tempted to pick up a throwback Spiders jersey to wear to games. Well, I would be except that the only one I could find online easily was $200; other than that though, I love that idea. Also, the Spiders hold the record for the worst season ever in baseball history (20-134 which is mind bogglingly bad); I feel like embracing that would be delightful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:46 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


I'd love to hate on Cleveland but it's just an accident of history that my city doesn't have a racist team name and/or mascot and I'm sure that we'd handle it just as poorly. That said, they really need to change both the name and the logo. The idiot fans will get upset but will get over it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


So the Indianapolis minor league team is also called the Indians. Their mascot is a bear with a baseball stuck to his nose but their logo is what appears to me to be a weird rug/mask/face thing. There doesn't seem to be any kind of pressure on them to change their name. Hopefully they will.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:49 AM on April 10


It's not just the USA that has this kind of problem. example
posted by DreamerFi at 6:50 AM on April 10


"it's just an accident of history that my city doesn't have a racist team name and/or mascot and I'm sure that we'd handle it just as poorly"

That's one nice thing about living in New Orleans - I'm pretty sure no actual saints are going to line up outside the Superdome to tell fans that they're being disrespectful.
posted by komara at 6:52 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


So, uh, I looked that word up on Urban Dictionary, so now I take my original suggestion back. Sorry. Spiders is a-ok with me.
posted by valkane at 6:53 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


"So the Indianapolis minor league team is also called the Indians... There doesn't seem to be any kind of pressure on them to change their name. Hopefully they will."

Why should they? The Indianapolis Indians are in Indiana, which literally means "Land of Indians".
posted by BlerpityBloop at 6:54 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I had high hopes when there was an increasing pressure last year, and I've watched a few different sources and the fight to change things continues, but it kind of feels like these organizations make one or two inconsequential changes and then just try to wait out the criticism.
posted by cashman at 6:57 AM on April 10


I think the main issue I have with some of the sports media reportage of these confrontations is that it may be true that these fans aren't "motivated by racism," as a Hardball article put it, but it doesn't mean that they aren't being racist. If being consciously racist and wearing it on your sleeve was our main issue, it'd be easy to notice.

Being unconsciously racist, letting your biases play out without really thinking about their sources, is a lot more insidious.
posted by mikeh at 6:58 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


The Cleveland Indians Spring Training facilities are in Arizona. Guess what doesn't appear when the Indians are in Arizona? Here's a hilariously vague quote from the Indians communications person as to why:
“Spring training’s a different animal,” he said, “and when we’ve been in Arizona, we’ve really focused on the block C—being in that region, in that area, we’re certainly cognizant of that.” In other words, it is apparently one thing to use the chief while in the eastern Midwest, but quite another to use him in the southwest, where (whispered voice) there are actual Native Americans.
I'm from Cleveland, and I'd be happy if Chief Wahoo were eliminated yesterday. I have Cleveland friends that are much bigger baseball fans than me and they all hate Chief Wahoo too, but I don't get the sense that that's the majority attitude of most fans. I'm just good at picking friends who are not dumbasses.

I think the team management was planning on slowly phasing out the logo and hoping that they wouldn't attract the attention that the Washington Redskins have been attracting. And by slowly, I mean it would take decades, since they sort of have been reducing its usage since at least the mid 90s when they decided not to put a big Chief Wahoo sign in the (then) new baseball park (there was a big Chief Wahoo sign on the scoreboard at the old Municipal Stadium).

This whole photo indecent was terribly depressing, but at least I hope it speeds up the "get rid of Wahoo" process.
posted by mcmile at 7:07 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


BlerpityBloop: Why should they? The Indianapolis Indians are in Indiana, which literally means "Land of Indians".

I think the name "Indians" itself is a little tricky. It can vary from honestly respectful with a dignified logo (like in the case of the awesome Spokane Indians) to the fig-leaf "respectful" with a horrible logo like the Cleveland Indians. I don't know enough about the Indianapolis team to speculate about where they fall on that continuum.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:08 AM on April 10


Fuckin white people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:08 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Fuckin white people.

Not a bad idea but I don't think it would really fit well on a ball cap.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:11 AM on April 10 [23 favorites]


The Indianapolis Indians are in Indiana, which literally means "Land of Indians".

It means "City of Indiana," which means "Land of Indians."

But either way, every team in Major League Baseball and its Minor League subsidiaries plays in a land that used to be of Indians. They're still not particularly enthused about their ethnicity being used as a mascot.
posted by Etrigan at 7:12 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


"But either way, every team in Major League Baseball and its Minor League subsidiaries plays in a land that used to be of Indians. They're still not particularly enthused about their ethnicity being used as a mascot."

Mascot/logo, sure, but the actual name? Indians? Chiefs? Braves? Aztecs? Seminoles?

Arguing that "Indian" is offensive would mean changing the name of the state of Indiana.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:17 AM on April 10


If you don't get the difference between using a place name with a likely racist or otherwise problematic history and having a mascot that's based on an explicitly racist and mocking cartoon I don't know what exactly is going to effectively penetrate your skull.
posted by NoraReed at 7:24 AM on April 10 [11 favorites]


"If you don't get the difference between using a place name with a likely racist or otherwise problematic history and having a mascot that's based on an explicitly racist and mocking cartoon I don't know what exactly is going to effectively penetrate your skull."

Was that directed to me? My original comment was responding to the comment above calling on the Indianapolis Indians to change their name, as their mascot was already bear.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:27 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


[Let's keep it cool in here folks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:28 AM on April 10


For what it's worth, I think a compromise could be reached. For example, I'd allow the Redskins to keep their name, as long as they changed their logo and mascot to a potato.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:34 AM on April 10 [35 favorites]


Moves to eliminate the term "squaw" from names of geographical sites are accelerating because of protests that the term is offensive. [Article is from 2008, I'm not sure what all has happened since, but here's a wiki article on Squaw Valley, OR that addresses some of it.]
posted by desjardins at 7:38 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Arguing that "Indian" is offensive would mean changing the name of the state of Indiana.

Arguing that other people don't get to be offended never seems to work out very well.
posted by Etrigan at 7:39 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Spokane Indians Take Historic Step With Logo in Salish Language
Wow. I'm all for de-Wahooification and so forth, but what that logo says to me -- screams to me -- is "Spokane Sux".
posted by Flunkie at 7:39 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Here's another article on racially offensive place names.
posted by desjardins at 7:41 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


(I'm not making a comment on whether or not "Indiana" is offensive.)
posted by desjardins at 7:42 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


as long as they changed their logo and mascot to a potato.

How 'bout a goober? They are grown right next door in Virginia, after all.
posted by TedW at 7:49 AM on April 10


How 'bout a goober? They are grown right next door in Virginia, after all.

They could even play Goober Peas at games. I would definitely go to a game if they did that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:00 AM on April 10


I like this 5-minute Keith Olbermann video from Wednesday, linked by one of the articles.
posted by cashman at 8:11 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


So...Can we say that the Cleveland fans have a...cavalier...attitude about this issue?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:18 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


reading this, one of my first thoughts was:

remember the one time stephen colbert tried to joke about this?
posted by raihan_ at 8:22 AM on April 10


Sorry to derail, a little bit, but I want to talk about how much I love Lalo Alcaraz, and how much his art meant to me as a little Chicana growing up in So Cal who never saw my culture reflected back to me in media. Like, seriously, things have gotten a little better, but as child my only Latino role models were Speedy Gonzalez, Desi Arnez, and a tiny smattering of token characters on 1980s cartoon shows (kids aren't stupid; I figured out the token character thing at a young age, pouring over my Burger King Kids comics wearing a cardboard crown).

- He founded (and apparently still runs!) pocho.com. "Pocho" is a word that means the same thing as coconut (or, for other races, apple, banana, oreo, etc). It means you're Latino on the outside and white on the inside, and is used against people like me; people who grew up in the US, who are very Americanized, who can't speak Spanish, etc.

He started the movement of reclaiming it as a way to define yourself proudly, and as someone who has struggled with my mixed-raced multicultural identity my whole life, having someone tell me at age 13 that I wasn't the only Mexican who didn't feel Mexican enough was huge.

-His comic strip La Cucharacha started in 2002 and it was the first syndicated comic I ever saw pouring over the funny papers that starred Latinos. I loved The Boondocks, and I'm so grateful that it opened these doors to other POC artists.

-After La Cucharacha was dropped by four papers following reader complaints, Alcaraz drew a comic making fun of his detractors that depicted them writing "Please drop 'La Cucaracha' and bring back my favorite comic strip, 'Whitesville USA' by Aryan McCracker," which is hilarious and badass.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:27 AM on April 10 [24 favorites]


Say it with me: The Cleveland Crackers.

What?
posted by tspae at 8:28 AM on April 10


I like how this whole thread seems to have basically written off Atlanta as irredeemable. See Cleveland? You -- you've got a future!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:32 AM on April 10


Moves to eliminate the term "squaw" from names of geographical sites are accelerating because of protests that the term is offensive.

The "squaw" one is weird because the supposedly offensive etymology is entirely fabricated--and fairly recently too. I guess there's a point where the historical fact ceases to matter--if people find the word offensive then they find the word offensive--but I find it odd and troubling that a relatively recent and entirely false historical claim about the origins of a genuine, non-offensive, non-controversial native-American word for "woman" should have spread so widely in native-american communities. It seems paradoxical that claims for honoring and respecting native-American culture should be floated on a misrepresentation about the actual cultural and linguistic history of native-Americans.
posted by yoink at 8:45 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Yeah the "squaw" thing is odd - from the wikipedia article it looks like what was originally a word without offensive connotation was turned into a deregotory term by a few people in the 19th century so now all the geographic places need to be renamed? Seems like it would be more productive to illustrate the original usage and how it was misused through the years rather than sweeping it under the rug.
posted by Big_B at 8:59 AM on April 10


This happened to every American Indian student at my college when they'd ask someone who was wearing an Indian Symbol t-shirt to take it off/go change/can we talk about why that''s offensive. Added bonus: they'd get to have the significance of their culture whitesplained to them. So awesome.
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on April 10


Some team names do not draw protests, some do. What boggles my mind is that people are willing to spend time arguing about whether or not the protestors have a point rather than just change the name.

It's a sports team name. The owners can just wake up tomorrow and say "Now we're the Cleveland Cleavers." The problem is literally solved that easily.
posted by 256 at 9:10 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


"Oriental" is similar to "squaw" in this respect. Etymologically it means "rising", as in the rising sun, as in the east. Its pair, "Occidental", means "setting", as in the setting sun, as in the west. But somehow the idea got out there that "Oriental" meant something like "foreigner" or "other", and so now it's offensive.

Of course there are plenty of words that are slurs in practice despite not being slurs etymologically, and besides that I'm with yoink ("I guess there's a point where the historical fact ceases to matter--if people find the word offensive then they find the word offensive"), but it does mildly bother me when a false etymology is made up to promote the idea that a word is a slur.
posted by Flunkie at 9:17 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


But somehow the idea got out there that "Oriental" meant something like "foreigner" or "other", and so now it's offensive.

This is not just some handwavey "something happened" situation. The Wikipedia entry for Orientalism might be a good place to start. I take your meaning generally, the problems of false etymology can be frustrating for people just trying to use words with their conventional meanings. But I think you'd agree that a lot can happen to a word between when it was coined and whatever we're saying it means today and cultures sort of decide as groups what significant aspects of a word's past meaning have meaning to them. See also: Nazis ruined the swastika forever. I'm still annoyed at that, but I don't go walking into discussions about WWII complaining about it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:24 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]


I tried to be clear that I am not bothered by the idea that "Oriental" is a slur. I am (mildly) bothered by the fact that there are people who claim that it is etymologically a slur.
posted by Flunkie at 9:29 AM on April 10


Cleveland should change their logo to a flying "v" guitar and their name to Cleveland Rocks. Ian Hunter could be their new mascot. The real Ian Hunter.

Every team with a native American mascot name has a viable alternative but once the owners have made the case that to themselves that they are not personally racist and can't control what actual racists do, changing the name and logo requires a sorry of self reflection that they're just not capable of.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:30 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]


Also Atlanta could be only one marketing deal with Disney away from making Merida their new mascot.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:35 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


From the firsthand report on overheard comments:

1) De-legitimize the anti-Wahoo argument itself:
—"Talk to Obama if you think it's racist."


What is that even supposed to mean?
posted by sfkiddo at 9:39 AM on April 10


If I read it correctly, the person saying "Talk to..." is trying to say if you have a problem with racism right now, take it all the way to the top, which is in their estimation the Black president. And so you shouldn't complain about racism because there is a black guy who is president.
posted by cashman at 9:44 AM on April 10


I saw it as more that Obama has come out against other Indian names, so if you think the Indians' name is racist, you're agreeing with Obama, which means you're wrong.
posted by Etrigan at 9:45 AM on April 10


"What boggles my mind is that people are willing to spend time arguing about whether or not the protestors have a point rather than just change the name. It's a sports team name. The owners can just wake up tomorrow and say "Now we're the Cleveland Cleavers." The problem is literally solved that easily"

Just because something is easy to do doesn't mean it should be done - all protests have a "point", but thankfully we discuss the point being made rather than "just changing" things. Colbert, thankfully, is still on the air, despite the offended protestors. John Ashcroft was offended by a naked statue and was widely criticized for "just throwing a drape over it".

More on topic, mascots are often antiquated and offensive and Cleveland are slowly fading Wahoo out. Sports teams have long, proud traditions and histories and fans often resist drastic changes. ( see also Washington Bullets/wizards)
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:45 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


But I think you'd agree that a lot can happen to a word between when it was coined and whatever we're saying it means today and cultures sort of decide as groups what significant aspects of a word's past meaning have meaning to them. See also: Nazis ruined the swastika forever. I'm still annoyed at that, but I don't go walking into discussions about WWII complaining about it

The case of "squaw" really doesn't permit of a comparison to the swastika. Obviously the Nazis gave a particular meaning to the swastika that is now impossible to disassociate from the image for people brought up in cultures where the swastika never had very widespread significance other than the Nazis' use of it. The problem with the complaints about historical uses of the word "squaw," however is that they are equivalent to complaining that the swastikas worn by, say, the Windsor Swastikas in the pre-WWI era showed that they were antisemitic. To make the claim that calling a mountain "Squaw Mountain" was at the time that the name was conferred a deliberate slur, and that the people who did the naming were thinking of this name as meaning something like "Indian Cunt Mountain" is an equivalent error.

And what's odd about the case of "squaw" is that there never was a point at which the word historically took on a widespread pejorative meaning (in that way it's also different from "oriental" where there were, of course, a whole host of meanings attached to the word in normal English usage that were deeply racist in their implications). "Squaw" only ever meant "native American woman." Lots of racist things were said and thought about native-American women, of course, but they weren't specially denoted by the word "squaw." That is, the people who held the racist opinions were no more or less likely to use the word "squaw" than the people who did not (unlike, say, the word "nigger" which takes on a deliberately insulting meaning very early in its usage).

There are lots of cases of false etymologies spreading and leading to deprecations of one usage or another. What is curious, and, I think, a little sad, about the "squaw" one is that it involves a claim to special cultural knowledge which is, in fact, false. It's as if a subcontinental Indian were to insist on erasing swastikas from some ancient Hindu temple on the grounds that the symbol was of Nazi origin.
posted by yoink at 9:48 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


1) De-legitimize the anti-Wahoo argument itself:
—"Talk to Obama if you think it's racist."

What is that even supposed to mean?


My understanding is closer to Etrigan's understanding : to many people racism itself is just some thing "others" complain about to thwart them. So they imagine all Obama does is figure out ways that people are racist and so you should join him if you think Cleveland's mascot is racist.

Here's a hint, Wahoo supporters : the mascot is racist.
posted by Slothrop at 9:49 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Sports teams have long, proud traditions and histories and fans often resist drastic changes. ( see also Washington Bullets/wizards)

Was there really any resistance? I only remember the joke that the Washington Bullets wanted to decrease their association with violence, so they would be known only as the Bullets. Wikipedia says some people were annoyed because "Wizard" is a Klan rank, but were people really wedded to "Bullets"?
posted by Etrigan at 9:51 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The Indianapolis Indians are in Indiana, which literally means "Land of Indians".

The name Indiana always reminds me of that line about how if you look at the name of a suburban housing addition, it's always whatever they destroyed to build the addition. So if you live in Oak Valley, it's because they destroyed a bunch of oak trees. "Indiana", similarly...
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on April 10 [14 favorites]


I think there was, but my memory is hazy. I was a student at Maryland (go terps!) when they changed the name in '97. The general feeling was more of a merchandising concern. A bullets jersey looked damn cool, no one would want to wear a stupid wizards shirt, too Disney, too politically correct. The debate about it was different than the one we are having now, but absolutely people weren't cool with changing the name, even though it was the proper thing to do.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:00 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


These guys seem wedded to the Bullets name, if only in jest.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:00 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


If the Washington Bullets had used Joe Strummed as their mascot...
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:08 AM on April 10


As someone who lived in the DC area when the name changeover happened: yes, there was resistance, but it was pretty short-lived. I actually don't remember people talking about it very much even by the next season. Of course, the original name didn't have racist connotations like the Washington football team, or Cleveland, or many others. It shouldn't matter if they have "traditions" or "histories" behind the names and mascots. If that particular bit of sports culture is as horribly demeaning as Wahoo et al is, and you don't want to be racist, then sucking it up should be relatively easy. The anti-protest folks in this case by and large seemed quite happy with being racist and/or extremely ignorant, publicly and vocally. If DC basketball changed a name and mascot with little to no racism attached to it, and did it with relatively little outcry within a season or two, then I don't see why the attachment has to be so strong. The fact that it isn't is a huge problem, and one that so many fans and franchises seem so resistant towards changing (or worse, even more resistant now than before), is extremely disturbing.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:15 AM on April 10


If DC basketball changed a name and mascot with little to no racism attached to it, and did it with relatively little outcry within a season or two, then I don't see why the attachment has to be so strong. The fact that it isn't is a huge problem, and one that so many fans and franchises seem so resistant towards changing (or worse, even more resistant now than before), is extremely disturbing.

The problem isn't that they're attached to the team name so much, the problem is that they know why any change would happen, and changing these names now tells fans, "You are a big fucking racist for cheering for this racist team name, and your dad and his dad were big fucking racists too." It's hard to admit that you were wrong, especially about something you loved your whole life before you knew that it offended some people.
posted by Etrigan at 10:27 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I think that's part of what will make it hard (and I think at this point these names are changing, it's a matter of when), I also think that age and importance of team matter for these purposes. The Bullets/Wizards just aren't hugely important compared to the Redskins, Indians, or Braves. Those are old teams in sports that matter more than the NBA; people are more attached to the names.

I mean, they'll get over it, but it'll be harder.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:31 AM on April 10


It's a shame that people would need to get over doing the right thing, but I think bulgaroktonos hit the nail on the head.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:35 AM on April 10


It's hard to admit that you were wrong, especially about something you loved your whole life before you knew that it offended some people.

Yep. This exactly. The most common defense of Chief Wahoo has been that "It is a symbol of the city!" Suggesting that a symbol of the city can't possibly be racist. Or "It's tradition!" As if a tradition can't possibly be racist.

There's another interesting thing I think worth mentioning. The Indians broke the American League color barrier when Larry Doby joined the team. He came after Jackie Robinson, but still, the first African American in the AL should still be a big deal. But I bet a lot of the more casual Indians fans don't even know this.

You'd think that would be something the Indians would celebrate, but IMO they've been reluctant to do so. I think it would be because it would draw inevitable comparisons to civil rights and Chief Wahoo. And there's also the fact that Doby wasn't a fan of Wahoo either.
posted by mcmile at 10:42 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Some fans have made it a point to de-Chief their team apparel.
posted by komara at 11:11 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia says some people were annoyed because "Wizard" is a Klan rank, but were people really wedded to "Bullets"?

If we allow the Klan to ruin wizardry, then the Klan will have won.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:46 AM on April 10


Wikipedia says some people were annoyed because "Wizard" is a Klan rank, but were people really wedded to "Bullets"?

If we allow the Klan to ruin wizardry, then the Klan will have won.


The funny part is that one of the four other finalists was "Dragons."
posted by Etrigan at 11:51 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


To make the claim that calling a mountain "Squaw Mountain" was at the time that the name was conferred a deliberate slur, and that the people who did the naming were thinking of this name as meaning something like "Indian Cunt Mountain" is an equivalent error.

There is a database called GNIS (Geographic Names Information System) that contains records for more than two million United States place names. A researcher named Mark Monmonier dug into this database to see what he could learn about bawdy toponyms.

Pioneers settling the American West named many geographic features after breasts. "Nipple" and "Tit" are common place-name suffixes. Here is what Monmonier found:
A less humorous aspect of mammary toponymy is the denigration of Native American women by feature names like Squaw Tit, in its singular or plural form. Derogatory intent seems a bit obvious insofar as squaw is far more commonly paired with the mildly obscene tit than with the more numerous and clinically correct nipple. My canvass of GNIS found only two of the latter: Squaw Nipple (in Montana) and Squaw Nipple Peak (a variant for Squaw Dome, in California). By contrast, squaw is part of 19 of the country’s 28 tit-based names (fig. 4.1), and accounts for roughly equal portions of the 19 official names and 9 variants. What’s more, unlike the nipple appellations that affectionately commemorate white women named Elsie or Molly, none of the tit toponyms mentions anyone, white or Indian, by name. And of the six features with squaw variants, four still have squaw in their official name. Apparently tit was more offensive than squaw to whoever sanitized the official names of Arizona’s Squaw Butte (formerly Squaw Tit), Nevada’s Squaw Mountain and Squawtip (both formerly Squaw Tit), and Texas’s Squawteat Peak (formerly Squawtit Peak). By contrast, geometry edged out racism when features formerly known as Squaw Tit became Thimble Mountain in California and Pushtay (a Sahaptin Indian word for “small mound”) in Washington State. These subtle substitutes suggest a solution for state officials troubled by toponyms pointedly offensive to feminists and Native Americans.
It's unlikely that anyone ever meant "Indian Cunt Mountain", but they certainly did mean "Indian Tit Mountain". The word has baggage.
posted by compartment at 12:07 PM on April 10 [4 favorites]


I wanted the Washington Bullets to become the Washington Ethics.
posted by JanetLand at 1:07 PM on April 10


Squaw Butte (formerly Squaw Tit)

That's not much better.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:16 PM on April 10


Faint of Butte.
posted by jessamyn at 1:20 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


request username change plz thx
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:59 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Nipple Butte ok with you?
posted by jessamyn at 2:56 PM on April 10 [7 favorites]


It's unlikely that anyone ever meant "Indian Cunt Mountain", but they certainly did mean "Indian Tit Mountain". The word has baggage.

You are aware that it's the "tit" part of the name that conveys the meaning "tit," right? I mean, that's like suggesting that the fact that a mountain was called "White Man's Dick" would prove that "White Man" is a pejorative term.

"Squaw Tit Mountain" is certainly an offensive name. It wouldn't suddenly become inoffensive it were changed to "Native American Woman Tit Mountain."
posted by yoink at 3:12 PM on April 10


Yes, I am aware of that. My point was not that "squaw" means "tit", but that "squaw" has historically been an epithet of choice when a speaker denigrates Native Americans.

A false etymology is an weak reason to take offense over a word. The Wikipedia article makes it clear that a false etymology has circulated for the word "squaw", and I concede that there have been significant misunderstandings about its origins. But I hope you will grant that there are reasons why the false etymology seemed credible, and why it circulated.

Language changes over time. As you say, a feature named "Squaw Tit" is offensive. And, as you say, the word "squaw" was once considered inoffensive. When an inoffensive word is repeatedly used in offensive situations — like the examples I cited above — I think that people can reasonably take offense at that word.
posted by compartment at 6:05 PM on April 10


I like how we keep calling the s-word "a Native American word," like all indigenous people spread across the Americas speaking a million different languages all agreed on this one word, that was used against them over and over and over, and the fact that they all definitely agreed on and used this one word once makes it ok to keep using.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:11 PM on April 10


The Last American Indian on Earth

‘Last American Indian’ finds challenges in performance art

Indigenous artist Gregg Deal on 'Redskins' name controversy
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on April 10


Oklahoma Gov's daughter Performs Fake War Dance and Calls Natives "Sheep"

How the Flaming Lips Lost a Drummer Over Native American Appropriation
posted by homunculus at 5:28 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


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