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Let's hear it for the Fighting Whities!
March 12, 2002 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Let's hear it for the Fighting Whities! Solomon Little Owl, director of Native American Student Services at the University of Northern Colorado, is a member of an intramural basketball team that has adopted the name "The Fighting Whities." Team members say they want to raise awareness of the issue of painful cultural stereotypes. The team, made up of American Indian, Anglo and Hispanic players, is protesting nearby Eaton's use of the team name "Fightin' Reds" and an Indian caricature as a mascot. Little Owl said, "The Fighting Whities" issue is "to make people understand what it's like to be on the other side of the fence. If people get offended by it, then they know how I feel, and we've made our point." Curiously, I'm not offended. Are any of you? link via yil daily net buzz
posted by David Dark (107 comments total)

 
I'm not the least bit offended. I'd love a Fighting Whities pennant or T-shirt.
posted by aaron at 2:17 PM on March 12, 2002


What's the stereotypical Whitey fighting style? Diseased blankets? What's the mascot look like?
posted by jeb at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2002


My high school's mascot was the 'Fighting Honkies"
posted by DragonBoy at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2002


I approve. Next controversey -- ?
posted by RavinDave at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2002


They can call themselves whatever they want. They can have a logo showing a dumpy little white guy who can't jump. Their fight song can be the White Collar Holler. They can call themselves the Fighting Aryans, with an iron cross logo or a swastika if that turns 'em on. It's a matter of zero importance to me. (I am slightly whiter than Pat Buchanan.)
posted by jfuller at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2002


Nope, not offended. Of course, the one problem with a "raising awareness" campaign is if people don't care that much about your issue to begin with. Go fighting Whities!
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2002


Hell, I'm irish and I don't get offended at that nor at the "Fightin' Irish".
posted by mkelley at 2:37 PM on March 12, 2002


Jeb, their t-shirts feature "a cartoon mascot of a white male with slicked-back hair wearing a tie and dark coat" according to the article. Not exactly something to strike fear in the hearts of sports fans...

And no, I'm not offended either. Then again, my high school mascot was an Indian, so who am I to judge?
posted by donnagirl at 2:41 PM on March 12, 2002


"Ah, a white industrialist! Let's get out of this joint!"
posted by geoff. at 2:43 PM on March 12, 2002


Hmmm...:
    He said the couple, as parents of a half-Anglo, half-American Indian son, felt uncomfortable mingling with townspeople at school events, especially at ballgames where the large-nosed Indian caricature was the prominent team symbol.
I'm white, and if I had attended a sporting event in which the spectators were 90% black or native american or some other "race" other than white, and one or both of the teams were named something akin to "The Fighting Whities" --well, I think to say my feeling uncomfortable would be a gross understatement.

Thanks for illuminating this issue and changing my perspective!
posted by SilentSalamander at 2:43 PM on March 12, 2002


i think White Devils would have been more effective.
posted by panopticon at 2:43 PM on March 12, 2002


Go Fighting Whities!

(I'm deeply offended......or perhaps not)
posted by geist at 2:47 PM on March 12, 2002


Or if they had borrowed the name of Micheal Moore's new book: Stupid White Men. It would have been a better choice if they really wanted to convey the insult they feel about names like Braves or Redskins. The Fighting Whities is ineffective because a) it's pretty funny and b) it's too damned close to tidy whities.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:53 PM on March 12, 2002


'Fighting Honkies'? That's hilarious!
posted by aaronshaf at 2:53 PM on March 12, 2002


jeb, i linked to a picture of the mascot above (it's the second one).
posted by David Dark at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2002


I second the motion on White Devils.

I think the idea is creative. However, I don't think awareness will be raised much.

This story will make it on probably every local news broadcast in the States. The news here just did a piece on it, noting the "controversy" over the choice. Was any offended person interviewed? Nope.

Eyeballkid: Well put. You need to consult for the Native American groups.
posted by xena at 2:59 PM on March 12, 2002


So many stars could wear this schools t-shirt: Mickey Roarke, Sean Penn, Courtney Love...
posted by tsarfan at 3:03 PM on March 12, 2002


How about the Crackers? I saw this linked elsewhere but the url didn't work.
posted by adampsyche at 3:05 PM on March 12, 2002


That would RULE. I'd definately buy a shirt, especially if the mascot were something like this.
posted by milnak at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2002


i always thought it was tighty whities. huh.

milnak, is that guy sportin' a boner?
posted by kliuless at 3:08 PM on March 12, 2002


...hmmm.... "tighty," maybe you're right. I don't know. I've never seen it written.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2002


Why does their mascot make me think of the Church of the Subgenius?
posted by atom128 at 3:12 PM on March 12, 2002


As a proud Irish American, I would like to firmly state that I am thoroughly...


amused.

They changed my school's mascot from "The Red Men" to "The Red Storm" [1]. PETA petitioned the Gamecocks. I would just like to state the the first person who even thinks about going after the Fighting Irish will have to do it over my dead body. Go Fighting Irish!

[1] Consequently, after we changed from "The Red Men" to "The Red Storm", many members of the athletic teams got "Red Man" tattoos depicting an indian cartoon doing their sport (i.e. javelin throwers got a red skinned fellow tossing a javelin).
posted by tomorama at 3:26 PM on March 12, 2002


I don't approve of them naming their team after a racial slur. I sympathize with them doing it, I understand their point, but I don't like the idea of Cleveland Indians or the Fighting Illini either, and moral consistency does make certain demands.

But there's no way these guys are going to get their message across this way, though, because as we see above, people just think it's funny. It only hurts to have your ethnicity or religion abused if you already identify yourself as an outsider, or if your group has a painful history that those images bring back up.
posted by Hildago at 3:28 PM on March 12, 2002


The only effect of this stunt is going to be to let all of the folks who think that buck-teethed Indian stereotypes are great fun feel better about themselves because they aren't offended by some stupid picture of a stereotypical white middle manager.

They blew it. But what did they really think was going to happen? Did they think it was in their power to stoop to the level of the opposition to offend them? Why not have some stereotypically white schoolyard shooters?

(Or should I just say, "ditto", darn slow typing.)
posted by Wood at 3:32 PM on March 12, 2002


I'm not offended, and I want a t-shirt too.
posted by bingo at 3:41 PM on March 12, 2002


White as the driven snow and I think it's hilarious. :) It really does put all the noise about other mascot and team names in perspective.
And yes, I want the t-shirt too.
posted by eszetela at 3:54 PM on March 12, 2002


You're white and not offended, congratulations. Then again you are in power and you were never a victim of genocide. Go whities.
It DOES NOT put the "noise about other mascot and team names in perspective" at all. This is completely different. I'm sure these kids really thought that were going to put one over on the establishment or something but I think that they are moving people away from positive change. Understand that this is a power issue.
I'm not some pro-PC fascist either but the fact is derogitory team names are just plain ignorant.
posted by mikeyb at 4:26 PM on March 12, 2002


I think it's fair play, but as Hidalgo alluded to, it doesn't really work for the oppressed culture to reverse things in this way, because the dynamic doesn't work that way. The Native American mascots are offensive precisely because they portray an already oppressed group. When the Native Americans use the same tactic, it will result in nothing but

a) Laughter from the oppressing group.
b) eventual appropriation by the oppressing group. (e.g. I'm not offended and I want a t-shirt)

You can't talk about racism working both ways when a history of one-way oppression already exists. To really have an equivalent to the "redskins" or "indians" you would almost have to have a pejorative word in another language, that whites didn't come up with themselves.

That's kind of what I think the big problem with those names is anyway: I take away your self-determination when I name you, and do not allow you to name yourself. I dehumanize you when I do this, denying you agency.

Man. I miss college.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:26 PM on March 12, 2002


mkelly said: Hell, I'm irish and I don't get offended at that nor at the "Fightin' Irish".

Fighting Irish is no slur. How about Boozin Paddies?

Racial Slur Database Good idea or bad idea? Knowledge at least.

posted by srboisvert at 4:32 PM on March 12, 2002


*hums the tune to Yankee Doodle*

The "appropriation by the oppressed group" ... "already oppressed" thing is poppycock. Do you know where Yankee Doodle came from? It was a derisive bar song that the Brit soldiers made up about American minutemen. We adopted it as our own and made a mark of pride, and it ceased to sting... in fact, it's become something of an icon!
posted by SpecialK at 4:34 PM on March 12, 2002


I don't see that that's the same thing, SpecialK. Whites are using a name like "Redskin", a name they made up, for a group they have committed near genocide upon. England did go to war against the colonies, but didn't almost exterminate them.

Don't say my infrequent serious posts are poppycock. It makes me all huffy.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:43 PM on March 12, 2002


I'm not offended, but then I have no misconception that, as a suburban white person, I have any culture to be mocked. Until they start making fun of my cappuccinos and middle-class dwelling, I won't take offense. But when they do...! Oh, who am I kidding, I'll complain to a friend and forget about it the next day. This stuff doesn't bother me one bit, infact I find it quite amusing.

Especially since my school didn't let teams using names like "honkees" or "white boys". Lucky devils!
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:53 PM on March 12, 2002


I'm not some pro-PC fascist either but the fact is derogitory team names are just plain ignorant.

I still fail to see why team names like the Indians, Braves and Redskins are considered derogitory, and, as an article cited above stated, most persons in those groups don't get it either. Heck, the only embarrassing about the Redskins is the way they played most of the last season!

Sports teams are organized with the intent of success and many times they choose names that they feel exemplify that intent. In my opinion, having a team named after a group you are associated with is a positive thing - but I guess that doesn't play well with the politically correct "once a victim, always a victim" standard. Hell, I'd love a "Fightin' Whities" shirt. Even better would be one involving the slur "cracker" which is a favorite of mine since a friend of mine used to use that one for me (he was of oriental descent and liked to be referred to as "The Mad Chink".) They'd go great with my two Rochester Americans hockey jerseys as they aren't very PC either I guess.
posted by RevGreg at 5:10 PM on March 12, 2002


The fact that they didn't go for a team name like "Ragin' Master Race" or "Daring Aryans" suggests to me that their effort to "offend" people is more on the level of a friendly nudge in the ribs as opposed to something meant to incite righteous indignation. It makes sense that nobody in this thread is particularly offended, in the sense of having hurt feelings, since it wasn't intended that way. "The Fighting Whities" is great for getting their point across without having to resort to over-the-top in-your-faceness -- of which there is already far too much in the Land of the Free.

Though I think "Pale Face Pretty Boys" would've been much better.
posted by Bixby23 at 5:15 PM on March 12, 2002


As an individual of completely and utterly Judaic descent, let me be the first to suggest the Not-Fighting-But-Running-Away-And-Hiding Kikies.
posted by luriete at 5:16 PM on March 12, 2002


And the British soldiers made up "Yankee Doodle". Their government tried to tax the US heavily without giving them a say in it.

We have given the Native Americans citizenship, their own land, and excused them from the majority of laws in this nation, including tax laws.

In contrast, my great grandparents came in through Ellis Island, had their ethnic name mutilated by an illiterate immigration agent to the point where I can't reconstruct any of my ethnic heritage beyond that point, worked as indentured servants for many years, and died in the home of my grandparents because they were too poor to own their own home or provide for themselves.

Now. I understand that my grandparents chose to come here and Native Americans were invaded... but I don't get offended by being called a Kraut, a Cracker, Whitey, or even Late for Dinner. Why do they?
posted by SpecialK at 5:16 PM on March 12, 2002


Wow, Rev, you had a friend who liked to be referred to as the Mad Chink? So, "chink" is not offensive?

SpecialK, we "gave the N.A. their own land"? Huh? What the hell does that mean? The US government, by the way, was fucking with Indian land until well into the 20th century. Oh yeah, and does the fact that whitey doesn't offend you have shit-all to do with whether "nigger" offends a black guy or "redskin" offends an Indian? Maybe you're just the greatest person in the whole fucking world. I'm serious, does "This is how I feel, why would anyone feel different?" seem like a reasonable way to start to develop empathy?
posted by Wood at 5:27 PM on March 12, 2002


"You're white and not offended, congratulations. Then again you are in power and you were never a victim of genocide. Go whities."

Many "caucasian" people on this planet and in this country have had damn near genocides in the recent century no less. So what this boils down to on whether it is offensive or not is a matter of perspective. Many people who have not found this offensive are probably not compelled to defend their cultural background. I don't find this offensive, yet in my perspective, my ancestral loss was from a different source. At the turn of the last century, a Turkish coup resulted in the death of many of my ancestors' friends and family. Strangely, I don't feel compelled to defend my heritage, or even my race. And that's probably because by living in America, I don't have a constant reminder of what happened.
posted by samsara at 5:36 PM on March 12, 2002


Then again you are in power and you were never a victim of genocide.

I'm pretty sure that no one who is reading this thread is "in power" in any significant way (affecting national policy, running huge corporations, having control over millions of people, etc); further, I'm nearly 100% certain that no one reading this thread has been a victim of "genocide." Unless I'm woefully ignorant of what the word means.
posted by davidmsc at 5:39 PM on March 12, 2002


I smell a thread hijack coming on, SpecialK, but lemme take a very short crack at that question (i.e. "Why do they [get offended?]".

Those out looking for a fight (privately either wishing to offend or expecting to be offended) aside, I think it has to do with how attached we Americans are to names of all kinds. Not that such is an exclusively American trait by any means, but if you read American literature from any period, for example, and just look at the names people and places are given, you'll see that we have a long tradition of attaching significance and meaning through the use of names.

Because many of us attach such importance to names (this is, you understand, a generalization of course), imagine how upsetting it can be to have your own identity -- not just your name, but the name you have for everything that is you -- treated as though it had no worth in someone else's eyes, and replaced with a thoughtless catchall name for your type, as someone else sees you. I suppose taking offense to this includes a sense of having your freedom usurped or your rights as an individual spat upon, but in the end, I believe it all comes down to the importance we associate with names.

But that's just a theory, of course. Now then, back to the original question. Are you offended?
posted by Bixby23 at 5:43 PM on March 12, 2002


SpecialK:

(1) We have given the Native Americans citizenship, their own land, (2) and excused them from the majority of laws in this nation, including tax laws.

you say that "I understand that ... Native Americans were invaded," yet i look at (1) and i am confused. i think that grants of citizenship and land is nothing to pat one's back for in light of our invasion and plunder of their land; don't you agree?

but I don't get offended by being called a Kraut, a Cracker, Whitey, or even Late for Dinner. Why do they?

i don't know; are you exactly like the Native American Indians who complain about this sort of thing? your name does have "special" in it.
posted by moz at 5:46 PM on March 12, 2002


[Wow, Rev, you had a friend who liked to be referred to as the Mad Chink? So, "chink" is not offensive?]

It wasn't to him (at least coming from us) and he was half Japanese. He has a great sense of humor and gave himself the nickname. Of course if someone in the mall (who didn't know him) shouted it out I imagine they would have gotten an attitude adjustment.
posted by revbrian at 5:51 PM on March 12, 2002


It wasn't to him (at least coming from us) and he was half Japanese. He has a great sense of humor and gave himself the nickname. Of course if someone in the mall (who didn't know him) shouted it out I imagine they would have gotten an attitude adjustment.

That's it exactly. He is naming himself The Mad Chink, so it's OK. The namer has the power, the named has none.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:56 PM on March 12, 2002


And, by the way, sorry for the possible hijack there.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:59 PM on March 12, 2002


I don't think it's just the "racial" slur, but the whole characterization of ethnic minorities that bothers people. The whole Atlanta braves tomahawk-waving thing - I mean, on the surface, it appears harmless. But underneath, it may be reinforcing stereotypes of scalp-cutting "primitives" in people's minds. It makes light of a culture that already has endured more of beating than that of we of European descent.

In many ways, the following analogue is dissimilar to the situation that we're discussing, but I don't think it's too dissimilar to make a point. Imagine a major league football team called, for example, "The Naziville Swastikas". There could be a stylized, wacky Hitler animation urging potential fans to come on down and see the game. A big Sony electronic billboard would encourage the players to "Gas the Opponents!!!" Every year, the team would release a "Sexiest of the Gas Chamber Girls Cheerleader Squad" calendar -- for charity, of course.

I hate to make light of the atrocities of WWII. What an embarrassment -- for all humanity. How painful, even for me - white, priveleged, born thirty years after the war ended. I chose this example because probably everyone here has similar feelings as me.

I think we should listen to these people's perspectives.
posted by SilentSalamander at 6:00 PM on March 12, 2002


If that didn't invoke Godwin, I don't know what does. We're not talking about "these people", we're talking about the us that makes up the community that accepts or reviles sports team names. Is it a problem? I don't know. Maybe the answer comes from above. Why should the majority, in such an innocuous circumstance be mindful of the few? (This is an honest question, not a troll).
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:33 PM on March 12, 2002


[That's it exactly. He is naming himself...]

I'm sure that is part of it. Still, I've never been offended by being called honky, cracker, whitebread, etc. I'm more than my skin color and anyone who defines me by it isn't worth my time.
posted by revbrian at 6:39 PM on March 12, 2002


on a tangent.

I don't approve of them naming their team after a racial slur. I sympathize with them doing it, I understand their point, but I don't like the idea of Cleveland Indians or the Fighting Illini either, and moral consistency does make certain demands.

I wouldn't put the University of Illinois in with the Cleveland Indians or Atlanta Braves, etc... The university has gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy and dignity of the Illini.
posted by jbelshaw at 6:41 PM on March 12, 2002


If that didn't invoke Godwin, I don't know what does.

Why, that's Calvinism!

In all seriousness, I think my point is that it's not innocuous to some (as many as 17% of Native Americans, apparently).

Of course, you're going to offend someone with whatever image / mascot you choose. And, just for the record, I'm not advocating any pansy-ass names for sports teams. It goes without saying that the "offended people" threshold is totally arbitrary and subjective. But why have the Cleveland Indians when you can have the Cleveland Spiders (a mascot with which no one, or at most very, very, very few, feel mocked/intimidated/belittled etc. - except perhaps for the Cleveland bit).

The weakness in my argument is, of course, what is this threshold? And of course, my response is: this is an emotional issue that requires high cultural and personal sensitivity. But it's a good response. ;)
posted by SilentSalamander at 6:58 PM on March 12, 2002


The "I'm not offended. Are any of you?" comment was interesting in that it seems to assume that everyone on mefi is white. But I guess since the majority of mefi users are white, it doesn't matter since "the majority, in such an innocuous circumstance, doesn't need to be mindful of the few." Never mind.
posted by Poagao at 7:40 PM on March 12, 2002


easy, poagao, don't put words in my mouth.
posted by David Dark at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2002


Not all persons offended by the word "redskin" are indian.
Not all persons offended by the word "nigger" are black.
Perhaps not all persons offended by the word "whitey" are white.

Or is that assuming too much?
posted by David Dark at 8:13 PM on March 12, 2002


We have given the Native Americans citizenship, their own land, and excused them from the majority of laws in this nation, including tax laws.

Given them their own land... yeah, a pittance of the land that always "belonged" to the first peoples before it was taken by Europeans, most often by force. Land "given back" in the form of the reservation, lovely little ghettos wherein a complete high school education has only recently been elevated beyond rarity status, but where you can still be considered one of the elders if you make it to age 50. Completely economically disenfranchised (unless there's a casino which makes select members of the tribe nicely cushy while leaving the majority with a hand out begging) and plagued with alcoholism, drug abuse, crime and shocking poverty. Yeah, gee, what a gift. Thanks so damned much.

This thread really illustrates how firmly embedded white privilege really is. You're so far removed from the reality of others that you can't even see when you are shown in bright, shining, flashing lights. If it weren't so maddening, it would be pitiful.

I don't get offended by being called a Kraut, a Cracker, Whitey, or even Late for Dinner. Why do they?

Because calling you any of those slurs doesn't serve to reinforce your position of being an automatic also-ran in this society.
posted by Dreama at 8:38 PM on March 12, 2002


yeah, it just seems kind of obvious (esp. after the manners thread) that it's not so much about what you're comfortable with as much as being sensitive to how other people feel. like being the conquering majority or whatever it'd be nice to respect the wishes of native americans and all.

i mean if you resent (a team) being called something, even if it's not considered derogatory to most people, and ask for it not to be used, and then it is anyways, it's sort of resorting to name calling. which i think is pretty spiteful, since it wouldn't be too hard to do and it happens every so often anyway.

i recognize owners have franchises to protect so they're resistant to change. but i think if people/fans start seeing a franchise in a negative light, owners might be more amenable to "rebranding." like i think that's form native american protest is taking by raising the issue.

cleveland bullets!
posted by kliuless at 8:50 PM on March 12, 2002


Why should we listen to "these people"? They're so few...why should we consider their viewpoint?

Because it is the decent thing to do. Because it is the right thing to do.

(This may be an alien concept to many in "the majority". However, I live in hope.)

Some in this country apparently just shrug and say "they are minorities, screw their wishes."

Isn't that how racism begins?

The remains of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans lie in museum drawers or exhibits; the Smithsonian Institution alone once had approximately 19,000 skeletons or skeletal
"specimens." Should the wishes of museum-exhibit-visiting-community-"majority" really take precedence over the simple dignity a people deserve?

"These people" represent groups that have suffered horribly at the hands of the majority. We never gave them anything we didn't steal to begin with, and now we usurp their names and images for our amusement.

It is past time to seek to redress vast historical wrongs. Obviously, changing the offensive names of sports teams doesn't even begin to make up for such wrongs. It would be a good-hearted gesture, though. Are there any good hearts among the majority?

This land is drenched in the blood of the forefathers of "these people". The least we can do is exhibit a sensitivity toward their wishes.

For many of "these people", only their wishes remain. Or their bones.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:58 PM on March 12, 2002


I gots to give foldy a hug!

C'mere you!
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:15 PM on March 12, 2002


Listen, a lot of this goes along with the argument about the use of the 'N' word. Sure, if you're black, you can call each other the 'N' word and even name your band with the 'N' word in the name but don't even let the words cross the lips of a white man or else any sort of violent action is possible. And in some parts of this country, there's a damn good chance a jury might excuse someone beating you within an inch of your life for uttering that single word. I tried to search but it seems a little broken (or at least I couldn't find it) but there was a black professor who wrote a book about this and it was discussed on MeFi several months back. Amazingly, the author found that white people had a bigger issue with the word than did black people.

Words and names only have power if you give them power. The use of the word is more important (to me) than the word itself.

If as Dreama put it "Because calling you any of those slurs doesn't serve to reinforce your position of being an automatic also-ran in this society." then wouldn't even the name Native American also reinforce your position of being an automatic also-ran in society? Are they not Apache, Sioux, etc., etc? Isn't the mere act of calling them Native Americans derogatroy? Aren't you reinforcing the fact that this land was their's and the English settlers took it from them by force?
posted by billman at 9:36 PM on March 12, 2002


Prussia is drenched in the blood of my forefathers. My grandparents saw fit to leave and live in a society where they could thrive.

I hate to think that I'm trolling here instead of expressing an honest opinion. Call it the way I was brought up, or call it my dissatisfaction with the liberal/preservationist point of view, but either way, I firmly beleive that live is sort of like a roulette wheel: As both an individual and as a culture, you place your bets and let it spin. Sometimes the ball stops with you, and sometimes it stops on you. Either way, someone wins and someone loses. I haven't always won. I mean, hell, I'm an high functioning autistic fuck-up who's been in college for six years and will be for another two before I finally get the degree I think I've settled on.

Using personal allegory again because it's the most appropriate:
I still remember the time my parents visited Arizona, and towed their tour guide (against his wishes) with them into a roadside market filled with Native American artists and performers. One of the artists started a conversation with my mother about how downtrodden his people were, and my mother fired back with our family's story.
Look, we don't even have a homeland or traditions to look back to. I can't identify the land that my great-grandfather was born on, if there was any... much less do I have even a small portion of it! We have precisely three family recipes and one small porcelain doll, and that's all that remains of the traditions of my ancestors.

My family has moved on. We don't think much about our tradition. We think of the greater whole, the USA, with all of it's quibbles and imperfections, that we love because it gave us a chance that our great grandparents didn't have. Three full generations after my great-grandparents came off of the boat, illiterate, with the requisite $25 in their pockets and an address to report to for their indentured servitude, my family can afford to put all of our children through college (even fuck-ups like me) and we have it pretty darned good.

Move forward. Change. Integrate yourself, don't complain because the world won't integrate you. The world will change around you, and to continue the earlier comparison, you may not like where the roulette ball lands. And if it lands on your head? Don't complain. Work. The only difference is the results. Me? Yeah, my parents are paying part of my college bill, what I didn't get my full-time job to pay for or what I didn't get in scholarships. I plan on paying my parents back.

(Moz: Name. It's because I'm as plain as corn flakes. It's a pun within a product reference. Nothing special at all about me.)
posted by SpecialK at 9:40 PM on March 12, 2002


Move forward. Change. Integrate yourself, don't complain because the world won't integrate you. The world will change around you, and to continue the earlier comparison, you may not like where the roulette ball lands.

I really think, through this discussion, we are trying to effect change. But the attitude [integrate yourself, don't complain because the world won't integrate you] is a little too Microsoft (g) for me. I mean, I think it's valuable to celebrate, explore, and remember diversity. Don't you agree?

When I was a JET (English teacher in Japan), there was some discussion about teachers, well, abusing the students. It was common practice - one teacher, or so I heard, in the midst of "disciplining" a student, hit the student so hard in the back of the head that his retina was permanently dislodged from his eyes. In any event, the issue was whether or not JETs should try to put a stop to this. Even though everyone thought it was wrong, many took the stance "this is Japanese culture, we can't impose our values on the Japanese" (there's a term for this kind of cultural hyper-sensitivity/cultural complacency... it escapes me at the moment). However, in the final analysis, the "disciplining" was probably not in the student's best interest.

I think this is a good example where it is not the best decision, for most of us, to decide to "integrate" with one's environment. Yes, the world will change around us, but the world is also what we make of it.
posted by SilentSalamander at 10:06 PM on March 12, 2002


f&m, who are "these people"? Just because a group of self-appointed "representatives" says they find something offensive, you're ready to just roll over and appease any group?

Here's some stats:

According to a Sports Illustrated poll, conducted by The Peter Harris Research Group, polling 352 Native Americans (217 living on reservations and 134 living off), asked if high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames, 81 percent of Native American respondents said no. As for pro sports, 83 percent of Native American respondents said teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, characters, and symbols. The poll also found that 75 percent of Native Americans don't think the use of these team names and mascots "contributes to discrimination."

"These people" don't seem to be offended. That like many other myths about our society is the problem. We're spending all of this time and energy getting into a pissing contest about the feelings of people on something they don't seem to care about. The only people who care are the activists and the white people guilted into caving into every self-appointed minority group leader that claims that his/her people are insulted. Of course, we could focus on solving the real problems that are experienced by most of the NA's but those are tough problems. Let's pick this made-for-media problem of sports teams names instead.

That's what makes me angry. The condition of many NA reservations is almost beyond repair. Casinos springing up left and right, meaning less incentive to work, which results in higher alcoholism rates. Federal oversight of reservations that is destroying them. Etc., etc. No, let's divert all of our resources away from those problems, the problems that may or may not influence whether there will even be a NA culture in two or three generations, and let's instead put all of our time and effort into whether or not sports teams names are offensive. Is it any wonder the NA culture is disappearing?
posted by billman at 10:13 PM on March 12, 2002


Silent - Note that I admire change as much as the next person, but I also admire what has worked. Hard work and perserverance has worked for my family. Personally, Linux has worked for me, although I'm semi-happy with my XP box at work.

I'm not saying "sell your soul, or we'll just take it"... I'm saying, "Shaddup and do your part in the greater whole instead of standing at a distance and complaining."

No, let's divert all of our resources away from those problems, the problems that may or may not influence whether there will even be a NA culture in two or three generations, and let's instead put all of our time and effort into whether or not sports teams names are offensive. Is it any wonder the NA culture is disappearing?

Billman, Thank you.

Side note, on topic: I don't condone genocide in any form. I'm willing to admit that killing happens, as we're seeing right now, and that my time will come too, in one form or another. I think, though, that a time comes when you just need to -move on- … learn from your past (keep the traditions you like alive and written, like the family recipes I have), live in your present, and plan for your future.
posted by SpecialK at 10:25 PM on March 12, 2002


For the record, SpecialK, I didn't think you were trolling and I have enjoyed this discussion. Good Metafilterage all round as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:35 PM on March 12, 2002


The poll also found that 75 percent of Native Americans don't think the use of these team names and mascots "contributes to discrimination."

So, potentially, 25 percent of Native Americans do think the use ... contributes to discrimination. That's a really hefty figure, don't you think?

No, let's divert all of our resources away from those problems, the problems that may or may not influence whether there will even be a NA culture in two or three generations, and let's instead put all of our time and effort into whether or not sports teams names are offensive. Is it any wonder the NA culture is disappearing?

I agree, there are many other more pressing issues. Very important issues. Even so, I strongly feel that it is worth discussing, on both philosophical and practical levels.

"Shaddup and do your part in the greater whole instead of standing at a distance and complaining"

SpecialK - one has to admire the individual who undertakes action rather than merely whines about their situation. But there is a difference between whining and complaining, I think. Complaining is not just bitching, but it's educating the public about one's grievances. That is, perhaps in certain circumstances complaining is in fact "doing one's part". Ralph Nader is a notorious complainer.
posted by SilentSalamander at 10:45 PM on March 12, 2002


SilentSalamander:

So, potentially, 25 percent of Native Americans do think the use ... contributes to discrimination. That's a really hefty figure, don't you think?

No, not really. Not within the context. And especially considering the fact that one could assume that some of that 25% is:

a) Undecided

b) Influenced by those who are telling them that this is true. In other words, if you tell people something enough, they'll believe it, or say they believe it, whether or not there is any evidence to support it.

So, while I won't be so bold to try to put numbers to that, one can easily, and IMHO safely, assume that not all 25% actually feel the use contributes to discrimination simply because they didn't agree that it doesn't.

And, as I pointed out in my post which you quote, we are treating the symptoms and not the cause. If the conditions of the NA's were substantially better, it's highly likely, NA's would feel even more united in their opinion. Their culture is slowly sinking into history. Of course, the issue of sports team names is going to appear to be contributing to this. If their culture was thriving, I would speculate that they would have little or no care about it.

Like many issues today, it's easier to hide your real problems by focusing on ancillary issues or symptoms. Taking this in a somewhat different direction, this is was seperates a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a Jessie Jackson. Dr. King solved real problems. He confronted them head on. Jackson is a media whore who will get involved in any issue, regardless of its merits in order to divert attention away from the much more significant problems. Those leading the fight against the use of NA names and images by sports teams and schools are IMHO throwing up their arms in defeat and trying to divert the attention of their people to other non-issues in an effort to hold onto power within their communities.
posted by billman at 11:59 PM on March 12, 2002


This thread really illustrates how firmly embedded white privilege really is. You're so far removed from the reality of others that you can't even see when you are shown in bright, shining, flashing lights. If it weren't so maddening, it would be pitiful.

This bears repeating.
posted by sudama at 12:49 AM on March 13, 2002


Influenced by those who are telling them that this is true. In other words, if you tell people something enough, they'll believe it, or say they believe it, whether or not there is any evidence to support it.

And this isn't true for the 75% who responded that they weren't offended? Or are their responses more reliable for some reason?
posted by ceiriog at 12:50 AM on March 13, 2002


Just because I'm white means that I need to bear the white man's burden even with evidence staring us in the face that the white man's burden is largely an invention of the white man? No, Sudama. That statement bears ignoring.

Look, I'm as against out and out racism and discrimination as anyone should be. But I'll state again, my heart holds no help for someone who will not help himself, and my heart holds no pity for someone who does pity himself. Sounds cold and uncaring, and not fuzzy and warm and embracing? Yep. Welcome to the real world. We're born cold and naked, and it goes downhill from there.
posted by SpecialK at 12:59 AM on March 13, 2002


Mikeyb: You're white and not offended, congratulations. Then again you are in power and you were never a victim of genocide.

Actually, many white ethnic groups, particularly some with prominent teams/mascots named after them, were the victims of genocide: e.g., "Fighting Irish," the Irish were the victims of genocide (British c. 1840); "Knickerbockers," the Dutch were the victims of genocide (Spanish c. 1580).

I'd speculate that there exist few white Americans -- in power or not -- who carry no victim-of-genocide blood in their veins...
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:06 AM on March 13, 2002


SpecialK, with respect, what your ancestors did was leave a country where they were the exploited group and come to one where they could join the exploiter class. Where do you suggest native Americans emigrate to?
posted by ceiriog at 1:12 AM on March 13, 2002


And this isn't true for the 75% who responded that they weren't offended? Or are their responses more reliable for some reason?

Poor argument. It does nothing to counter anything that I've said. You simply pull one comment out of an entire post, question it with no new information and feel that you have made a point. Disagree with my premise, with my conclusions, even disagree with the facts as I've presented them but even if you pull out that one sentence from the post, the argument still stands.
posted by billman at 1:22 AM on March 13, 2002


This is a great thread, and it might be just the kind of discussion the Fighting Whiteys hoped to start when they chose their hilarious nickname and even more hilarious logo (which for some reason reminds me of a really young Donald Rumsfeld). Bixby23 had it right about eight hours ago, calling the name choice "a friendly nudge in the ribs" that will make people think without pissing them off.

And I never knew where the word "Knickerbocker" came from until Hieronymous Coward's post. The things you learn ...
posted by diddlegnome at 1:31 AM on March 13, 2002


Sorry, long, mostly redundant, post, but billman has no email address listed....

My point was as valid as yours, billman. That kinda was the point. But since you insist:

one could assume that some of that 25% is:

a) Undecided


One could also assume this about some of the 75% who are "not offended". One could also investigate the possibility that the mores of the dominant culture might just be having an effect on the responses of some of the respondents.

b) Influenced by those who are telling them that this is true. In other words, if you tell people something enough, they'll believe it, or say they believe it, whether or not there is any evidence to support it.

Right. So when a 16 year cheerleader says "I don't think we should change it. It's been part of the school for a long time, and it's not supposed to be offensive," she's not in least influenced by the attitudes of the local school inspector ("It's their problem. It's not our problem,") or the assistant principal of her school ("I think it's silly. I don't care. Who cares? It's a non-issue.") source. The kids from native American families wouldn't be influenced by these opinions either, I assume.

So, while I won't be so bold to try to put numbers to that, one can easily, and IMHO safely, assume that not all 25% actually feel the use contributes to discrimination simply because they didn't agree that it doesn't.

Same argument. You can't choose which group of respondents to distrust. There are at least as many reasons to question the responses of those who don't challenge the staus quo.

And, as I pointed out in my post which you quote, we are treating the symptoms and not the cause.

The people behind the "whities" action are aware of this, weirdly enough. From the original article:
Cuny said he, and most other young Indians, are more interested in larger issues, such as health care, tribal treaties with the federal government and mineral rights to their land, but offensive mascots are a starting point to deal with the weightier issues.
If the conditions of the NA's were substantially better, it's highly likely, NA's would feel even more united in their opinion.

Not sure I follow you here.

Their culture is slowly sinking into history. Of course, the issue of sports team names is going to appear to be contributing to this.

No, it's a symptom, as you just said. Cultures don't sink into history. History isn't some tarpit waiting to suck down the losers.

If their culture was thriving, I would speculate that they would have little or no care about it.

Um, right. Hungry people tend to worry about food more than well fed people.

Like many issues today, it's easier to hide your real problems by focusing on ancillary issues or symptoms.

See above quote. You can't do everything today, so you do what you can. When was last time native American land rights were discussed here?

Taking this in a somewhat different direction, this is was seperates a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a Jessie Jackson. Dr. King solved real problems. He confronted them head on. Jackson is a media whore who will get involved in any issue, regardless of its merits in order to divert attention away from the much more significant problems.

Wasn't MLK's greatest strength his power of oratory? He used ideas to effect change. He also used the media to disseminate those ideas. I don't know enough about Jackson to comment on your comparison.

Those leading the fight against the use of NA names and images by sports teams and schools are IMHO throwing up their arms in defeat and trying to divert the attention of their people to other non-issues in an effort to hold onto power within their communities.

No, they're doing what they can, and they're building cultural self-confidence, which is the exact opposite of throwing up their hands in defeat.
posted by ceiriog at 2:16 AM on March 13, 2002


Just noticed that the poll we're getting worked up about was commissioned by Sports Illustrated. Hrm.
posted by ceiriog at 2:19 AM on March 13, 2002


Thanks for the comment about Knickerbockers diddlegnome. I had always thought that the name was inspired by their pants but, I see, after consulting the dictionary and other sources that it was not quite so simple. (Unlike the Red Sox and the Reds, both of these teams were originally the Red Stockings. In fact, they share the same roots.)

The NFL Cardinals (now Arizona) were named after the color of their jersey, a welcome, albeit uninspired, change from their previous nickname: the Normals. Do the Whiteys normally wear white jerseys?

Scroll down to Cardinals...
posted by Dick Paris at 5:38 AM on March 13, 2002


Like many issues today, it's easier to hide your real problems by focusing on ancillary issues or symptoms.

Billman, the fact that there are more important problems for Native Americans is, I think, totally undisputed. However, frequently, more important problems are very complex problems that noone knows how to try to solve. Many of the problems many Native Americans face fall under this classification of problems.

But if we agree - and I think most of us will agree - that changing a sports team's mascot will benefit many Native Americans - by increasing cultural pride, by reducing discrimination, whatever - even if it's a minority (which is still potentially a whole lot of people) - shouldn't we go ahead and effect that change when it's so trivial? When the negative consequences for non-Native Americans are so very nonexistant? Acting on things like this may act as a catalyst to improve the situation of Native Americans facing more important problems.
posted by SilentSalamander at 5:57 AM on March 13, 2002


f&m, who are "these people"? Just because a group of self-appointed "representatives" says they find something offensive, you're ready to just roll over and appease any group?

I called for sensitivity to the wishes of "these people", and now you've changed that sentiment to "you're ready to just roll over and appease any group." That's obviously not what was written. Why would you distort something like that?

Here's some stats:

Let me see if I've got this straight. You decry what you see as a small group of "self-appointed representatives"... then you dig up a single poll done by an American sports magazine asking about American sports teams, a poll with N=352, and this ONE POLL becomes some sort of grand Native American myth-buster in your mind?

A five minute search on the Internet yielded the following (I don't have time to embed the links, and sorry about the length, but I just copied and pasted this stuff en masse without much editing):

http://earnestman.tripod.com/fr.2001.civilized.tribes.htm
"The Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes [the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes is an organization that united the tribal governments of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole Nations, representing over 400,000 Indian people throughout the United States] joins the United States Commission on Civil Rights call to eliminate the stereotypical use of American Indian names and images as mascots in sports and other events and to provide meaningful education about real American Indian people, current American Indian issues, and, the rich variety of American Indian cultures in the U.S."

http://www.indiancountry.com/?43
"In a survey by Indian Country Today [self described as "The Nation's Leading American Indian News source], 81 percent of respondents indicated use of American Indian names, symbols and mascots are predominantly offensive and deeply disparaging to Native Americans."

http://www.naja.com/pr-stopmascot.html
"The Native American Journalists Association is calling upon the nation's news organizations to stop using sports mascots and nicknames that depict Native Americans."

http://earnestman.tripod.com/2001minn.indian.ed.assoc.htm
"Therefore, Be It Resolved, the Minnesota Indian Education Association deplores, opposes and calls for an immediate end to the University of North Dakota's use of the "Fighting Sioux" name and its accompanying "Indian-head" symbol."

http://heraldpalladium.com/archives/index.inn?loc=detail&doc=/2002/January/26-578-news5
"The Paw Paw sport teams' name of Redskins is demeaning to Native Americans, and changing the name is long overdue, says the acting chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Southwest Michigan."

Bangor Daily News, December 9, 2000:
"In October the Penobscot Nation passed a resolution by unanimous vote that called for the Cleveland Indians baseball organization to eliminate Chief Wahoo as its team mascot."

http://www.newsobserver.com/ncwire/sports/Story/906159p-904645c.html
"The Durham franchise in the summer collegiate Coastal Plain League has changed its nickname from Braves to Americans following protests by American Indian groups, the team announced Friday."

http://earnestman.tripod.com/fr.2001.retrospective.htm
"The Coalition of the Chicago Native American Community demanded the Illinois governor use his influence to retire Chief Illiniwek and guarantee improvements in services for American Indians."

http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/issues/other_issues/documents/NCAIposis.htm
"The National Congress of American Indians strongly condemns the use of sports team mascots that claim to portray Native Americans and Native cultures in a positive light...it is only with Native Americans that this practice continues. It is a national insult and does nothing to honor the Native peoples of this country."

Ibid
"Would you paint your face black, wear an Afro wig and prance around the football field trying to imitate your perceptions of Black people? Of course not! That would be insulting to Blacks, so why is it okay to do it to Indians?" -Tim Giago (Lakota) Editor, Indian Country Today

Ibid
"People say that Indians have bigger problems than mascots and the use of Native American images, but I disagree. If you can't see me as an individual, then how can you understand the problems we have as a people? We have taken much heat, and the backlash has been tremendous, but we can take it. If our children do not have to endure the insults we have endured, then our efforts will have been worth it." -Frank Le Mere (Winnebago)

http://earnestman.tripod.com/1999_retro_frame.htm
WHEREAS, The Great lakes Inter-Tribal Council, Inc., is a consortium of twelve federally recognized Indian Tribes native to the region of the North American continent and the area around Lake Superior...NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, condemns the use of "Indian" logos as offensive and will work alone and in concert with other organizations to eliminate the use of depictions of and cultural references to American Indians as mascots, logos, and team nicknames in Wisconsin public schools.

http://www.aimovement.org/ncrsm/index.html
"The [American Indian Movement's] National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media exists to fight the powerful influence of major media who choose to promulgate messages of oppression. The impetus which formed NCRSM was the clear case of media coupling imagery with widely held misconceptions of American Indians in the form of sports team identities resulting in racial, cultural, and spiritual stereotyping."

http://www.aics.org/NCRSM/index.htm
In 1990, the twenty-six Tribes and Nations that make the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma voted unanimously for a resolution "urging educational institutions, businesses and organizations to abandon caricatures of American Indians that promote negative images and racism" (Resolution # 042490R-05).


Hmmmm...all that in a brief search, and yet billman, you reported to us here only your single poll as a grand representation of what Native Americans do or do not care about. Why would you do that?

There are TONS more information out there, and my brief reading on the net indicates that Native Americans OVERWHELMINGLY hate the idea of these mascots. So again, I wish to ask, gently, kindly, quietly...WHY DON'T WE DO THE RIGHT THING ONCE...JUST ONCE...FOR ONE DAMNED TIME IN OUR MURDEROUS RELATIONSHIP WITH THESE PEOPLE, and consider their wishes?

"These people" don't seem to be offended.

"These people" meaning whom? Native Americans? Well, that's an untruth, obviously.

That like many other myths about our society is the problem. We're spending all of this time and energy getting into a pissing contest about the feelings of people on something they don't seem to care about.

Well, that's an untruth, obviously.

The only people who care are the activists and the white people guilted into caving into every self-appointed minority group leader that claims that his/her people are insulted.

Well, that's an untruth, obviously. And now you've added another error in logic by extending conclusions based on your exhaustive polling even to other minority groups . Why would you do that?

Of course, we could focus on solving the real problems that are experienced by most of the NA's but those are tough problems. Let's pick this made-for-media problem of sports teams names instead.

Error in logic. You imply that because focus is placed on this particular issue, other problems must not be under attack. A brief perusal of some of the sites I quote above will show this to be, again, obviously an untruth.

That's what makes me angry. The condition of many NA reservations is almost beyond repair.

[...and a bunch of other nonsequiturs all seemingly
magically built on the definitive Sports Illustrated Indian Poll and Swimsuit Issue...snipped...]

They don't belong on reservations. They belong on their own land, which was taken from them long ago by people who visited genocide on an entire race, and who placed the survivors on those reservations.

Poor argument....You simply pull one comment out of an entire post, question it with no new information and feel that you have made a point.

Friend, I know that comment wasn't directed at me, and I don't wish to be unkind, and I hope I'm coming across as amused as I actually am. But coming from someone who pulled out of his ass a lone poll, published in a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal like Sports Illustrated, and misdiagnosed five centuries of racism based upon it, I'd say your comment is pretty funny.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 6:13 AM on March 13, 2002


Hmmm - I'm not a big sports fan, but my understanding of team names is that they're meant to represent good things. No one names their team "the Pathetic Losers", do they? If the specific verbage or artwork used to represent Native Americans is offensive, then why not fix the specifics? You could name a team "The Apaches" and have a mascot drawn by an Apache artist and have accurate cultural information posted on the programs and in the stadium. It seems like most of the tribal councils quoted by f_&_m above were primarily upset by caricature & stereotype. (Unless the members of that group had a cultural dislike for baseball/football/whatever & thought that being associated with that sport was insulting.) Personally, I would love to see a team called the "Fighting Whiteys", composed entirely of non-caucasians, playing against a team called the "Battling Negroes", composed of entirely of white, upper-class prep school students, in front of a racially mixed crowd. I'm not a big sports fan, but I'd watch the crowd to see how many heads exploded from sheer confusion over what to shout for encouragement.
posted by tdismukes at 6:43 AM on March 13, 2002


If the specific verbage or artwork used to represent Native Americans is offensive, then why not fix the specifics? You could name a team "The Apaches" and have a mascot drawn by an Apache artist and have accurate cultural information posted on the programs and in the stadium.

Wow, that's a really intriguing idea!
posted by SilentSalamander at 6:59 AM on March 13, 2002


great idea, tdismukes!
posted by kliuless at 7:15 AM on March 13, 2002


Ohmigod, I actually agree with fold_and_mutilate about something!

Why do people refuse to empathize? Why do people resist respecting others? Why do people close their eyes to the racism inherent in the tomahawk chop? 'Tis a puzzler.
posted by Holden at 7:56 AM on March 13, 2002


F_A_M: Stop that! You're making me like you! *harumph*

(btw: Cherokee and Irish ancestry here, so I'm aware of the oppression in my family's past)... The biggest issue I have with the NA logos is that of their relative uniformity -- the indian for the Atlanta Braves doesn't look that different from any other Indian logo. It's sort of a whitewash of local culture, not that the Atlanta Braves are Cherokee specific, but you get my point.

And, I just don't get how removal of a reminder of NA culture (the names and logos) will be of much benefit to the NA population? "Please! Forget us!" is not they cry I'd hearken to. Instead, I like the idea of tdismukes, where education is prized in addition to the mascot.
posted by dwivian at 8:31 AM on March 13, 2002


If a majority of people in the school district want to change the team mascot, more power to 'em. But it should be their choice. I don't see this as the province of well-meaning legislation or outside-the-community activism. The amount of resentment likely to be created would far outweigh any possible benefits to the community.

Another problem: if the team mascots go, then so should just about every depiction of a Native American I've ever seen in a cartoon or children's book written prior to about 1970. They all look pretty much like the Cleveland Indian, or much worse.

If we all go back far enough in our ancestral trees, we'll find a forefather or two that were persecuted as part of a minority. Religious persecution? I have a French Huguenot back there somewhere - am I eligible for reparations from anyone? I also have a g.g.g.grandfather that died in a Union prison camp during the Civil War War of Southern Independence. I'm eligible to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans and be pissed off about the threats to my "heritage".

Does this compare with what happened to the ancestors of Native Americans, or of African-Americans, over the past several centuries? No, no, no, of course not. But exactly what criteria are we supposed to use, and who gets to pick them, in order to determine who has the right to be offended by past wrongs?
posted by groundhog at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2002


Another problem: if the team mascots go, then so should just about every depiction of a Native American I've ever seen in a cartoon or children's book written prior to about 1970. They all look pretty much like the Cleveland Indian, or much worse.

I don't think that's right. Ridding the world of children's book depictions of Native Americans is revisionist and akin to banning Huckleberry Finn. These reminders must be kept but they must be viewed in context.

Sports mascots can be changed. If they are, it is important to remember what they were changed from and why they were changed.

offended by past wrongs

I would contend that racist sports names are a current, not a past, wrong. They can be changed now.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2002


Fold_and_mutiliate is my hero now. I'm being serious. The Indian name thing has bothered me for forever, and I would never have been able to formulate an argument as to why as well as he did.
posted by aacheson at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2002


f&m, since we're calling into the question of the Sports Illustrated poll, it is, of all of the links you posted above, the only one conducted by an independent third party organization that specializes in polling results. The rest of your links are to either what I described in my post, self-appointed representatives of people who may or may not have asked to been included in that representation, and tribal leaders who are failing at correcting the problems that endanger the future of the NA people and may be looking for a diversion so as not to call attention to their failures.

Perhaps we're seeing this from different perspectives. If I try to equate this with the civil rights movement in respect to African-Americans, this would be like Dr. King saying that, despite segregation, despite lynchings still occuring, despite no equal treatment under the law, Dr. King humbly requests that the signs that say "No Coloreds" (assuming that the sports teams are viewed as derogatory as the name "colored" was/is to African-Americans) be changed to "No African Americans." Sure, it's a small victory, but think of all of the self-esteem that it will bring to the African-American people not to be called "colored" any more.

Also, another part of this that we're not looking at is the cost of change. One of the links I pulled up on this topic (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A25279-2001Nov27&notFound=true), they seem to indicate that for one high school, the cost of changing the school name, logo, stationary, etc. could be as high as $80,000. You know that big logo on the floor of the gym, gotta be repainted. All those school uniforms, gotta be replaced. So just in the K-12 segment, we're talking about a potential cost of tens of millions of dollars. Many of these schools can't afford textbooks for all of their students but we should force them to pony up whatever it takes in order not to offend a minorty, within a minority (I'm sticking with the SI poll numbers until someone provides a more scientifically conducted poll)? Hell, I would be much more in favor of estimating the cost to change all of the school names and giving that money to the various tribes so they can fight the real problems of the NA people rather than this "feel good" type of victory that is consuming all of the time and energy of tribal leaders who should be focused on more important issues.

Listen, I'm not saying (which I'm sure the words will be put into my mouth) that we should make all of our decisions based on the cost but this is an expensive proposition at a time when not enough money is getting to the schools in the first place. Wouldn't it be nice to know whether or not it was really a problem before we pissed away tens of millions of dollars? Shouldn't we make sure that NA's actually feel that it's derogatory before we simply go on the word of non-elected representatives of the NA people? I have not seen one post, one referenced link, nothing, that shows anything more than various non-elected, sometimes even non-appointed groups, making assertions about how "their people" feel. This somewhat reminds me of a case, I believe here in California where an Italian man had the personalized plate WOP and the state took his plates back because some group representing Italian-Americans claimed that it was offensive to Italian-Americans. Well, I am Italian-American, don't find the term derogatory and the vast majority of Italian-Americans polled thought the guy should be able to keep his plates. Who is to say that the whoever this group representing the interests of Italian-Americans is any more representative than any group claiming to represent Native Americans? That's my problem.

Holden: you ask why we can't empathize and I say that I am. In fact, more than someone who simply wants to appease the NA people because of guilt. There's a reason why the "Fighting Irish" is not considered offensive. It's because the Irish people have developed a sense of inner-pride via the accomplishments they have made as a people. There's a reason the vast majority of Italian-Americans are not offended at television shows like the Soprano's. It's because of the self-respect earned by their accomplishments as a people. I can almost guarantee you that if every pro, college and high-school sports team issued a statement tomorrow morning saying that they would change the names of their teams in response to the derogatory feelings inspired by them, it would do not one damn thing to help the NA people. I'm not against changing the names of the teams. I'm against using this as an excuse to say that we're doing something about their problems. To hold this issue up as a cure, as a solution to the internal issues of the NA people is . . . .well, insulting and disrespectful. Wouldn't it feel nice if all of us white people could simply grant them their silly little request and then forget about them? That's what I hear people saying when they say, "why do people refuse to empathize?" It's saying that if we just ban the tomahawk chop, their self-esteem will improve and all of that alcoholism, illiteracy, etc. will just disappear because now they are no longer being represented in a negative light. Perhaps I empathize with them too much because silly me would rather solve those kinds of problems rather than wasting our time, energy, and money on what, in my mind is simply a diversion from the real problem.
posted by billman at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2002


*golf clap*
posted by SpecialK at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2002


Kafkaesque: I agree with you on the revisionism issue- however, I find it interesting that you will never find a copy of "Little Black Sambo" on the shelf any children's library, but you'll be able to find many books with the stereotypical "Injuns".

And I shouldn't have said "the right to be offended by past wrongs". EVERYONE should be offended by the wrongs I was thinking of. Maybe "the right to be overly sensitive to unflattering images" instead? Anyway, whatever the people of Greeley, CO want to call THEIR team is ok with me.
posted by groundhog at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2002


Send email if'n you want to buy a shirt. They say they'll donate the proceeds to charity.
posted by revbrian at 12:45 PM on March 13, 2002


At the homecoming game, the opposing team will be roused by the cheerleaders' shouts of "Kill Whitey! Kill Whitey!".

*bada-BOOM*

Wonder who's going to play at the dance. Maybe 'Great White Father and the Forked Tongues'?

*bada-BOOM*
posted by groundhog at 1:10 PM on March 13, 2002


I think I drank a little too much coffee this afternoon. Sorry.
posted by groundhog at 2:25 PM on March 13, 2002


diddlegnome: And I never knew where the word "Knickerbocker" came from until Hieronymous Coward's post. The things you learn ...

Oh, good, glad to help. Then here's just a bit more:

"Knickerbocker: term used almost synonymously with the adjective "Dutch" in respect to Dutch families and customs and the Dutch region of early New York state. A History of New York (1809), written by Washington Irving under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, popularized the term. There was an actual Knickerbocker family that came from Holland c.1674 and lived chiefly in Albany co." [Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2001]

Re Dutch sufferings, for the Dutch the Thirty Years War which devastated Europe was in fact an Eighty Years War (1568-1648) against superpower Spain, which sought to wipe out Protestantism.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 3:49 PM on March 13, 2002


Oh, further evidence re the speculation that few white Americans carry no victim-of-genocide blood in their veins...

The Dutch (see above) comprise the 7th largest ethnic group in America. [Census Bureau] The Irish, whom we have already discussed, are 2nd largest, and the Germans (Germany lost 1/3 of its population during the Thirty Years War) are largest.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2002


But wait, the NY basketball team's name, the Knicks, must certainly derive from Knickerbocker and that means that all Dutch are being reminded of the Thirty Years War which means that we are not being sensitive or empathetic to the feelings of the Dutch by using Knicks as the name of a basketball team. We must stop this now!!!!! The Dutch-Americans will never be able to prosper in the US if they develop low self-esteem from being reminded of their past.

And what about the overfishing of marlin? Doesn't the team name the Marlin's anger people who love animals? Crap, what about the Grizzlies? We almost hunted them into extinction. How can we respect all life when we so shamelessly use the names of animals that we routinely slaughter?

Ahhhhhh, my computer uses a mouse. We're equating a living, breating life with an inanimate object that serves to move pixels around on a screen.

The horror. The horror!
posted by billman at 4:34 PM on March 13, 2002


Historical Revisionism and the Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians experienced a series of upsets around 1650, when the Beavers, an aggressive, first-string Iroquois lacrosse team, ran the Indians out of their northeastern Ohio hunting grounds.

But a mere century later, it appeared the tide was about to turn in the Indians' favor. "After General Harmar's Defeat in 1790 and General St. Clair's Defeat in 1791, the Cleveland Indians seemed invincible."

However, midway through the 1794 season, the Indians lapsed into a disastrous slump, and they're still struggling to make a comeback. Having suffered an unfortunate string of injuries during The Battle of Fallen Timbers on 20 August, the Cleveland Indians were forced to concede the [land] title, "and came to Greenville one year later to sign a peace treaty. General Wayne said he hoped the treaty would hold 'as long as the woods grow and the waters run' ..."

The woods behind the house here look just fine, and the creek is running too. I'm expecting the Shawnee delegation or an Akwesasne hunting party to pass through any day now to renew my residence permission. Where's Dekanawida when the world needs him?
posted by sheauga at 8:49 PM on March 13, 2002


Wouldn't it be nice to know whether or not it was really a problem before we pissed away tens of millions of dollars?

How many people have to say "This depiction of my people and misappropriation of sacred parts of our culture is offensive, devisive and hurtful to me" before you decide that it's a problem?

How many people have to stand up and shout "quit taking my identity in vain!" before you might be moved to comprehend that it's not appropriate?

What number of complaints are required before you understand that caricatured, generalised depictions of a vast and diverse populace -- which have finally been pushed out of television, music and movies where they flourished for nearly a century -- serve no positive purpose and need to be pushed out of the rest of popular culture as well?

One poll -- ONE -- comes up with some numbers which say that a full quarter of respondents are offended, and even though that's a significant number, it's not good enough -- even though there is also no indication that those who were questioned represent anything close to the myriad tribes and nations of first peoples throughout the US, which could very likely drive that number much higher. So what do we have to do? Do a person by person census of native peoples, and if a majority say "stop" then have action committees and school boards around the nation discuss the issue further for possible action some time in the future?

What is it going to take?
posted by Dreama at 10:31 PM on March 13, 2002


Could someone explain to me how the 30 Years War is currently effecting the socio-economic position of Dutch-Americans?
posted by ceiriog at 12:21 AM on March 14, 2002


Dreama:

Well here's my problem, which you seem to wish to overlook, there are no polls to the contrary. I can't believe that you believe that every time someone claims to speak for "his people" they actually do (if you do, I speak for all Italian Americans when I say that I am offended by Burger King's Whopper because it reminds me of the derogatory word Wop which is an insult to my people). This is like saying that Catholics don't believe in using condoms. Well, yes, that's the official position of the Church but I'm quite sure there's a large percentage of Catholics who practice birth control (and disease prevention) via condoms. Are you able to even entertain the fact that although a bunch of tribal leaders might be proposing ideas they don't represent those of the people they claim to be speaking for? Is that even possible in your world? If so, then we're simply at odds over whether 75% is a considerable majority. If not, then . . . well, I'm not sure we're co-existing on the same plane so perhaps the discussion should end right there.

And, why is it you choose to avoid the cost issue, the fact that if every sports team in the nation changed their name and logo tomorrow it would have zero impact on NA self-esteem and would do nothing, absolutely nothing, to solve the problems that threaten to completely dismantle the NA community? Are those issues too difficult to deal with so let's simply do the easy thing? Like I said, I'm not against changing the sports teams names. I think it's mostly a non-issue other than the money that could be better spent. I'm simply saying that Mr. Whitey jumping to appease everybody who claims to represent a group of minorities isn't exactly productive. If it's a problem, I doubt it ends at sports teams. If there's a self-esteem issue, it probably runs deep into the culture of NAs and we should be looking at what is actually causing it and how it should or could be addressed rather than simply doing the easy thing. If you walk into a doctor's office, what kind of doctor would just hand you antibiotics just because you say that would make you feel better? Wouldn't it be prudent to examine the patient and find out whether the patient needs antibiotics or if there could be a more serious cause for their symptoms?
posted by billman at 12:41 AM on March 14, 2002


ceiriog: So is the new criteria on whether or not your feelings are valid is whether or not you've had a socio-economic impact?

That's the comedy here. A genocide is a genocide and we should quit picking which atrocities we choose to hand out empathy to. I'm sure the attempted elimination of the Dutch had a major socio-economic impact circa 1580. Because they happened to have recovered does that lessen the atrocity?
posted by billman at 12:51 AM on March 14, 2002


there are competing principles at work here :)
posted by kliuless at 7:36 AM on March 14, 2002


kliuless: well spotted. ;-)

billman: forget it.
posted by ceiriog at 8:28 AM on March 14, 2002


... some of these comments are scarily long...
I hesitate to set foot in here, but I think an excellent point is getting lost in the crosspurposes of the two main camps here, and that's the stereotypes and caricatures. Those are where the problem lies. I'm a student at Florida State -- yes, one of those potentially offending organizations -- and we have this debate here every other year or so. Is the name offensive? I've seen a lot of evidence that it's not, as it's not a generic term, but a self-given tribe name, and as we've good relations with them -- they have representatives at many of our school functions, homecoming and such. However, I'm not certain we have accomplished the goal of honoring the name, as the fuss we periodically have is usually attended by comments of a dissatisfied member or two. I don't know if this is because the press has actively searched for them looking for a story, or if there actually is significant resentment. I'd rather believe not.
posted by e^2 at 5:15 PM on March 14, 2002


I'd rather believe not.

Not to single e^2 out, and I know this thread has gone bye-byes, but isn't this is at the root of these discussions? By "coincidence" I read this this morning:
Welsh comedians playing to Welsh audiences in Welsh clubs are just as adept at inciting racial mirth as their English counterparts. Yet there is an essential imbalance. If it is true that the root of all laughter is fear, then two different kinds of fear are represented by the aspersions that the English and Welsh regularly fling at each other. On the Welsh side, the underlying fear is that of the conquered towards the conqueror; the feeling, if you like, of inadequacy. On the Enlish side, the fear is more complex. Partly it is a fear that the conquest is insufficient, that the conquered may yet strike back; but partly too it is a fear of conscience, even a fear of the lack of conscience.
From Furious Interiors, a biography of R.S.Thomas by Justin Wintle
Many of the "native British elders" I know would never dream of offending an English monoglot by speaking Welsh in front of them, and plenty of English monoglots are offended by the continued persistance of an older culture in "their" country.

Someone above estimated that changing the name of every "native" sports team in the US would cost $10 million. What is that, a nickel a head?
posted by ceiriog at 6:20 AM on March 15, 2002


good quote ceiriog. i was just thinking how it applies to the native american situation of "stereotypes and caricatures" e^2 brought up and y2karl's post on blackface minstrelsy.

it seems lacking in both is the image of a positive ideal to work toward. like the "noble savage" portrayal of native americans i think is just as problematic as the "sports entertainer" for african americans because it packages a conqured culture wholesale into a product.

i can't think that it's very healthy as it speeds assimilation through polarization. either you make it as a noble savage or you're drunk on the range. or you're in the NBA or in jail. that's the perception and it's disturbing to think the dominant culture or conqueror or whatever is comfortable with that. like i think it'd be better all around if we looked beyond our fear of accepting or even becoming the "other" or at least not be defined by it... although the comedy would suffer for it :)

oh wait, fuck it. scratch all that, think of the comedians!
posted by kliuless at 7:43 AM on March 15, 2002


I wouldn't put the University of Illinois in with the Cleveland Indians or Atlanta Braves, etc... The university has gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy and dignity of the Illini.

Actually, I was thinking of the Illini specifically, as I had just seen a documentary about the woman who began the protests to change the school mascot. The footage I saw was not dignified in any sense, and in terms of accuracy, the "war dances" he does are choreographed by the actor who plays him, bearing no relation to actual ritual movements, the music they play is a completely different time signature than it should be, and the wardrobe he wears is Sioux, not Illini. It's like putting the pope in a stovepipe hat and having him breakdance to honor the Catholic church. Even *I* was insulted.
posted by Hildago at 2:33 PM on March 17, 2002


I give them props for standing up for what they believe in
posted by sahrens428 at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2002


You should notice that it's hardly the U. of Northern Colorado's official basketball team, but rather an intramural team that happens to be at the school. Every intramural basketball team I've ever heard of has had some sort of outrageous name. This would be news if it were a school's actual mascot for their varsity sports teams.
posted by stopgap at 9:35 PM on March 20, 2002


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