Monday, July 27, 2009

Mascots? Is the name The Fighting Hitlers already taken?

Now is the time to address the racial issues with regards to the American Indian culture group. This idea of American Indians as nostalgic aboriginal peoples from the past, never progressing from the stereotype of the buckskin and feathered headdress needs to be left behind. No other cultural group would stand racial iconography. There are no longer sports teams with names like the Mpumalanga Dangerous Darkies, the Pekin Chinks, or the Birmingham Black Barons.  So, why do we tolerate the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Crackers, maybe?
Each year the Major League Baseball franchise is protested against, and each year the owners retaliate, defending the franchise as a respectful, proud, storied franchise, with the intention of honoring a great people.

Whatever the history of the sports club, and however sports fans rationalize the fact that their mascot is a clown image of an oppressed minority, a look at how it affects the children of the minority should be a deciding factor. 

Sports and team pride is an important factor growing up in America. Nothing can hold an American Indian student back more than this crippling bias. A huge example of this is school athletics. Specifically in the way certain schools portray themselves.

Cornel Pewewardy, of the University of Kansas, writes, “I see the way Indian mascots are used today is about a form of dysconscious racism and a form of cultural violence” (Pewewardy). The options for what an educator can do in this situation may be limited, but at least teachers can be aware and sympathetic to the issue. Education must be an unbiased and safe institution for all students. No one would accept degrading Black or Hispanic mascots, and yet many schools at the high school, and college level identify themselves as Indians, Warriors, Redskins, Braves, Savages, etc. No other cultural group has to endure this form of stereotypical iconography when entering a school system. 
You're right, nothing racially insensitive here
In support of this, Dennis Tibbetts, a director of the Center for Native American studies at Northern Michigan University is quoted in the APA Monitor as saying, "It's distressing when Native people who are searching for their own identity or attempting to present their tribal identity as accurately as possible have to combat the dominant culture over the offensive use of our images and symbols” (Chamberlin).
not the mascot you're looking for?
A big argument for the defense of Indian mascots is the Nortre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Boston Celtics, both of whom use cultural icons as mascots.

The major difference, however, the image of this particular group is not in anyway harmed socially, nor oppressed economically or politically by these images. If anything, the leprechaun mascots have done what franchises wish Indian mascots would do by bolstering Irish pride. On top of this, the Irish in this country haven't been an oppressed minority since the 1860s. America has had an ongoing war with Indian culture since Jamestown, and the United States still supports reservations.

It would be a good thing to see truly oppressive racial images erased from the world of athletics. Within the last 20 years, international athleticism in this country has blossomed into something more than just Olympic competition every four years. There are now, more than ever, a broad spectrum of international atheletes performing in American major leagues, there is more focus and interest in international soccer, and annual world competitions. This is no longer an American public only interested in domestic athletics. To see Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago and Washington (the capital of our country) change their racially based mascots would be a huge step in the right direction for equality, humanity, and fair competition. 

I would settle for this, and perhaps save the battle over Amherst and their mascot, the small pox mastermind, Lord Jeff, for a different day. Jeffrey Amherst and SmallPox

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