Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Journal Sentinel Point-Counterpoint: Indian Mascots

Today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published two community commentary pieces that look at both sides of the Indian mascot debate. I commend them for providing an astute point-counterpoint on a, sadly, still relevant topic (read about the recent Mukwonago mucky muck here).

What I am ashamed to see - as a proud citizen of this great city (I had my reservations when moving here, but you've grown on me, Milwaukee) - is that all of the comments to these articles appear in response to the article in favor of changing team names. This article argues in favor, not because every Native American is offended, but because it should be enough that some are. And commentors are ripping the author a new one for being so sensitive.

Jane, you ignorant slut.

The other article, rather than taking a hard stance in favor of keeping Indian mascot names, merely suggests that our society's collective effort toward political correctedness sometimes gets out of hand.

Dan, you pompous ass.

But seriously. The first article is titled, "It's Time to Simply Do What's Right," while the second article is titled, "All References Aren't Derogatory."

Guess what? I think they're both right.

It's at this point that I should disclose that I am a Native American. And guess what? I don't have a problem with most Indian mascots. But to claim that you can't possibly understand how such caricatures could insult another human being is the worst sort of ignorance.

Case in point:

Seriously, Cleveland? How have you gotten away with this for so long? Why don't you just change your logo to a black guy with a big nose and an underbite and call yourself the N****rs?

Did I just make you uncomfortable? Did you know that "Redskin" is the Native American equivalent of the "N" word? The fact that I can write one and not the other in print is argument enough that something is wrong in our society.

But Washington's logo is actually pretty cool.

My point to all of this is not to stir the pot, but to point out that, yes, some Indian mascots are demeaning. And worse, it's not usually the names or the mascots that are the problem, but rather the 30,000 fans in an arena doing tomahawk chops and chanting war cries wearing war paint that ultimately fail to "honor/celebrate [an] ethnic group." I know it makes me feel welcome at a sporting event to see a white guy hopping around in neon colored "traditional" Indian regalia with a handful of stodgy old white guys (aka: regents) telling me I should feel honored about it (I'm talking to you Fighting Illini).

Not to mention dozens of commentors spewing hate speech toward someone who's simply pointing out that a portion of our citizens are demeaned on a daily basis because of their race, and we should consider graciously doing something about it.

Maybe if we can somehow find a way, like the FSU Seminoles, to work with those that are depicted to create a dignified rendition, then all can be proud and honored?

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