August 11, 2005

Alternate view on Indian mascots

Carol Spindel has a well written take on the use of Indian mascots and names at American universities. Here's a sample:

Eighteen colleges are now on the mascot pariah list of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Three are Braves. Six are Indians. Four identify as specific tribes — Seminoles, Utes, Chippewas, and Choctaws. Carthage College calls itself the Redmen. The University of Illinois has created its own tribe, the Fighting Illini. The last university on the list — Southeastern Oklahoma State — doesn’t beat around the bush or go for modifiers. Its team name is the Savages.

American Indian leaders and activists have objected to their tribes’ use as sports mascots since the 1970s, but the public has shrugged its shoulders and gone on cheering for its favorite Indians and Redskins, a term one linguist compared to Darkies. It is hard to have a serious public discussion about sports mascots because most of us don’t know enough history to put the debate into historical context. Native Americans know this history. These are their family stories.

I admit I was pretty swayed by the article. However, some of the comments in rebuttal are excellent too. There are, after all, many state names taken from Native monikers. Do we change these, also?

Posted by Felix at August 11, 2005 04:23 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I read that and admit I was fairly swayed too. I used to think it was another instance of PC run amok, but Spindel makes a great case.

Posted by: Hube at August 12, 2005 08:23 AM

I think the middle ground is sensible here, and the case of the FSU Seminoles isn't the same as the Redskins or the goofy image of the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo. As I said at my place, I think the Seminoles seem harmless enough, especially given that the tribe is on the school's side. But it's hard to refute the biggest argument on the "anti" side, which is, would we as a society tolerate the Darkies, the Hebes, the Chicanos, the Taco-Eaters, whatever?

Posted by: dan at August 12, 2005 10:52 AM

Or, say, the Fighting Irish (which, as we all know, is shorthand for the Drunken Fighting Irish). I guess that's why Hofstra gave up the Dutchmen, even though few of us remember what traits Dutchmen were supposed to represent. For that matter, add the Yankees to the list -- that name is a corruption of "Janke," the Dutch version of Johnny, and an epithet for many America-hating parts of the world (and the northern-hating elements of the American south).

I'd feel a lot more sympathy for the Native American position except for one thing: these names were chosen not as a source of ridicule but a source of respect, which would not be the case with Darkie or Hebe (or Dago or Wop or Bohunk). Again, the Fighting Irish is a good example -- they aren't the Fighting Micks, are they? I'd also feel a lot more sympathy if they went after the car companies first and forced them to change names like Cherokee. The fact is they're going after universities because they are THE loci of white liberal guilt. I'm sorry we stole their country and all, but if we're going to get into insults to national pride, I'm going to have to picket all this country's Olive Gardens as an insult to Italian culture.

Posted by: Al Mascitti at August 12, 2005 11:22 AM

LOL at Al's last sentence! Al and dan both make great points. There's a large middle ground on this which needs to be utilized.

Posted by: Hube at August 12, 2005 12:57 PM

these names were chosen not as a source of ridicule but a source of respect

Absolutely true about the FSU Seminoles, for instance. But the Redskins? As Dave's excerpt mentioned, that term has been compared to "Darkie." If that's true, I don't think a name change there would be "white liberal guilt," just common decency.

As I said at my place, I think the NCAA's blanket rule is absolutely wrong. It's a case-by-case situation in my book.

Posted by: dan at August 12, 2005 04:46 PM

It's actually Felix's excerpt, dan, but that's OK! ;-)

Nevertheless, I agree w/you.

Posted by: Hube at August 12, 2005 05:27 PM

Ah yes...sorry, Felix. Must remember it's not "The Cube!"

Posted by: dan at August 12, 2005 06:32 PM

By gosh, let's get rid of Dutchboy paint too!

Actually, Carol is wrong about the Illini. They are NOT a made up tribe. The tribe was really named something like Illiniwek, but the French "frenched it up" a bit to Illinois. The people of the Illinois tribe are called Illini. The tribe is an Algonquin confederation of Peoria, Michigamea, Cahokia and a couple of others. So, when do we stop renaming things? Before or after we rename anything called Peoria?

Posted by: Joel (No Pundit Intended) at August 26, 2005 02:26 AM