L’Image de Rose
Fri Mar 13 17:45:19 CST 1998
Good evening. My name is Rose, and I am speaking tonight for the Progressive Resource/Action Cooperative, co-sponsors of the first National Conference on the Elimination of Racist Mascots. A few years back, I would have been arguing on the side of the College Republicans and the Orange and Blue Observer. This is my third year here, but because both my parents, my brother, and most of my dad’s side of the family is alum, “Chief” has been part of my life since I was old enough to go to the football games and pick out my own “Chief” t-shirt from the old IUB. During my first year, however, I participated in the Alternative Spring Break program’s Cultural Education trip to the Ojibwa reservation in Lac Du Flambeau, WI. Pro- “Chief” students stress that “Chief” is an expert on Native culture because he visits an undisclosed reservation. Well, that must make Sanji and I experts, too, although I don’t think either of us would accept that title.
Our BOT defends “Chief” by claiming that it honors the Native Americans that it in no way attempts to represent. Dr. Ostrovsky listed the international and national American Indian organizations and tribes who insist that “Chief” is a slap in their face. Is “Chief” consistent with how mainstream America honors people? Don’t we normally build a monument, a bridge, an airport or name a national park or a scholarship fund after someone? I saw some Republicans on CNN the other night. They were collecting money to build a monument to President Reagan in each state. Why do I think that these guys would find the state of Illinois’ interpretation of honor-to run a non-Caucasian man in white make-up and a Hollywood costume out on our football field to recreate the Reagan presidency in dance-completely dishonorable and unacceptable? This symbol wouldn’t honor Reagan anymore than it would educate us, remind us of the history of the Reagan presidency that we would otherwise forget.
The BOT argues that “Chief” is tradition. But, there are other traditions which should guide our thinking at this time. All people are created equal-equally honorable and equally dishonorable. Equal opportunity for an equal education. Ask yourself if you would be here, a student senator at the U of I, if a stereotyped image of your religious leader was sold on butt warmers and underwear, decorating porto-johns and porn stores? Would you feel comfortable learning on this campus? Would you even have been admitted if you differed from the image the school promotes? Can you understand why many Native students choose not to come or stay here? Can you understand why we must discontinue the use of “Chief?”
From a speech delivered before Champaign-Urbana Senate Caucus
So the Senate voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution to retire Chief Illiniwek. I was very pleased at this news, but I think all us anti-Chief activists understand how we have our work cut out for us in getting students, alumni and community members better aware of the issue. There’s already the feel of a backlash, people crying out in the editorial pages of the DI in pain over their identification with the school mascot.
And nobody expects that the Board of Trustees will let this measure be approved any time soon.