I found this in the Palo Alto Daily News today:
Good "LUCK" Stanford Indians "Give 'm the axe"
Stanford stopped using an Indian as a sports mascot in 1972. That put them 35 years ahead of Illinois. We retired our Indian mascot in 2007. (I’m still embarrassed about that.)
Anyway, since Patrick White saw fit to publish his name, face, and contact information alongside a racist cartoon in a newspaper, I dropped him a line suggesting that something might be amiss, and he wrote back saying that no, he was proud to stand by his cartoon, so I shared my own feelings with him:
It is good to cheer on your sports team, but I suspect that if the sports team mascot when you were growing up had been a buck-toothed, squint-eyed Chinaman in a big peasant hat, that you might think twice about printing a Chinaman cartoon in the newspaper. If you were to have such respect for Chinese people and culture, perhaps Indians merit the same sort of respect.
When I was younger my school had an Indian Chief for a mascot. The dozens of our Native American students found it upsetting and it took a few decades of protesting before it was finally removed. While one side found it upsetting that their culture was caricatured to cheer on a sports team, fans of The Chief took offense that Liberal Elites wanted to destroy their culture by imposing Political Correctness on their Hallowed Tradition. So, you had folks insisting that they had to insult another culture in order to properly honor their own culture.
Anyway, some years after I graduated, The Chief got to retire. Alumni kept contributing money and people kept cheering on their team as they had before. Nothing positive was lost, and our school has since regained some respect it had lost during its years of overt racism.
You can make fun of me and rationalize printing racially offensive cartoons in the newspaper all you like, but somewhere deep down, you know it is not right, and you know that you are offending people and scaring away potential clients. Most people are too polite to raise a fuss. But this topic means something to me, so I thought I’d drop you a line and encourage you to think things through.
I don’t need to change Pat White’s mind, and I surely don’t need him to manage my wealth. On the whole, the world seems to be taking a step or two forward for each step back. But it sure is weird to see a racist cartoon published in a newspaper is 2012, 40 years after Stanford managed to figure out that American Indians deserve a little more respect.
To the editor:
I have a simple question that I would like anyone who is pro-Chief to answer. Who are we as Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, etc…. to say whether or not the Chief is a racist mascot/symbol in the eyes of Native Americans? Did any of us grow up on their reservation? Did any of us grow up in their culture? Did any of us grow up in their traditions? Did any of us grow up in their footsteps? If you answered no to any of these questions, then I ask again, who are we as black, whites, Latinos, Asians, etc…., to say whether or not the Chief is a racist mascot/symbol in the eyes of Native Americans?
Jules Murray, Jr.
sophomore in LAS
Daily Illini letters,
3 April, 1998
Interestingly enough, it is the anti-Chief folks who use the word racist, so aside from Charlene Teters and all the other Native Americans who take offense at the Chief, Chief protesters might ask themselves the same question. Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the catchily short slogan “racist mascot” and think of the Chief more as being ignorantly offensive … is black face racist, or just dumb? Same thing. The intent of the Chief is arguably quite honorable – Chief isn’t setting out to denigrate Native Americans, it simply does because it’s really just a bad idea.
Fri Apr 3 21:08:14 CST 1998
So this weekend is our family celebrating Easter a week early. Some family members are going to be out of town, and Jessy moving to Texas, so … well, this weekend it is. I hope I don’t have damned head-winds driving back and forth this time. they really mess up my fuel efficiency.
Last night I had insomnia. Linda emailed me around 0300h saying she had pink-eye … we considered driving over to Carle but it seemed impractical .. mainly it was too irritating for her to get to sleep, poor girl, and her voice was getting hoarse. I considered if I couldn’t get to sleep I’d give her a call and we could hang out and watch a movie, maybe fall asleep … conveniently though, I fell asleep by myself. I hope Linda fared well.
At 1700h we had a labsitters meeting. Don explained that there were certain problems rearing their heads, and what he wanted done about them. Me and Toly ate together at Cantina afterwards, a specialty restaurant run through the dorms which is cheaper than Murphy’s where we first considered going. You just have to stand in line a long while, which reminded Toly of Russia. It’s nice to talk to Toly coz we have plenty of things we disagree upon even though we basically agree on everything … it’s kind of like we’re of like mind, only with different semantic conclusions. He tends toward being Libertarian, where I’m just a good, old-fashioned Liberal kinda guy, who sympathizes with Libertarianism, even if I strongly disagree with a lot of it. I love to exchange views with the opposition.
Maureen just dropped by the lab, and I was talking to her for awhile. She just got back from working in a soup kitchen, and she said she was talking to this guy who smelled of beer, and so she wanted to shower. It was nice to talk to her … I think for both of us. This all hints at some larger stuff I’ve been working out in my mind, that doesn’t/won’t quite make it here into the journal.
Thinking too much. I told her I’d be down here working on computer stuff if she wanted to step out later. She said she planned to study – three exams next week!
Still, perhaps I could call her later, maybe invite her out to the Etc. for a little while.
Okay, clearing my thoughts. Time to take a break!
From: email@example.com (Matthew Ivaliotes)
Subject: Re: University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign Mascot
Date: 15 Mar 1998 01:07:12 GMT
Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
References: <350603FB.7A09@uillinois.edu> <35060E11.99ABAE66@cu-online.com> <Pine.SOL.3.96.980310224904.6634Afirstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com> <3506A611.firstname.lastname@example.org> <350B4418.61E5@NOSPAM.uiuc.edu>
Xref: vixen.cso.uiuc.edu uiuc.general:60767
Kyle Levenhagen <levenhag@NOSPAM.uiuc.edu> writes:
>Who says we have to have the Chief as a mascot? I mean, we can have a
>different mascot and still be the Fighting Illini. Possibly the best
>example would be the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL… they have a WOLF
>as a mascot, for cryin’ out loud. Why can’t we have a big, plush
>squirrel (I’m thinking of Rocky, from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” here), or
>something? It would make some sense, too, considering how many of those
>damned things we’ve got running around here.
I could live with us being the Fighting Illini and getting rid of the dork in the costume and the music from a cowboy movie. Then again, I am of the very strong opinion that all team names with gerunds in them are inherently dorky. If the name itself doesn’t strike fear into your opponents’ hearts, adding ‘fighting’ to it won’t help, and just points out how unintimidating you are.
And for fashion considerations, I’d like something a bit more aesthetically pleasing than that round, physically improbably head-in-a-headress symbol which is in ever-waning use on merchandise.
speaking only for me
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.
You know, organized Republicans make me jittery?
You know, this past week I’ve been working on a web site for the daily-menu stuff?
You know, I went to a program tonight where pro and anti Chief folks were presenting their opinions to the University student Senate? See, the Republicans were there, all sitting front and center, and except for a token black lady and a blond girl who said “my great great grandmother was a Cherokee princess” they were all white people. Now I have nothing against white people myself – I mean hey my whole blood family is white people – but a whole bunch of them sitting together cheering on the cause of a Native American mascot makes me feel ooky.
The Senate will be voting on a resolution to remove Chief Illiniwek as the school mascot. Even if it passes the Senate though, nothing really happens unless the Board of Trustees, appointed by Jim Edgar, approve it as well.
The Board of Trustees is a bunch of crusty old white people who think they’re right. The arguments of the pro-chief forces were basically “I like the chief, he means a lot to me, and he’s not so bad, we should keep him.” The anti-chief folks kinda stressed how he was inaccurate, offensive, patronizing, and tended to reveal the University’s hypocrisy – the chief is meant to honor, but he offends Native people. Proponents claim he raises awareness of Native culture, but the University doesn’t have a Native American studies program. The University promised a dean for Native American students, and then reneged.
Judging by the statements made by Senate members who were present, there was a strong anti-chief feeling by the end of the meeting. It felt reassuring. I know the whole conflict isn’t at all about to be resolved overnight. If the senate passes it’s resolution to retire Illiniwek though, and the BOT shits on the student action, things might get very interesting indeed. The student body is pretty fucking apathetic especially after that DIA move.
One Senator asked a question as to why if the Chief was okay back in 1927, is it no longer acceptable? I think it was a rhetorical question, but I muttered to myself “Black face was acceptable in 1927.” The guy next to me heard and quipped “and the Klan was an RSO.”
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
One student, Tammy Stanke, went on a big thing about how our University was a leader, and its students were leaders, and yadda yadda yadda yah … and so it is fitting that our symbol is a Chief, because “the Chief is always listened to.” I thought of how, if my understanding is correct, the Chief in an Indian tribe generally lets others speak and decides amongst the arguments presented, presenting a verdict, more like a judge. A University and a wizened judge sort don’t seem the same type to me … we’re full of babbling youngsters, who produce ideas for society to use and judge. Our supercomputers are not something I could envision a wise old Indian Chief taking a leadership role on. But then who am I to speak for native culture?
While he started out kinda nervous-sounding and stuttery, David Song made a point I found especially agreeable, that the Senate should pass the resolution in part to bring the debate before the BOT, who would just as soon forget about Native American affairs and issues of student democracy entirely, like they were bad dreams. Okay, I’m putting words in his mouth there, but I do agree that the Senate would serve the student body well by being more contentious with the Board. I, for one, am not a Happy Camper.
I went to lunch, and they were serving Cheeseburgers. Now normally these are kinda processed-meat looking things with a little rectangle of cheese over part of them that makes you think you’re in a fast food place. Shake the grease off well and you’ve got a fairly tasty burger by those standards. Today they were cooked poorly though. Dark on the outside, pinkish cold on the inside, and all the lettuce was flat and wilty. I cracked. I got pissed off and really bitchy and went on a little tirade about how I hate everything. As much as we get charged for this food, you think they could do a decent job! We agreed that getting Old Country Buffet in there or some private enterprise that does a good job might be pretty keen. If you can’t tell, I’m not at all keen on dining services.
What else? The guy from the Observer, our local left-wing loony tabloid, argued that we should keep the Chief because there’s this football fanatic who drives to every game from Kentucky or somesuch who would stop coming if the Chief were retired. Tammy also compared incidents of the Chief being burned in effigy by opposing schools to incidents of the American flag being burned in foreign countries – “they’re not burning us” – no, Tammy, they’re not, they’re burning an image of a Native American which we have appropriated for our own use. I’d rather be represented by old glory than the people we raped to build this great country, and if anything is to be burned in effigy, I’d rather not it be an image representing a people we collectively owe a great deal to.
The PRC representative asked rhetorically why the College Republicans were participating in an effort to build a monument to Ronald Reagen in every state when for Native Americans it was sufficient to honor them as a football team mascot. Why not honor Native Americans with a statue, a monument, or something more honorable?
The whole issue makes my stomach churn and my blood boil, but I kinda need that now anyways, keep me motivated!
Someone retorted to all those who argued that Chief Illiniwek honored them that it’s not about you it’s about Native Americans!
Well, enough about me.
And Chief Illiniwek was the topic of discussion at dinner. I made a remark about the DIA being the same bit of the University that has the offensive mascot, and Brian and Anatoly sprung to his defense.
What, may you ask, is my beef with the chief?
As mascots go, he is in poor taste. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you conquer and pretty much destroy a people. Then you decide to honor that people by taking a symbol of leadership and spirituality, and have one of your own people dress in that manner to dance around at a football game. Honor? That seems disrespectful. I tried to make an argument, what if we were to use Jesus as a mascot? the pope? A rabbi? I implored of ‘toly that if the mascot were Jesus Christ dancing the Macarena and the majority of the 80% Christian population of our country were left a little offended if that might not be grounds for changing our mascot. He conceded that point. My next rhetorical argument was that why then did the same standard not apply when the offended group was an underrepresented racial minority … and he started to sound eerily Libertarian … the sort of attitude that if people can not defend their own, then there is nothing wrong with them getting fucked over.
That is not a positive attitude, might does not make right.
Anyway, I did not dissuade either of them, but I do believe given the food for thought, that our argument may have an effect on them. I was once in their shoes too, thinking that all this Chief-bashing was counterproductive and inspired by over-zealous political-correctness. But as I asked Goth Dan, how he felt about the Chief, he said “I think it’s dumb.” – It’s a mascot, er, a “symbol” in poor taste, that is kept around in large part due to institutional inertia.
And I have a fetish for fighting institutional inertia.