What chief supporters don't seem to realize is that their choice of the word "symbol" is just as political as "mascot." They think "symbol" makes the chief sound more dignified and better describes their view that the chief is a respectful tribute to the native people of Illinois.
"The context expects a mascot," McKean said. "By trying to elevate it to the symbol context, then there is a problem. A symbol is certainly a more dignified word. Symbols do not usually dance."
"Look, mascot is the name of these things," Nunberg said. "This isn't just a symbol. There is a guy out there in a chief suit."
Writerfella here --
writerfella mostly has tried to remain aloof of this particular subject and its particular subject, owing to his own knowledge of the untoward and unproductive results of the ban of 'Little Red' at the University of Oklahoma in 1970. BUT -- even glancing at the representations and sight-reading of the text as he scrolls by, writerfella must stop and reply. (Sight-reading is that unusual ability to read an entire page of text simply by glancing at it for a second or less. At the University of Iowa where it was measured and chronicled in 1974, the doctors explained to writerfella that it came about because he was taught to read and write at age 3, and because he was reading meaningfully at age 4. The impatience of being 4 and facing long bits of writing caused writerfella instantly to be able to absorb it all by sight. In grade school, normal reading exercises slowed down such a facility, to be sure, but it still acts on its own most of the time.)
Illiniwek IS a mascot and not a symbol because the person IS NOT WHO HE REPRESENTS HIMSELF TO BE. He is not Native American, his wardrobe and performances are not authentic, and there is no connection between the mascot and any Native American students that may be found on the UI campus. Instead, it is some generic whitebread fraternity dude who is a clown and not a symbol, a jester and not an icon, and likely is one of those who thinks being an American citizen also makes him a Native American. This much is in keeping with the campus 'booster' group at Oklahoma University known as the 'Ruff-Necks', white cowboy-types who cheer with each football score and fire blank shotguns in the air. This apparently is far more acceptable to the University administration and the White student majority than was a Native American student dancing at sports games. To this day, 30 years and more after the Ruff-Necks took over as sports boosters after the demise of 'Little Red', there never has been a brown, yellow, or Black member of their group whatsoever.
'Little Red' was a genuine symbol at the University of Oklahoma and represented the great pride in which both the university and the state of Oklahoma beheld the Native heritages and the Native peoples themselves. 'Little Red' danced, it is true, during football and baseball games, but the dancer always was a Native American, ordinarily a Kiowa, and the costume and the dances were real, purely authentic, and historical. AIM was emergent at such a time and that group of rootless upstarts decided that one way to earn themselves notoriety and publicity and monetary support would be that 'Little Red' should go. They came to Norman, OK., led several loud and newsworthy 'protests', and participated in more than one open forum where the matter was discussed for both students and the general public. The upshot was that the University closed the office of 'Little Red' as the official symbol of OU and there no longer was any sort or symbol of Native American pride at OU nor any pride in Native Americans, for that matter. Today, Native students represent the least-welcomed and/or -tolerated minority at the University of Oklahoma and nothing has been done or likely ever will be done to correct this.
And so writerfella finds such matters beneath his attentions unless there is a Ruff-Neck-like connection to the matter, as all it serves otherwise to his sensitivities to continue the ill-considered and self-aggrandizing 'traditions' of the American Indian Movement, all of which proved themselves to be worth $1 - 2.98, if that...
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