October 23, 2007

Wahoo = Sambo

The Curse of Chief Wahoo:  Enabling Racist Imagery[D]on't get me wrong. I don't think that Cleveland has to change its name to the Rockers or the Gnats. But the cartoonish caricature of a group of human beings--signified by Chief Wahoo's red skin and big white teeth--is the absolute equivalent of the blackface Sambo images that polluted American culture in the first half of the 20th century, and Nazi propaganda portrayals of Jews with big noses and wicked sneers.

As I watched the games televised from Cleveland, I was sickened by the video images of fans in the stands dressed up like Wahoo, childish feathers on their heads, their skin painted red, their mouths painted white, cups of beer in their hands. Even worse, was a large image of Wahoo in the grandstands, with the chief's face replaced with a photo of Cleveland veteran Kenny Lofton, who is African-American. The shills in the announcing booth praised all this as an expression of the fans' passionate support for their team.

I don't think that journalists have to wait for protests outside a stadium before they act. There is a story to be told, and it's as relevant the day after a Cleveland loss as it would be if they had gone to the series. The columnists can have their say, of course. But here's what makes Chief Wahoo news: the so-called American pastime--and the industries that support it--are broadcasting and printing images that travel around the world. These images offer vicious portrayals of a race of people--iconic representations that become associated not with shame but with triumph and joy.

8 comments:

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Strange, if "Wahoo = Sambo," writerfella does not recall there ever having been a restaurant chain called Wahoo's. There was a Sambo's chain, ostensibly eponymously arising from the names of the founders, Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett, who was known as 'Bo.'
So, if Wahoo REALLY AND TRULY AND ACTUALLY equals Sambo, just where was the Wahoo's restaurant chain and who founded it? Elsewise, it sounds like somebody is trying to start their own urban legends...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Mmmmm, boy, writerfella sure could use some pancakes right now...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Yes, it's true Wahoo isn't spelled S-A-M-B-O, didn't star in an infamous children's book, and doesn't have a restaurant chain named after him. Unfortunately for you, being "equivalent," as the writer put it, isn't the same as being identical.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Once again, Rob, you lose, as 'identical' as an adjective means "agreeing exactly in value, quantity, or affect." Thus, the synonyms are: "equal, equivalent, even, same, tantamount. Idioms: on a par, one and the same." writerfella has alerted White & Strunk, and they're going to be looking for you...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Michael said...

I agree that the logo is somewhat racist.

But as a lover of the sea and boating, I find the Pirate/Bucaneer/Raider logos to be very offensive too. NOt all people that like to go out on the open seas have eye patches, hooks, or peg legs.

I think all team names based on people should be done away with so nobody is offended.

Rob said...

Once again, Russ, you display your hypocrisy. You say you don't engage in debates or try to win them, and then you declare I've lost. Could you be any more hypocritical if you tried?

Were you lying before when you said you don't try to win debates? Or were you just too stupid to realize that's what you're doing? Please let us know.

Rob said...

Do I need to define "synonym" for you too? "Equivalent" is equivalent to "identical," but it isn't identical. If the original writer or I had meant to say "identical," we would have.

You're the one who said Wahoo and Sambo were "REALLY AND TRULY AND ACTUALLY equal" (i.e., identical), if only to knock down your own straw man. To reiterate, the original writer used the word "equivalent." Deal with the word "equivalent" and stop pretending anyone but you said otherwise.

Rob said...

Chief Wahoo is only "somewhat racist," Michael? In what way(s) is it not racist?

I don't think anyone assumes that all sailors are pirates. Similarly, I don't think anyone assumes that all "warriors" or "raiders" are Indians. If a "Warriors" team didn't have an Indian logo or mascot, I don't think many people would be offended.