December 09, 2007

Mascots = civil-rights issue

VIEWPOINT:  Logo issue mirrors past eventsAmerican Indian people, through their tribal councils, have passed resolutions opposing UND's nickname and logo. They have spoken. Their reasons include the misappropriation of sacred spiritual images and practices at sporting events; the reduction of complex tribal, cultural and linguistic issues to a Hollywood stereotype; the attribution of violent images to Indian people by identifying them as “fighting”; and Indian women, men and children become invisible when their cultures are represented only by historical images of male warriors.

UND's nickname and logo ignores the reality that a Dakota/Lakota/Nakota person might have been the last physician one saw at a medical clinic or the clerk at the local supermarket or the teacher at a child's school. They likely were not wearing feathers or looking for a fight.
The harm mascots cause:

American Indians in controlWhen I was at UND, I saw abuse and misuse and trivialization of the Sioux name that would turn your stomach, descriptions of which The Forum would not print, partly because The Forum likes the “Fighting Sioux” nickname, and uses it at every opportunity. Suffice it to say that, especially at the opposing schools’ homecoming parades I marched in, it was common to see displays of American Indians being killed, skinned, dragged, hung, and on and on, in ugly, grisly, and brutal ways. Bathroom humor was also popular. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Imagine, too, if you can, and if you care to, how American Indians must have felt to see this. I have tried to imagine that. How would I feel, seeing cardboard cutouts of my honest, hardworking parents, or of my grandmother, gentle and honorable woman that she was, treated this way, dragged or spat on or worse? How Indians could have endured this is beyond me. I don’t think I could.

But it was not only other schools that were disrespectful. UND students themselves would ridicule Indian images as only bored college kids can. Don’t tell me it didn’t happen. I was there. I lived in the dorms, I was in the parades, I saw the antics, I heard the whoops, I heard the insults and the taunts.
Why mascots are a civil-rights issue (from the first article):If one were to watch certain episodes of the award-winning “Eyes on the Prize,” a PBS series on the 1960s civil rights movement, the interviews with people resistant to social change mirror arguments made by UND administration and members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, i.e., tradition is the moral justification for discrimination.

In taped interviews in the series, local white citizens unabashedly defend their “right” to refuse service to African-Americans in their restaurants and strongly oppose federal efforts to integrate public accommodations.

If one were to read letters to the editor or newspaper chat rooms over the past few years regarding the issue of American Indian nicknames, the sentiment often parallels statements made by members of hate groups in the South in the 1960s. Those hate groups mocked and targeted civil rights workers and encouraged violence against them.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Fighting the Fighting Sioux.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Shortly, writerfella will be sending an essay article to you, Rob, that makes a most definitive statement: "NO ONE should be allowed to make AN ENTIRE RACE OF PEOPLE into mascots!" This was communicated today to writerfella by his uncle T. Dan Hopkins, a longtime film actor, who will be sending the parent article to writerfella, who then will forward it on to this site for presentation. It was an argument that made sense, both logically and cogently, and one that changed writerfella's opinions. That is the single advantage of being writerfella, as he can change his mind. Expect it soon...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

You mean the hundred previous arguments against mascots didn't make sense, both logically and cogently? I thought they did. I didn't need my mind changed because my position was already logical and cogent.

Anyway, I'm glad you've finally come around to a logical and cogent position. And if the essay is good, I'll be glad to use it. As I've said before, I encourage guest commentaries.