November 05, 2008

Chief rears "ugly" head

Chief Illinwek Hasn't Danced His Last DanceIllinois campus organization Students For Chief Illiniwek are bringing back the dance one last time, according to a press release. The one-time event will, according to the group "feature presentations on the Illiniwek tradition along with a performance by student Logan Ponce, the 37th portrayer of the Illiniwek tradition." And you thought the Illiniwek tradition had been retired.

I'm aware of all the arguments in favor of the Chief, the stuff about the Illini tradition, and how it honors the tribe rather than exploits it. I find them to be dubious, but not entirely without merit. We think the problem for Illinois is not that the Chief is insensitive in and of itself--lots of teams have insensitive logos, most specifically the Washington Redskins--but that the energy directed towards preserving the Chief often seems to outweigh the actual affection for it. Why do people care so much? Is it because they really love that Indian costume? Or is it more about preventing change and maintaining tradition, even when that tradition is ugly?
Comment:  The answer to the question poised is the latter: preventing change and maintaining tradition. It has little or nothing to do with the actual costume. If the mascot were a Martian, a Confederate soldier, or a white person dressed in blackface and doing a minstrel show, Illini fans would be clamoring to preserve that too.

This author doesn't take his analysis to its unavoidable conclusion, so I'll do it for him. Why are mascot fans so intent on preserving their racist and stereotypical images? It's all about maintaining white privilege in the face of a changing reality. By sticking to their belief that America is a white, Christian country, they assert that they and their institutions deserve to remain in power.

By "honoring" Indians of the past for their noble but "doomed" resistance, they're basically celebrating their own superiority. They're memorializing their belief that Indians are losers and white men are winners. It's all about maintaining the illusion that they won fair and square so they deserve to "own" the country.

Their reaction to anti-mascot activists only confirms this point. They couldn't care less about respecting or honoring real Indians. They defend their racist and stereotypical icons when real Indians tell them they have to go.

For more on the subject, see Why White Men Hate Indians.

Below:  Illini fans "celebrate" an Indian the way they'd celebrate a dancing bear at a carnival. Both are savage and wild in theory, but safe, tame, and under control in reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best Man on Campus -

It's really all about jocks, free beer and the gross-ass sex that takes place under the glare of the off-campus bonfire.