May 19, 2009

"Ur-A-Nole" t-shirt

We get e-mail:Rob,

This t-shirt cartoon was found in stores in Saint Petersburg, FL. Please post and share widely. I hope you will add it to your stereotype of the month, and wall of shame.

I use your website to teach the concept of cultural relativism using the mascot issue. I make students take the Native perspective. Many have developed empathy from using your excellent presentation of the subject. The most difficult to impact are the FSU fans. They still think it's OK because of what happened the the NCAA and Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. publicly approving.

Thank you,

Jan Tucker
adjunct professor
LCCC and Saint Leo University
alumnus of University of Florida
supporter AIM FL Chapter (Nationally Sanction AIM, Chapter)
Comment:  This t-shirt is the product of the Gators vs. Seminoles college football rivalry. It's cleverly labeled "Ur-A-Nole"--as in urinating on a Seminole.

Note that the "Seminole" is depicted as a stereotypical angry savage. He doesn't even resemble FSU's Chief Osceola mascot--which is also stereotypical.

Needless to say, the Seminoles didn't need to do rain dances in Florida. That's another common stereotype.

This is an excellent example of how mascots create a hostile and abusive environment. Even if FSU respects the hell out of Indians--which is questionable--the mascot sends a negative message to everyone else. Namely, that Indians are primitive people of the past, not full-fledged, modern-day citizens.

Worse than that, it says Indians are some sort of cartoon people living in a netherworld between reality and fantasy. This makes them comparable to our cartoon images of pirates and cavemen. Intellectually, we know these images are based vaguely on some sort of reality. But emotionally, we accept and believe that the cartoon is the reality.

In short, nothing about a mascot conveys the message that a school (allegedly) respects Indians. The mascot itself is the message: Again, that Indians are past...primitive...cartoons to make fun of.

For more on the subject, see Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay.

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