September 09, 2009

The problem with William & Mary's "Tribe"

Embarrassing stereotypeWhile all Cavalier fans were let down by the losing score of Saturday’s football game, I was disappointed by something else: the pregame video. A classic part of U.Va. football, the video always depicts the beloved Cavman vanquishing the mascot of our rival team, getting the crowd pumped for the game. Often they are humorous, but standing amid the loud cheers of other fans, I cringed in astonishment and disbelief: the gait of the Native American was hunched and intense. His voice was simply a savage screech. His whole behavior was primitive. These negative stereotypes, derived from the popular American imagination, have no place in the entertainment of a university whose goals are “[to] foster in students the habits of mind and character required to develop a generous receptivity to new ideas” and “[to] re-interpret human experience.”

Though I have been at the University of Virginia for merely two full weeks, my professors have already stressed the importance of the individual in studying history and non-western perspectives. The way in which the cartoon portrayed the William and Mary Tribe contrasted sharply with the messages delivered in the classroom and the listed goals of the University as a whole. Professors may urge us to pluralize and abandon the wrong stereotypes engraved in our minds, but this mindset means nothing if it does not expand beyond academia. Our prejudices are fed by stereotypical images, both subtle and blatant.

Anna Fairchild
Comment:  I believe William & Mary is changing its "Tribe" name and feather logo. Why? Because the NCAA ruled that these items created a "hostile and abusive" environment. If there was any doubt, this story proves the NCAA was right.

William & Mary apologists will say they can't control what other schools do. Sure they can control it: by changing their name and logo. It's like using the swastika, an ancient religious symbol, and then blaming others when they interpret it as a Nazi sign. That kind of thinking doesn't wash.

For more on the subject, see Fighting Sioux = Fraidy Cats and Team Names and Mascots.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see UVa Apologizes for "Tribe" Video.