June 05, 2010

Blackhawks foe waves severed head

The Blackhawks hockey team is in the playoffs, so its logo is in the news. Here's a follow-up to the recent article on the subject. Adrienne Keene of the Native Appropriations blog found this item and nailed it:

Thanks for the severed head, you've proved my point.Game 4. Philly Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers score a goal, and VERSUS TV shows this guy. This guy, holding an impaled, severed, Indian head. On national TV.So disturbing, so graphic, and just what I wanted to wake up to on a Saturday morning. Truly sickening in the literal sense.

This proves it, without a doubt. Native American mascots are demeaning, stereotyping, and harmful to Native people. The Blackhawks logo is often touted as a "good" image--not evil or stupid looking, nothing like Chief Wahoo or the other blatantly racist images. But "good" image or not (and I still stand that no Indian mascot is a good mascot), clearly this demonstrates the danger when fans are given control over a mascot and image. There is no excuse for this man's actions.

That's one area mascot debates rarely cover--the actions of rival team's fans and how they affect Native people. When an entire arena is shouting things like "Beat the Indians!" "Scalp the Redskins!" "F*@! the Blackhawks!" Can you imagine how it would feel to be a Native person hearing those things?
And:We could also talk about how the TV station decided it was OK to air the image of this man, multiple times, or how the security at the arena let him through with that spear, and what those actions say about our society, or, per usual, draw the comparisons to other groups. Would a TV station air an image of a man carrying around an impaled Black head? Asian? Latino? No.Keene's conclusion:So, overall, I guess I can--in a twisted and sick way--thank that Flyers fan. Anytime anyone says there is no harm in Indian mascots, I'm sending them that picture.

Comment:  Two excellent points here. First, that the harm of stereotyping extends beyond the mascot and its immediate supporters. As the NCAA ruled, mascots create an abusive and hostile environment. Here's the proof of that claim.

Second, that tolerance for mascots and their associated problems--e.g., severed Indian heads--shows society's ignorance and (conscious or unconscious) racism. So the mascot problem is really the whole problem in microcosm. Mascots create and reinforce stereotypical beliefs...fans (mis)use and disseminate these beliefs...and society is conditioned to accept and tolerate them.

We could say the same about almost any example of prejudice. For instance, some racist decides Obama isn't an American. Thousands of people who are prejudiced or simply ignorant take up the "birther" chant. Suddenly a quarter of the country believes it because we're so conditioned to think of blacks as criminals and cheaters.

How racists "think"

People like this Flyers fan undoubtedly don't know what they're doing. Their "thinking" goes something like this: "The Founding Fathers were white men...Indians are savages...the Pope is Catholic. What's the problem here?"

To be specific, it goes something like this:

"A severed Indian head? So what? There aren't any Indians left, are there? They all died ages ago, right? I know this because I've seen the Blackhawks logo. I've never seen an Indian like that in real life, so they must all be dead."

For more on the subject, see Children and Dudesons Believe Stereotypes and Stereotypes Beget Stereotypes. For more on the subject in general, see Team Names and Mascots.

Below:  No, mascots don't encourage stereotypical thinking. Uh-huh, sure they don't.

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