April 06, 2012

40th annual Chief Wahoo protest

New baseball season brings fresh protests against Cleveland Indians mascot

Opening-Day protest has happened since 1973

By Stephanie Siek
As the crowds of celebratory fans walk toward the ballpark's entrance, they pass a small group of protesters holding signs that say that the team's name and mascot, Chief Wahoo, are racist and offensive.

About 10 people stand in a small park next to the stadium, quietly holding signs that say "People Not Mascots" and "Stop Teaching Your Children Racism." Every once in a while, someone in the stream of baseball fans pauses to shout mockingly, "Chief Wahoo Rules!", "You killed Custer" or just "Shut up!"

Robert Roche, executive director of Cleveland's American Indian Education Center and a Chiricahua Apache tribal member, says it's been like this each of the 30-some years he's been protesting. The shouting gets angrier and more frequent the closer it gets to game time, with many of the hecklers fresh from the nearby bars.

"If you stand here long enough," Roche says, "you'll see that racism is alive and well in Cleveland."

Not long after, a man in dressed in a feather headdress, face paint and a sweatsuit airbrushed with images of Chief Wahoo walks past and makes faces at the protesters. People in the crowd around him break out in war whoops.

Local Native Americans and advocates have been protesting the name and mascot on Opening Day since 1973. They say calling a team the Indians plasters over the history of exploitation of indigenous people by the Americans who displaced and often mistreated them. They regard Chief Wahoo as even worse--the caricature of an American Indian with bright red skin, a toothy grin, hooked nose and feather headband plays on stereotypes of Native Americans.
And:The bigotry displayed by those fans seeps through to the behavior of fans today, said Staurowsky, the Drexel professor, who said she occasionally travels to attend the yearly protests.

"I've always found it compelling that the club has claimed that the whole purpose of the naming is to honor an American Indian, and the behavior of the fans when they're confronted with actual American Indians protesting is quite contrary to honor," Staurowsky says. "The fact that this has been going on for years and the behavior essentially hasn't changed speaks to a level of racism that is so very difficult to eradicate."

It's a fact that makes the fans in Wahoo caps' heckling of the protesters even more galling, said protest organizer Sundance, a Muskogee tribal member and director of Cleveland's chapter of the American Indian Movement.

"People know what they've been taught," said Sundance, who goes by only one name. "In the United States, we have propaganda that allows this to go unchecked because it's convenient to subjugate Native Americans to sell merchandise."
Comment:  So much for the asinine claim that activists are hypocrites for protesting the Fighting Sioux but not Chief Wahoo.

As usual, fans "honor" Indians by ignoring their wishes and hurtling insults at them. Some honor.

Note especially phrases such as "You killed Custer." This doesn't have anything to with mascots. It's white people settling a score because Indians didn't meekly give up when Americans tried to kill them and steal their land. In other words, it's a feeling of white pride and supremacy reasserting itself.

As I've said before, fans love their phony Indian more than real Indians. They're upset when real Indians show them to be ignoramuses and fools for loving a racist stereotype. They can't handle the truth so they lash out. "I hate you, Indians, for pointing out the white privilege I've tried so hard to deny."

For more on Chief Wahoo, see Chief Wahoo in Germany, Turbaned Indian Offensive, Chief Wahoo Okay, and No Protests Against Chief Wahoo?!

For more on the psychology of mascot lovers, see Love/Hate Relationship with Indians, Students "Honor" Indians by Ignoring Them, and Modern Indians Anger Museum Goers.

Below:  A racist idiot deludes himself into thinking he's honoring Indians by dressing as a circus clown.


Anonymous said...

Does anybudy really think General George "Leeeeeeeeeeroy Jenkins" Custer is a hero these days?

Chief Wahoo is probably the stupidest mascot I've ever seen. And is it just me or does his expression look kinda perverted?

Tournesol said...

I don't think he really thinks he's honoring anyone. It's just a game, they are having fun but they don't think. I would like them to try and explain their position to a roomful of native children.