November 18, 2007

Any Indian mascot is racist

RIP Chief Illiniwek

The mascot of the University of Illinois should not come out of retirementWith his feathers and war paint, the chief’s minstrel show encourages the childish perception of Native Americans as uncivilized, reducing them to a ridiculous archetype. His performance also featured a “traditional” dance that was actually exaggerated for the crowd’s benefit. When Native American ways are embellished or altered to entertain the masses, the descriptor “Jim Crow” leaps to mind sooner than “honor.”

But even if the University of Illinois trotted out a modern Native American in civilian clothes, he would still be objectified. Sports franchises employ people of all races as mascots, but the sticking point is very rarely race itself. In the end, the University of Illinois wants a Native American for its own amusement—solely because he is a Native American. That is racist.

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