September 25, 2008

Let's stereotype everyone equally

Cultural symbols exhibit takes on stereotypesArrendondo's exhibit, titled "Welcome to Cleveland" was far easier to understand. The entire exhibit, which sprawled across the rear half of the gallery, features different renderings of the iconic Cleveland Indians' mascot, Chief Wahoo.

The renderings explore what other ethnic and religious groups would look like as stereotypical mascots.

The exhibit pokes fun at all cultures, complete with the Gangsta representation sporting a grill over his teeth and a gold chain necklace, Latinos appearing as a human version of Speedy Gonzalez, and even Africans as the indigenous stereotype with a bone through their nose.

However, the exhibit didn't just poke fun at people of color, but was an equal opportunity offender.

The German rendering is basically a cartoon Hitler with a swastika medallion around his neck. The Irish representation looks like a slobbering drunk leprechaun. White Folks are presented as hooded Ku Klux Klan members with a flaming cross adorning their white hoods, and skinheads have an X branded on their forehead and a spiked band around their neck.
Comment:  As I've said before, we don't "honor" the Fighting Germans or the Fighting Japanese for their bravery and ferocity. I wonder why not.

Remember the "Fighting Whites" intramural team and its t-shirts from a few years ago? I said this parody was ineffective because it didn't caricature white people the way sports mascots have caricatured Indians.

Caricaturing white people as Klansmen does the trick. It portrays whites as xenophobic haters and killers--which is what the "Indian as savage" stereotype does too.

For more on the subject, see Smashing People:  The "Honor" of Being an Athlete.


Anonymous said...

I agree. If the Indian mascot was put as anything else, any race else, it would been changed. We are the invisible americans. This I do beleive. How can be be heard?

gaZelbe said...

the mascot issue always comes down to money. those people know perfectly well that the "we're honoring them" line is bulls**t. But it costs money to change all the signage and merchandise. I honestly believe that that is why you see high schools change their offense mascots with far less resistance than colleges and colleges less than full-on NFL teams. For the NFL washington team to change their mascot would literally cost millions. As long as continuing to be racists is not costing them that much in ticket sales or litigation, the mascot will not change.

Say what you will about modern European culture in North America, capitalism will always trump racism or sexism or homophobia.