September 04, 2013

Chief Zee = racist uncle

Chief Zee, the Redskins and the setting sun

By Mike WiseZema Williams is 72, a mere man next to the alter ego he created, who has missed just four home games (all because of funerals) since 1978, who still zips around FedEx Field in the motorized scooter that owner Daniel Snyder purchased for his team’s inarguable No. 1 fan.

“My job is to entertain the people,” Williams says. “A lot of them tell me, they say, ‘You know, my wife won’t even cook me dinner till she see you on TV and says, ‘There’s my Injun.’ The older people been watching me so long, they don’t even say ‘Indian.’ They say, ‘Injun. There’s my Injun.’ And it’s on.”


In some ways, it’s as if Archie Bunker or Amos and Andy were hurled forward in time, not sure what to make of all these hypersensitive, politically correct folk who want them gone.

After all, no professional team in 2013 would begin letting an African-American man dress up in Native American regalia and wave a tomahawk, pay for his admission, his parking pass and let him shape animal balloons for children in the corporate suites on Sundays.

Yet like the nickname, Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have grandfathered in Chief Zee, tone-deaf to the caricaturing of an ethnic minority, unable to see past a franchise’s symbolic touchstone.

Williams can’t see it, either, for that would mean giving up his identity. And he can’t have that. He’s been to too many games, showed up for too many charity events as that costumed Indian.

Trying to enlighten him is like trying to enlighten your half-cocked, old-head uncle who uses racial epithets at Thanksgiving dinner. At some point, you either let him eat or kick him out—and no one is kicking Williams out of his burgundy-and-gold bubble.
Some reactions to Wise's column:

Should Redskins Mascot Chief Zee Know Better Because He's Black?On the ever-lively Washington Post comments section below the story, Zee's defenders are calling the article a racially-charged hit piece on a "sick old man" (Williams is undergoing cataract surgery) whose intention has always been to "make people smile." Zee's critics counter that one ethnic minority parodying another (Zee freely uses the word Injun) is old-timey minstrelsy times two.

We recommend reading the entire piece ("Chief Zee, the Redskins, and the Setting Sun"), which is well-written--is Wise cruelly mocking a 72-year-old man and even playing the race card? Or should Zema Williams know better than to put on the redface because he is black, and is his treatment by Wise turnabout and fair play?
Comment:  I'm not sure growing up as a black man before the civil rights era gives Williams any special insight into the Washington Redskins situation. He should know better because he's a human being, but I don't expect an "Injun" lover to change his views at his age.

For more on the Washington Redskins, see Peter King Website Bans "Redskins" and Chief Zee's Successor?

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