Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Embarrassing Context

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane, hlntv.com, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    Here’s something not theoretical at all. It’s real life, and it happened to me just yesterday.

    I was in the public library using a computer. At a computer nearby, facing me, was a man wearing a Cleveland Indians baseball cap. (I live at least a thousand miles away from Cleveland, in a city with its own sports teams, so an Indians cap is not a common sight.) My first thought was, hey we were just arguing about this on the GMP, and damn if that cap isn’t just plain racist.

    Then, my second thought was to notice that the man had dark black hair and somewhat brown skin complexion. I had to stop myself and wonder if maybe it’s a case of a Native American man wearing an Indians cap. However, if you forced me to put him into a racial or ethnic category based on his appearance, I would not have been able to say whether he was Native American, Hispanic, or Asian American. (I live in a very cosmopolitan part of a very multi-ethnic city, including many Native American communities in the region, so all of these are very possible.) He was as likely from the Philippines as from a Native American tribe in the U.S.

    So, how was I supposed to react to his cap? Before being disgusted with his choice, am I supposed to ask about his origins first and THEN I can decide if his cap is racist or not? If I were to practice aggressive consciousness raising and call him on it, I suppose I should determine his identity first. If he’s not Native American, then I can say “shame on you!” If he is, then I can say “cool irony, man!” Or if he’s half native American, I can say “you should be half ashamed and half proud!”

    I didn’t do any of that. I just kept glancing at him with a puzzled expression on my face.

  2. It baffles me to that people are so confused as to why this is so problematic. I cannot imagine how a Native American child can possibly interpret seeing their heritage reduced to a mascot and their concerns about it degraded to being “too PC” . Why do these sports fanatics want to hold on to so ugly and violent???? Why is it so difficult to comprehend the concept of RESPECT?! I am not Native American but that does not mean I cannot empathize with a community who has had to and continues to deal with the blatant disrespect at the hands of those in power who’s willful ignorance makes them so arrogant and self righteous that they are unable to something so simple as to change a flippin mascot!!!!! It is that simple! Seize the opportunity to correct a wrong and teach your children how to RESPECT others, to NOT ignore history that makes YOU uncomfortable, to realize that history does not disappear and those who have suffered inherit those sufferings and just because YOU are not directly affected by it DOES NOT mean you have the right ignore those who are deeply affected. It is not very difficult. smh.

  3. I suppose it would be some small consolation prize to change the team’s logo. We won’t give them their land back, but we could at least not insult them so much. That’s literally the least we could do. Seems like a place to start.

    Of course, it’s really easy for me to tell a corporation like the Cleveland Indians to change its name, spend a little of its money, none of which is mine, and which doesn’t cost me a damn thing, only makes me look like a better person. Win-win for me, and tiny crumb for aboriginal cultures.

    A lot of other people have bloody hands from a history of exploiting indigenous Americans, but not me, of course. It’s always the other guy. If I called for every white person in the U.S. to donate all your land to the nearest native tribe, because it’s stolen from them, how many would respond to that call? None. Selfish, racist bastards. You’re accomplices to murder after the fact. Your mortgages are documents written in the blood of genocide.

    Not me, of course. My house is built on that one sliver of land never previously inhabited by anyone….

  4. wellokaythen says:

    The Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo icon is a pretty obvious example of something that’s just over-the-top. It’s hard for anyone to defend it. Even for an insensitive cynic like me, it’s impossible to see any redeeming qualities in it. There are some very valid reasons to try to get rid of it.

    However:
    One reason that it offends many white people is because it flies in the face of *newer* white stereotypes about native Americans. It looks obsolete because white people’s racist stereotypes have moved on to a very different set of racist stereotypes, and Wahoo just doesn’t fit the new racist boxes.

    Chief Wahoo is not the way that many whites want “their Indians” to look, because many white people can only imagine a stone-faced native. We like our Indians to look stoic, noble, slightly wrinkled, with a far-off tragic look in their eyes. We cannot allow natives to look happy or content or fully human, because if they don’t look tragic we can’t beat ourselves up nor pat ourselves on the back for “rescuing” them. When we picture them celebrating, if we ever do, we can only imagine a tragic ceremony. For some reason, to make ourselves feel bad and therefore good, we have to imagine them sad, never happy.

    It’s frankly inconceivable for many white folks to even imagine a smiling native American. In this sense, the cigar-store Indian stereotype is still with us. The anti-litter commercial from the 1970’s showing the tearful native was the start of long shift to a new, equally racist portrayal of Indians.

    Sometimes even when we think we’re leaving stereotypes behind we’re actually just shifting to a whole other set of them.

  5. Paul Pierle says:

    My wife went to a school whose mascot was the Hurons (Eastern Michigan University). They changed their mascot to Eagles or something boring out of concern, although representatives of the Huron nation had publicly said they thought of it as an honor. (I thought, since the were EMU, they should have made it the fighting emus, but then I was a banana slug, so…)

    I find so many of these issues of social justice come down to an undefined point of realisticality. In other words, something is considered wrong or offensive to a group of others. Well, most people are polite, and don’t want to offend others, expecially not just for the sake of offense. In this case, they are using a cultural heritage as a mascot. I have no problem believing that the mascot was chosen as a celebration of and homage to that cultural heritage. Historically, racists may usurp words, or mascots, or whatever for nefarious idiocy, giving them a possible racist interpretation. So, what’s realistic?

    Is it ridiculous to be offended? Is freedom of speech a more important ideal than assuring that no one is offended? At TGMP, many of the topics revolve around the negative impact of some unfortunate assessments of men in general: the phrase “man up,” the dopey father image, etc. Some people–and many people, if this topic were brought up 50 years ago–would respond to it as so much crazy nonsense, but we’re beginning to accept these as legitimate issues. What makes something a legitimate issue? Is it the number of people affected? The degree of the consequences of the issue? Does it matter if even one person is offended?

    I think there is a compromise to be made on the subject. There’s an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer’s dad tells him “I was always proud that you weren’t a short man.” I found this brilliantly funny, because it speaks to a culture that values characteristics that seem obviously superficial. Homer’s dad isn’t too bright, so he values superficial things like height; or Homer’s so void of positive characteristics that his dad can’t come up with anything else to compliment him on. So, if I’m a short man, I can choose to look at this as a clever lampooning of superficial cultural values; but if I don’t understand it, I might take it as a slight to short men. And if you’ve grown up a short man, you’ve most likely felt the sting of being disregarded for your height, (even if you’re taller than a majority of women). If a short man were to demand that the word “short” has become derogatory because it offends him, because it has the connotation of not being worthy of manhood, what’s to be said? In the end, it’s just a word of relative description with no judgmental application. The judgment comes from its negative use: its tone. The judgment also comes from its inference. In other words, a man may be described as short for no other reason than to describe his relative height, but he may infer unintentional negative connotations behind the description.

    This is a minimal example of offensive language; obviously there are words, mascots, etc. that carry much more of a negative impact. The line has to be drawn somewhere, doesn’t it? At some point, you have to admit that the person taking offense is being ridiculous. We may all agree that naming a team the New York N*ggers is offensive, R*dskins less so, Fighting Irish even less so, Braves even less so, Celtics even less so, Vikings, etc., but where does it end? At what point do we finally say, “here’s the world’s smallest violin; get back to me when you learn how to play it?” Because at some point, there is value and responsibility in developing a thickness to one’s skin. At some point, we have to demand that people have some sense of reasonability regarding their own status as a victim.

    For the record, I think Redskins is a bit insensitive, mostly because it suggests race (skin) and not culture, and paints too broad a stroke, leaving too much to negative interpretation.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Joanna Schroeder, Good Men Project: Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Embarrassing Context […]

  2. […] Also read Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Context   […]

  3. […] there is the argument that this is all just good fun and sport, so what’s the big deal? This controversial poster out out by the National Congress of American Indians kind of shoots this logic down. The […]

  4. […] To read more of this article on racism against native Americans, click here. […]

  5. […] October 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm What you’re doing is called derailing and it’s a way to use your white privilege to redirect, […]

  6. […] what it means to celebrate. A recent poster from the National Congress of Indians (via the Good Men Project) sheds greater light on this issue. Simply put, they argue that having a Cleveland Indians logo is […]

  7. […] what it means to celebrate. A recent poster from the National Congress of Indians (via the Good Men Project) sheds greater light on this issue. Simply put, they argue that having a Cleveland Indians logo is […]

  8. […] fresh and compelling take on why the Cleveland Team of Professional Baseball should change its […]

  9. […] Source-It seems impossible to imagine that there are human beings in our society who don’t know it’s wrong to wear redface, skewer an effigy of a Native American Indian, or continue to support professional sports mascots that tokenize, demean or dehumanize Native Americans. And yet…there it is, everywhere you turn. We have chosen not to share the most horrifying images here on The Good Men Project, but we did want to point out an interesting poster, attributed to the National Congress of American Indians, that gives context to how degrading and racist using Native images and iconography for your mascot really is (photo, above). If you wouldn’t wear a New York Jews or San Francisco Chinamen hat, you shouldn’t encourage sports teams to use Native images, names or iconography. As Douglas Miles, artist, writer, designer and owner of Apache Skateboards, and collaborator in What Tribe explains, the poster “embarrasses the viewer into realizing the truth about the mascot issue.” The truth is this: Today, the only ethnic or racial iconography/imagery being used for team mascots in the United States is done at the expense of Native people, and that reality shows the depths to which we have forgotten about the mass genocide that took place on the land we occupy, and how profoundly we dehumanize the cultures of Native people. […]

  10. […] this week when we shared a poster created in the 1990s by the National Council of American Indians. If you haven’t seen it, the […]

  11. […] Also read Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Context   […]

  12. […] more on this and related controversies, see Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Embarrassing Context and NCAI’s New Report on Racist Sports Team Reminds Us of How Little Progress We’ve […]

  13. […] in, little of it real or constructive. A friend of mine and colleague wrote the other day about the Cleveland Indians logo and why its racist, putting it into a cultural context that the readership would understand. I […]

  14. […] That post went massively viral. It turns out that the poster is years old, but since so much attention has been paid to the Washington Redsk*ns name of late (including a statement by President Obama saying that if he were the owner he would think about changing the name), the theme is current and close to many people’s hearts. […]

  15. […] from Joanna Schroeder, “The truth is this: Today, the only ethnic or racial iconography/imagery being used for team […]

  16. […] Poster Puts the Racism of the Cleveland Indians Iconography Into Embarrassing Context, Joanna Schroeder, Goodmenproject.com […]

  17. […] names and iconography. I’m intolerant of the white folks who think they have some right to Wahoo the Indian or the name […]

  18. […] this image putting the culturally appropriated Cleveland Indians logo into a different context. Read the full break down from the Good Men […]

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