[Marxism] Mascot colloquy
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jun 15 08:20:40 MDT 2004
The Chronicle of Higher Education is discussing the U. of Illinois
controversy right now that is unfortunately limited to subscribers.
Here's a couple of noteworthy contributions. The pro-mascot side is
mainly saying things like this: "Are the great African-American or west
Pennsylvania Croatians and Poles who play for Notre Dame really fighting
Irishmen? Uh . . . no. Does this keep us awake at night, worrying over
improper designators or slurs on former occupants of Saturday night
Author: Alan Punches/NMCC
Date: 06-14-04 09:08
This issue arose as a topic of conversation in an interdisciplinary
humanities course I team taught several years ago. What struck me at the
time, and I've heard it expressed ever since, is the spectacularly jaded
position assumed by so many of our students that "native Americans
shouldn't be offended by such matters" . . . that they are somehow being
thin-skinned about it.
It is so difficult to make people understand that it does not fall
within the moral purview of any individual to determine for another
human being what should or shouldn't offend him/her. I'm rarely more
frustrated than when somebody summarily dismisses something to which I
take and voice great umbrage.
The fact of the matter is that native Americans ARE offended by it.
They've always been offended by it and they've made it known loud and
long that they are offended by it. Simple human decency would mandate
that such offense cease.
And yet, the native American population has been singled out for
exclusion from this most common of courtesies. There is little question
that if Deep South University adopted the team name of "Spearchuckers,"
the hue and cry would effect immediate change. Still the insipid FSU
Seminole tomahawk chop and chant still drone on.
The defense of using such symbols has always been twofold: (a)
tradition, and (b) the use of such imagery honors native Americans.
Well, they don't feel honored by it, and simply want it to stop. I'm
sure they would prefer to have their wishes honored rather than some
rich, white, old men's twisted versions of their culture. And while it
may alienate the schools donors, any tradition based on racial
insensitivity and stereotyping is hardly worth passing down.
Now about the Vikings . . . and the Fighting Irish . . .
Perspective of Native Americans at UIUC
Author: Debbie Reese, Post Doc, UIUC
Date: 06-14-04 12:34
Something the article failed to note was the presence/absence of Native
American students at UIUC. In the early 1990s, there were 15 or so
tribally enrolled or tribally connected students. Now there are about
five. Since the late 1980s, there has been a Native American student
organization. Without fail, the organizations have issued statements
that they wish to see the chief retired, and that the university, as the
flagship of the University of Illinois, must take steps to provide UIUC
students and Illinois citizens with the opportunity to learn substantive
information about Native Americans. At a minimum, that meant developing
a Native American Studies Program, and recruiting Native professors,
staff, and students.
I should note that I am from a small Pueblo in New Mexico and moved to
Champaign Urbana to work on a doctorate in education in 1993. I've lived
here now for over ten years. Under Chancellor Cantor, we have made great
progress. We now have the Native American House. We now have the
beginnings of an American Indian Studies Program. We are actively
recruiting Native professors, staff, and students. With this
infrastructure, we should be in a position to grow. However, the chief
issue is well known in Native American communities across the country,
and recruits at any level invariably view the chief as a significant
negative in terms of their consideration of moving to work or study here.
The article noted that some people think the chief, logo, and nickname
all should be retired. Those people happen to be the Native American
students, staff, and faculty at UIUC, and Native Americans from the
Chicago area, including those at NAES College and the American Indian
I believe that the university will only prolong its struggle over this
issue if they keep the name. At present, those interested in such a
compromise contend that they will remove any references to Native
Americans from the way that the nickname is presented and used by the
However, the university cannot control how rival teams and others will
use "Illini." Many administrators are infuriated with UIUC plays
Michigan and students wear "Muck Fichigan" t-shirts. Students are clever
and love of team prompts them to do all manner of things with a rival
team's name. Thus, it seems the struggle doesn't end if the name is kept.
Many people who support the chief say that it honors Native Americans
because it isn't a savage representation of Native American culture. It
is the case that Native Americans predominantly appear in pop culture as
savage Indians or romantic heroes whose courage is meant to inspire us.
Some argue that the romantic image is good and should not be treated the
same as the negative one. However, the reality at UIUC and elsewhere, is
that romantic stereotypes make people think that Native Americans lives
are much like those stereotypes. They are surprised to learn that we are
living our lives with the modern conveniences mainstream Americans
enjoy. Moreover, the power of the stereotype prompts people to say
things like "you're not REALLY an Indian" if you drive a car (instead of
a horse), use power boats (instead of a canoe)....
America loves to love its Indians. Not the real ones, just those of the
imagination, those who fought valiantly, and those who lived in perfect
harmony with the earth. To love America, Americans have to cast us as
bad and thereby undeserving of this vast land, or good but vanished, so
they don't have to think about the issues involved in the history of
conflict of this land.
UIUC is no different from any other place. It loves its Indians in the
abstract, in the distant past. But UIUC should be different. It isn't a
Hollywood stage. It is an educational institution. A public one. As
such, it should divest itself of this issue.
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Re: Illinois's chief problem
Author: S. Peterfreund, English, NU
Date: 06-15-04 08:21
There is no way that a colonizing nation can respectfully represent
those that it has deracinated in the act of colonization. To represent
the Illini accurately as an essentially peaceful plains tribe is to beg
the question of why we felt the need--or felt we had the authority--to
drive them from their ancestral lands. And to represent them as a
bizarre caricature of Native Americans is to disrespect the sorrowful
history that we compiled.
The continuing use of Chief Illiniwek as a symbol of Illinois-UC sports
should only be allowed if it is possible to find a living descendant of
the tribe willing to play the part, which would no longer be dancing or
cheerleading, but merely bearing witness to the lands and way of life
destroyed to validate America's manifest destiny. Alternatively, the
figure could be a living person or a representation, so long as the
latter was rendered by Native American artists. With all respect,
retaining the name without the symbol has the effect of emptying the
name of its historicity, sort of like having a cricket team named the
Slugging Sepoy in the days of the British Raj.
The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
More information about the Marxism