11 April 2016

Racist Mascots

Alongside all of the excitement and fanfare that accompanied the recent start to the 2016 MLB season (go Jays!), seeing sportscasters (and twitter users) discuss the team in Cleveland reminds me of how Native Mascots Perpetuate Racism Against Indigenous People (HuffPo Canada, 2016).

The National Congress of American Indians' "Proud to Be" campaign seeks to end the era of harmful “Indian” mascots. This site provides useful historical information about the use of harmful, stereotypical and racist caricatures of Native Americans by sporting teams. Similarly, The Native Circle explains How 'Indian' Mascots Oppress with point-by-point counterarguments to the usual reasons fans and 'devil's advocates' give to keeping racist mascots and logos (e.g. "I know Indians who have no problem with "Indian" mascots,"  "It's our 'tradition'," or "This is just 'political correctness' run amok").

To round out this sports-centric discussion of racism against First Nations and provide a bit of commentary from an anthropologist about how we are also implicated in the systemic racism of our societies is this reflective piece by anthropologist Steven E. Nash. In this article (Sapiens, 2016) Nash considers his fandom for Chicago's NHL team, their racist logo, and his role as an anthropologist:
As an anthropologist I understand the power of imagery to shape our perceptions of identity. Representations of American Indians shape the public’s concept of Native America, past and present. Anthropologists are supposed to respect difference, not turn to caricature.
Considering how normal these kinds of racist depictions of North American Indigenous Peoples are in sports iconography, this controversy can provide a useful starting point for thinking about issues of systemic racism and structural violence in the classroom. This issue might also be useful for thinking about issues of identity and representation in media, as Nash writes, "[c]hanging logos and mascots is hard because they become part of individual and collective identities."

See also: