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Friday, November 11, 2005

Why these offensive images?

The University of Illinois is adamant about keeping its mascot, Chief Illiniwek. So much so, they appealed a recent ban by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prohibiting the use of Native American images and nicknames.

Well, the Illini lost their appeal and because they refuse to relinquish their mascot, they will not be allowed to host NCAA postseason events after February.

My question to the Illini is why? Why do you hold on to an image that Native Americans consider an offensive caricature? The proponents for the retention of the mascot argue that the mascot is not meant to be derogatory and that the offended are just being overly sensitive. But why wouldn't they be sensitive to their race being held in the same category as a wild animal? Lions, tigers, bears...and Injuns... We should have long been past categorizing human beings alongside animals.

The last time humans were deemed to be akin to animals gave rise to the brutal system of slavery of which we are still feeling the vestiges centuries later. Just imagine a team call the Black Bucks with a Sambo mascot doing a shuffle-and-jive dance during half-time? Does this analogy put the issue in perspective? Even your most hardened racist would know they couldn't get away with the imagery and yet no one speaks out against the mockery of Native Americans. Ironically, the portrayer is usually Caucasian, just like the earlier vaudeville camp of blackface buffoonery.

Speaking of Sambo, I also have to question why we still have Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, both based on offensive stereotypes of African-Americans. Even though they have gone through various makeovers to make them less "offensive," no modernization of the symbols can erase the history of blacks deemed to be nothing more than shuffling uncles and cooing mammies.

I don't have any expectation that we will lose Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima anytime soon. But hopefully, with pressure brought to bear, we may see the last of Chief Illiniwek and his ilk.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 11/11/2005 02:09:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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