It’s baseball season, I’m a native Clevelander, and those two things make it impossible for me to ignore this story. Shortly before Memorial Day, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter to the NFL urging them to change the team name of the Washington Redskins. Pretty much everyone agrees that the Cleveland Indians’ team name and mascot, “Chief Wahoo,” are the next to go. One of Ohio’s senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown, supports dumping Chief Wahoo.
Native American activists object to the name “Redskin” on the grounds that it’s a racial slur. The National Congress of American Indians created a compelling Super Bowl ad that laid out the case for changing Washington’s team name. However, the word “Indian” was mentioned in the ad as a perfectly acceptable, even positive, way to describe Native Americans. And they ignored Chief Wahoo.
And that leaves me wondering: who is Sherrod Brown to tell us that the Indians’ mascot is “racially insensitive” and “offensive” to actual Indians? He’s not an Indian. How many Native Americans does Sherrod Brown know?
I’m guessing that Brown didn’t consult any Native Americans on this issue. Instead, he dissed his hometown’s mascot in an attempt to impress fellow white liberals. It’s always fun watching white, Yale-educated politicians pretend to be in touch with the Native American community (or the black community, or the Latino community) to a point where they start acting like spokesmen on their behalf. It seems a little paternalistic, like they’re the benevolent and noble white men speaking up for the Little Brown Brothers.
Unfortunately, no one in the minority community ever seems to care as much as they do. Remember when Mississippi voted on whether or not to keep the Confederate flag in the corner of the 1894 state flag? From the way white liberals in the media talked, the “racist” flag was the biggest problem facing blacks in Mississippi: bigger than health care, bigger than job loss, bigger than crime or war. It was the be-all, end-all issue for blacks…as far as they knew.
Then the vote came. Thirty percent of blacks wanted to keep the state flag, and considering the low voter turnout, most of the rest didn’t care either way. 30 percent isn’t a majority, but it’s a sizable number who openly disagree with the benevolent white “progressives” acting as their self-appointed representatives.
These are lessons to be learned for the people demanding an overhaul of Indian-themed team names and mascots. Maybe the white spokespeople need to actually meet some minorities before going on these self-righteous crusades that benefit no one but themselves.