Chicago Blackhawks logo
Last week, Damian Cox published an article in the Toronto Star discussing the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo suggesting it was perhaps time to abandon the stereotypical image. Since I am of Native heritage, Goddess Kaat suggested that perhaps I weigh in on the topic. We have had numerous conversations about sports teams and the use of Native names and mascots and she thought it was finally time for the Goddesses to address it.
Initially, I was hesitant. After all, we have much larger issues that are pressing to First Nations peoples, but upon further investigation I was shocked to find that Cox’s article had spawned a racist backlash on numerous message boards. This is not uncommon when people feel their sports team’s history is being threatened. Nothing gets people as riled up as their home sports team and its traditions. Yet the misinformation and racism that was being thrown out on various forums was too disturbing to ignore.
Let’s briefly address the issue that has caused the big uproar. Cox claims that the Indian head logo is much like the cigar store Indian and that the time has come to stop using ethnic groups as mascots. He erred on the side of caution – by proposing the removal of the Indian head on the Blackhawks’ jersey.
This is a legitimate debate. Indians have had their names and likeness appropriated by the dominant culture for years. Yet whereas some issues seem pretty cut and dry (the nickname “Redskins” or the caricature Cleveland Indian,) the Indian head logo is not. Some Native tribes actually use this same logo for their own sports teams. When asked about the logo, Blair Atcheynum, a Native and former member of the Chicago Blackhawks, said it didn’t bother him. But to other Natives it is still a symbol of the European conquest and hegemony.
To me, the real issue seems to be the fallacies in arguing for keeping the logo and the racism that has reared its ugly head in response to such an article. Such as:
- “It’s the third most popular jersey in the league! Thousands of people spend their money on team apparel because they like it. It’s stupid to get rid of it.”
This is the ever popular “bandwagon fallacy.” Think 5 billion Chinese people can’t be wrong? Why not? Guess what folks, they can. The thousands of Nazis all thought they were right too.
- “I don’t see it as insulting. I see it as honoring Native Americans.”
Great. But this isn’t about you. It’s about the group that is being represented. They should be the ones determining what is honoring and what is insulting.
- “Other teams are named after ethic groups. What about the fighting Irish?”
Ever hear the term “two wrongs don’t make a right?”
- “People are too PC anymore. Indians need to get thicker skins if they’re offended.”
Well, we have pretty thick skins as it is. We wouldn’t have been able to survive 500 years of conquest if we didn’t. It’s not being PC. It’s common sense. I think we can all agree that if a team logo was an Arab man with stereotypical Arab features wearing a Muslim headdress there’d be trouble.
- “I’m from (such and such) tribe and don’t find it offensive.”
We’re getting closer. If the people that are being represented are not offended, then perhaps it’s not an issue. But if some are, then clearly it is.
- “That’s not offensive. Offensive would be a dirty Indian huffing glue … even though it would actually be more correct.”
Wow. Really? And this was one of the tamer of the racist posts I saw.
Unfortunately, what this post really brought to light was that Native Americans are the one ethnicity that are still allowed to be represented without their consent. It also revealed that such ugly racism is accepted when it comes to certain ethnic groups. And while I was initially on the fence about this particular team identity, I am beginning to think that the casual acceptance of such logos only tells people that it’s ok to be not only culturally insensitive but outright racist about that particular group.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a sports fanatic and can appreciate the tradition behind many teams. I understand that many people’s identities are largely based on their sports teams. I’m more than willing to engage in an intelligent conversation about the topic at hand. I simply think that in today’s society it’s become an all about “me” scenario and what might be disappointing to an individual fan of a sports team, rather than the good of an entire group of people.
Seems a bit petty when put that way, doesn’t it?
Image: Chicago Blackhawks logo from NHL.com.