Thursday, April 06, 2006

American Indian Mascot as U.S. Cultural Faux Pas

You have most likely heard a quote similar to, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” Although I am not an advocate of political correctness as it hides blatant prejudice, I have to ask the question, “Why is the American Indian not afforded political correctness in naming conventions?”

After having had a wonderful conversation with an American Indian couple about developing an intercultural communication class or rather a course called, “Working with American Indians” (a course much over due and needed in today’s business and social society), an old hurt came to the surface and a little frustration appeared. The frustration surrounds the use of ethnic Indian names without permission and want. What about these American Indian Mascots? Let’s face it! How can we as an American society allow ourselves to accept blatant cultural faux pas without blinking an eye? Is money the driver? Is pride an issue at stake? Whose pride? Do we allow a few to suffer for the joy of many?

How many ways can we insult the American Indian? How many ways can we lift up the American Indian? I found a quote on the internet and here it is, "When I first landed in Cincinnati, I thought there weren't any Indians living here. But since noon, I have seen a Cherokee, Navajo, Winnebago, Dakota, Mohawk and a Comanche ~ and those were just the RV's, trucks, cars and small aircraft (Dennis Banks)." Dennis brings up an even bigger issue, not only ethnic sport names are being used, but many items for sale incorporate the American Indian in their marketing. Is the American benefiting in any way from these sales?

Here are a couple examples of ethnic sport names in use today, the Blackhawk’s, Warriors, Chiefs, Indians, Seminoles, Braves, Redskins and I am sure there are more. These are all cultural and ethnic names of professional and amateur sports teams that use the Indian and reference to Indians for their nicknames, logos and mascots. How many other high schools and colleges are out there using similar ethnic nicknames? There are many people on both sides of this issue. Some of these people feel the use of such logos or mascots is insensitive and/or racist. On the other hand, some feel these ethnic logos and mascots honor Native Americans. Has the U.S. really ever honored the Indian people? The U.S. culture clashes with the American Indian culture. The cultures do not follow the same lines. What exactly do you really know about the American Indian?

This is a very controversial and complex issue that needs to be decided once and for all. Is it or is it not a blatant cultural faux pas to use ethnicity as a naming convention? What names can’t be renamed?

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