March 31, 2007


The first annual "Civil Rights game," was played yesterday between the Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians, while game organizers sat obliviously in the bleachers with their irony-protective goggles on. Joy of Sox doesn't own any apparently, so he produced a nice post showing some other hypothetically inoffensive team mascots.

It is odd, Dartmouth is always having controversies about the Indian mascot that we got rid of in the 60's. Yet it is still extremely divisive and everyone seems to have a strong complicated opinion on it. Even though the majority was pretty firmly against it, and there was absolutely no chance of them bringing it back, stupid little controversies are always springing up over it; like conservatives selling t-shirts with the old mascot, or arguments over whether we should even play against schools that still have Native American mascots. (The worst all-time moment in the recent history of the debate would have to be a campus newspaper sticking an etching of a violent warrior holding aloft a scalp with the title "The Natives are getting restless!" on its cover in response.)

And yet, even though I think it is good that they got rid of it, the symbol was fairly dignified looking, and in no way a caricature.
As an image of an American Indian warrior as itself, out of context, it would probably not be considered offensive. Especially when compared to similar portrayals. To be clear, I am in not endorsing using stereotypes for sports teams (are you listening Celtics?). But I would look at all the vitriol engendered by our mascot, and then I would look at the Cleveland Indians, whose emblem is pretty much what you would get if you told the KKK artist-in-residence come up with the most backwards, racist, depiction imaginable--and yet you rarely hear anything about it. The outrage ratios do not seem to be correct. In places where the Native population doesn't mind, is proud of the depiction, and makes up a decent fraction of the student body, a respectful symbol isn't the worst thing in the world. For Dartmouth, it isn't appropriate, considering that the traditional tale of the college's being founded to teach American Indians is basically a myth, and that their place on our school seal, naked, approaching a symbolic cross is prettymuch unjustifiable at this point. But it isn't like in certain cases it is completely without merit to consider keeping an Indian symbol, even if it is mostly without merit. If the "anti-" side is still OK with Irish, Quakers, Cowboys, Patriots, Spartans, Trojans, Pirates, Friars, Volunteers, Sooners, and Teletubbies but never with American Indians than they are probably wrong. But even given all that, I can imagine no situation where it would be alright to keep a ridiculous, regressive, red-faced insult to Native Americans as the logo for a major sports team.