Monday, October 22, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen...The New York Darkies


I'm not one for political correctness and this really isn't about that, but the logo of the Cleveland Indians has to go. How has this symbol not been replaced? How is this different from the stereotypical images perpetuated by performers who used to appear in blackface for a hundred years? The Indians say that their name was changed in 1915 to honor the first native American to play in the majors. I personally find that hard to believe, but if that's their story, I'll take them at face value. What I do have a problem with is their depiction of "Chief Wahoo" as a grinning red skinned indian. I don't care what their original intent was, that caricature should be offensive to almost anyone who views it.

The position of those who want to keep the logo as it is, reminds me of the postition taken by those who wanted to keep the confederate flag as part of the state flags of southern states. People argued that it was there to remind them of their southern heritage, rather than a reminder of slavery and oppression. The truth was that the "stars and bars" were added to most of the state flags as show of defiance when the civil rights laws were enacted in the sixties. The people who were defending the flag felt like they were under attack by outsiders, so they took a position that was basically indefensible because they didn't feel like they should be told what to do. The people who defend the Chief Wahoo logo probably feel the same way. They feel like they are under attack from the "political correctness police" and so they have become more entrenched in their position, regardless of how objectively indefensible it may be.

Using Chief Wahoo to honor the American Indian makes as much sense as the Yankees being renamed the "Darkies" and using a grinning blackface image to honor the contribution of African-Americans. Or how about the New York Paddys, with a caricature of a drunk irishman with a big red nose and a bottle of booze in his hands? Or how about the New York Mafia, with a picture of a Italian man with a machine gun in his hands as the logo?

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