With Chief Illiniwek dead and gone, though never forgotten by his loyal supporters, we now have a very clear and pressing issue both at the University of Illinois, and at all campuses impacted by the racist and selectively enforced policies of the NCAA. What should we choose to replace to dearly loved symbols which have been so heartlessly snatched away from us?

In honor of the people who launched the racist campaign against Native American mascots, I suggest The Straw man. Lately we have seen a number of individuals in the anti-Native American camp suggest that having a student dress up in Native American costume is the equivalent of wearing blackface. They then go on to suggest that we the loyal supporters have no arguments against their claims. They foolishly attempt to prove this assertion through the use of straw man arguments, such as this one presented pictorially by an artist for the Daily Illini in his comic dragon and goat. Evidently these individuals are unaware of the fact that a Straw Man argument is a logical fallacy, and so by resorting to it, they are in effect proving themselves wrong.

As a matter of fact, using Native American costume is not at all like blackface, and our argument is absolutely not that it is “tradition” which somehow makes everything all right. Instead of actually investigating our arguments, these individuals instead take the untenable position of a Straw Man, and after knocking down the fake argument they have set up, declare victory and go home. It is hard to blame them, however, as it is obvious from whom they have learned their questionable debating skills.

Fundamentally our arguments come from logic and reason. Let us look closely at the accusation. Blackface is, as we all know, a performance style that was popular in the early days of show business which involved a white individual painting their face black to appear as if they were another race. For the accusation against Native American mascots to hold water, we would have to see evidence of the individuals trying to make themselves look like they were racially a member of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Since we know that, as a race, these individuals did not have a specific costume that was universal to all members of their ethnic group we begin to punch holes in their argument. We must then surmize that perhaps if students were painting their skin red, or bronze, or otherwise trying to alter their apparent race, this comparison might be valid. However this has not happened, proving that at heart this isn’t an issue of disguising race, but instead of using a costume.

Wearing the costume of a Sioux Chieftain is not like Blackface, it is akin to dressing up like a knight in shining armor, wearing the wig and petticoat of a colonial gentleman, or putting on a kilt and tartan like a Scottish nobleman. This use of costume as a form of expression is a long honored tradition the world over. One need only go to a Civil War reenactment, a Colonial village, or a Renaissance Fair to see how much we as a society love to honor other cultures by dressing up as them. No one would even think of suggesting these were akin to blackface, because we all know there is no relation. One is trying to disguise one’s race, the other is simply honoring a culture by appreciating their ceremonial dress.

The opponents of Native American imagery need to grow up and drop their racist habits. Most of us learned how to play well with others and how to share back in pre-school. We also learned that for a policy to be fair it must be applied equally, and with no exceptions. No one who ever saw the Chief perform thought he was actually a Native American, there was no attempt to portray racial characteristics. They saw him for what he was, a man in a costume, celebrating a tradition and the beauty of the imagery held by a Chieftan. No one was oppressed by this, just as no Europeans are oppressed when an Asian plays World of Warcraft, using imagery derived from European ancestry. Sharing our costume, culture, and heritage is wonderful beautiful thing, not oppression.

But in the mean time, until logic and reason can win over their racist hearts, I suggest we take a play from their own book and make our new mascot something they obviously honor and love. The Straw man.

-Angry Midwesterner

Angry Midwesterner

In a followup to my earlier article, Racism at the Bat, which discussed the inherent hypocrisy and Racism exhibited by the NCAA in their decision to only label Native American mascots and symbols as hostile and abusive, I now bring you absolute proof that their policy is unjust, unfair, and uncalled for.

The original list which the NCAA distributed is supposedly an all inclusive list of those mascots which are hostile and abusive. Closer inspection, however, will reveal a very conspicious omission. Somehow San Diego State got left off the list! What a tragedy! But of course, it must be an honest mistake. Right? I mean, obviously since they call themselves the Aztecs and use a blatent caricature of a Native American leader, Montezuma, as their official mascot they are in clear violation just like all of the other schools. Surely this is simply an oversight on the part of the NCAA who just happened to miss the school. After all they are working to eliminate all of the mascots which reference Native Americans, because using native peoples as a mascot is wrong, hostile and abusive.

I mean, when you think about it there are a LOT of schools out there. Who has the time to look through all of their mascots? It isn’t as if the Chancellor of the NCAA Division I board of directors has any personal knowledge of San Diego State, right? Oh wait! He does! He is in fact President of San Diego State! What a shocking revelation! I’m absolutely astounded myself, this makes it look like Stephen Weber may have been unethical and kept his own University off of the list without the normal process of appeals that even Florida State had to go through. Was Chancellor Weber playing favorites?!?! Say it isn’t so!

The official story from the NCAA is that no “organized tribe” relating to the Aztecs could be found for comment. Oh, ok. Now it becomes clear. Obviously the issue here is that all of the schools on the list specifically refer to an existing tribe? Such as the following references to specific organized tribes?

  • Alcorn State Braves
  • Catawba College Indians
  • Midwestern State Indians
  • Bradley Braves
  • Arkansas State Indians
  • Chowan College Braves
  • Louisiana-Monroe Indians
  • McMurry Indians
  • Newberry College Indians
  • Indiana U.-Pennsylvania Indians
  • William and Mary Tribe

Oh wait! Those mascots didn’t refer to an organized tribe either! Somehow they ended up on the list, yet the Aztecs, a people who were massacred by the Europeans, and the school’s official symbol, Montezuma the leader of the Aztecs when the Europeans began their conquest for Spain, stayed off.

Imagine that, a whole slew of schools get blackmailed by the NCAA under the pretense of “eliminating hostile and abusive” native american imagery, and then we go and find out that the Aztec Warriors mysteriously get left off of the list of schools to blackmail, somehow getting a pass when other schools are held to the fire. It’s time for the NCAA to drop the false pretenses they are using, and to end their assault on the self determination rights of Universities. Their racism, favoritism, and corruption has been exposed and it should be obvious to any who review the evidence that what they have done is nothing more than blackmail. It’s time to bring back Chief Illiniwek, the feathers of William and Mary, and to end the assault on North Dakota and every other school on the dreaded, yet mysteriously incomplete, list.

-Angry Midwesterner

Angry Midwesterner

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,
but there is no joy in Illinois —
racism has won out.”
(With Apologies to Ernest Thayer)

Racism has won a record victory in Illinois, as the University of Illinois has been blackmailed into retiring its once proud symbol, Chief Illiniwek. The end of this tradition is a blow to those who have fought for equality everywhere, for it represents a massive injustice. Many anti-Chief organizations and individuals will try to trick you into thinking this is a victory against racism, but their lies are nothing but a flimsy facade for their own bigoted agenda.

What we have witnessed in the past few years, across this great nation’s campuses, are acts of discrimination by the NCAA. They have singled out schools that use native American imagery and labeled them as hostile and abusive. Evidently the NCAA believes that native American imagery should be restricted and only used by native Americans. They are trying to deny the right we all have to the history of this land, and they are doing so on the basis of race. Surprisingly, one will not find someone arguing that images of George Washington should be restricted so that only those of British descent may use his likeness. No, this door only swings one way, which makes it racist at its very core.

But the racism of the NCAA reaches far beyond the question of who can use symbols, and to the idea of which symbols are hostile and abusive. The noble portrayal of a Chieftain who leads a University in solemn song and dance is evidently cause for offense, but the numerous mascots which reflect badly on other races, peoples, and religions are not hostile and abusive. After all, if they depict white people, or a minority without a large enough bankroll, they can’t be hostile or abusive, can they?

If the NCAA is really looking to eliminate hostile and abusive mascots (rather than their true goal of promoting racism and lining their own greedy pockets) there is a long list of mascots in need retiring, let us take a look at some of the highlights:

First and foremost, we have those mascots which mock religious groups. While many claimed that Chief Illiniwek was somehow offensive to native American religious beliefs, no one seems to find the Wake Forest Demon Deacon offensive. Personally, I think describing Baptists as evil and demonic is a pretty clear ringer for offensive. But the NCAA doesn’t consider Wake Forest to have a hostile and abusive mascot. The same goes for the University of Pennsylvania, who use the Fighting Quakers as their mascot. Why isn’t the NCAA knocking on their door fighting for the rights of these maligned and abused religious groups?

Even worse than jabs at religious groups are the numerous mascots which mock and display inaccurate caricatures of blue collar workers, such as Purdue’s Boilermakers, the University of Nebraska’s Herbie Husker, or the University of Missouri-Rolla’s Joe Miner. A group of intellectuals using the likeness of a stereotyped blue collar worker at sporting events has obvious connotations. The blue collar worker is supposed to be big, dumb, and strong, and thus good at sports. None of the students or faculty will likely end up in these blue collar and sometimes dangerous jobs, nor will they likely associate with the people they are stereotyping. But the NCAA still turns a blind eye. Evidently they don’t care about abuse directed at the working class.

Lastly are the countless inappropriate ethnic mascots. Whether suggesting that a certain ethnic group tends to drink heavily and fight (Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish), further smearing the reputation of Greece (Michigan State’s Sparty the Spartan), a country that already has to deal with the term “Greek” being tied to rape, drunkenness, and disorderly conduct, or slamming an under protected minority group (the UCSB’s mascot Gaucho Joe), the NCAA is going to extreme lengths not to protect these races, ethnicities and backgrounds. All it would take would be an admission that these mascots are just as hostile and abusive as native American mascots, if not more so.

So we have to ask ourselves, is the NCAA really trying to eliminate hostile and abusive mascots? Of course not. They are really just looking to promote racism by blackmailing schools they see as easy targets. One need only look so far as the complaints against Chief Illiniwek to see the proof. One individual said: “It’s hard to construe the dancing white guy in face paint as anything other than an offensive caricature.”

Note the use of “white guy”. I’m surprised it is that easy to claim you are fighting against racism, while spewing racist crap yourself.

-Angry Midwesterner

Angry Midwesterner