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Friday, March 13, 2009
Retiring WahooIn addition to some spirited discussion in the comments thread, Wednesday's post about Chief Wahoo brought about an email from the folks at the Cleveland Frowns blog thanking me for raising the issue. Given their singular devotion to Cleveland sports, the Cleveland Frowns guys have spent a lot more time thinking about this than I have and, not surprisingly, have a much more thoughtful take on the subject. From their signature post on Wahoo last summer, some words worth remembering:
Those who want to bury Wahoo have to acknowledge why he has lasted so long -- that in doing so they would be burying more than a racist caricature; they would be burying a part of our childhood and our culture. They must acknowledge that our collective attachment to Wahoo has little to nothing to do with an intent to disparage a race of people. So much of the resistance to attempts to get rid of Wahoo is a natural reaction by Tribe fans who feel that those who protest Wahoo are accusing them of racism, and telling them that there is something fundamentally wrong with those magical trips to the ballgame. This would offend anyone’s sense of justice. These activists must acknowledge the innocent aspects of our attachment to Wahoo before their appeals to his harmful effect will ever be well-received.
The Frowns' have couched their anti-Wahoo campaign in a curse they believe his visiage has brought down upon Cleveland sports. I don't believe in curses (or Buddha, Manta, Gita, Yoga, kings, Elvis, Zimmerman or Beatles) but one need not believe in them in order to want to relegate Chief Wahoo to the dustbin of history. Likewise, one need not demonize as racist the Indians' fans who grew up with Wahoo and take issue with folks who think like I do on the subject.
Either way, I highly recommend that you read the Cleveland Frowns' post because it is devoid of the kneejerk p.c. sentiment so many people accuse the anti-Wahoo camp of harboring. And if their arguments convince you, sign their petition to retire Chief Wahoo.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 9:47am
I disagree. Without passing judgment on whether the establishment’s actions were demeaning in truth, he essentially took millions for doing nothing, and he has been irrelevant ever since.
Posted 03/13 at 07:14 PM
C-Town Fan said...
Jacob Rothberg sure is full of himself, among other things. How he gets from “wherewithal to worry about cartoon mascots” to “we’re not racist we’re just ignorant fun lovin’ sports fans” is unbelievable. Rothberg is probably the same guy driving the Lexus because those “Japs” make good cars then auto locks the doors when an African American couple pull along side of his car at a stop light. Anyone who spouts holier than thou surely isn’t.
Posted 03/13 at 09:08 PM
I randomly decided to listen to that Lennon album today, Its pretty solid all the way through, and that song “god” that Craig mentions is great and challenging.
There was a discussion about this topic over at LetsGoTribe.com that I’ll link here:
This is one of the better discussions I’ve seen on here (or any other site) and to tell you the truth as an Clevaland Indians fan, I see valid points being made from multiple sides, which both intrigues and and excites me. I’m not sure where I fall in this debate, and I’m also not sure my individual opinion really matters (change comes from those in charge. A Cleveland Indians’ fan individually isn’t in charge, Cleveland Indians’ fans as a whole are in charge), but I applaud this discussion.
Posted 03/14 at 03:19 AM
My Grandmother is Native American,I have a dream catcher,and a medicine man tatooed on my arm. I am a cleveland fan, so i also have a tatoo of Chief Wahoo. Am i a racist,I THINK NOT. Racism would die in this country if it was not shoved in our faces every day by people who wont just let go of the past
Posted 03/14 at 12:30 PM
Sara K said...
Jim - I think most of the conversation has been about how using the term “racism” is a big part of the problem. That’s why the Cleveland Frowns guys are doing what they can to put the issue in other terms. No one is saying that Cleveland fans are racist.
The willingness to “let go of the past” is at the very heart of the issue. If we should be willing to let go of the past, then why not change the logo, which is an outdated remnant of the past? Why does it *have* to be a reference to a racial/ethnic group?
Posted 03/14 at 02:04 PM
walter c moreland said...
leave the indians alone,the ones who are complaining have an idenity crisis,they would cry even if the team were called the lans stand or the calvery, or the cleveland abolistionist
Posted 03/15 at 09:31 AM
Real American said...
Why don’t we just eliminate all images of American Indians from our entire society and forget they even exist. Wouldn’t that just solve this problem? While we’re at it. Let’s change the names of our landmarks and cities and states that bear American Indian names. That way, no one would be offended anymore.
Or why don’t we just make Chief Wahoo a white guy.
In all seriousness, I fail to see the problem here. The American Indians who are complaining about Wahoo, as well as the guilty whites, see Wahoo and automatically think negative thoughts about American Indians, or so they say.
The folks who like Chief Wahoo see the image and think Omar Vizquel and Bob Feller, and fail to see any racism or have any negative connotation of American Indians. So, what the American Indians and their guilty white partners are afraid of, what they say Wahoo represents and creates: negative image and dehumanizing of American Indians or “that’s real,” isn’t actually occurring, except by them. In other words, its the anti-Wahoo side that is obsessing over race or ethnicity and making distinctions on that basis, not the other way around. That’s racism.
Yes, it’s a caricature. So what? The ones complaining about it are the ones with the racist views, not the other way around. The pro-Wahoo folks see the image and fail to think “American Indians are bad” and people complain about it. People should think this is a positive development.
In any event, is anyone hurt by Chief Wahoo? Does Chief Wahoo deprive anyone of any rights? Does he prevent anyone from getting a job or admission to a school or a government contract? This argument is a waste of time for everybody. Stop being so offended by something that has nothing to do with you and doesn’t injure you in the least. For all that dying to be offended by Chief Wahoo, then get a damn life.
Posted 03/15 at 05:02 PM
Sara K said...
I don’t think that people who see Chief Wahoo necessarily have “negative” thoughts about Native Americans. But a few questions come to mind…
Is Chief Wahoo meant to represent “Indians” in some respect? If so, what ideas/values does he communicate?
Posted 03/15 at 05:56 PM
Cleveland Frowns said...
Thanks for the post, Shyster. Some good comments here. But to Real American directly above, and to those who think that the Fighting Irish or Minnesota Vikings logos are remotely comparable, consider that those were logos of white people made by white people.
Real American, Wahoo does deprive someone of rights. It deprives a race of people of the right to not have a Major League Baseball team emblazoned with a logo intended to cast that race as anachronistic savages. The symbolism is huge here. Like some folks have argued above, if the logo were a black ‘sambo’ caricature, or a big nosed jewish caricature, or that of nearly any other nonwhite race, it would be long gone. The fact that Wahoo still exists is, more than anything, a testament to the political powerlessness of Natives.
We’re not dying to be offended by things, especially not by baseball logos We’re just embarrassed by the fact that our baseball team/city is the “beneficiary” of native political powerlessness in this way. If we were Natives, we would at least be depressed by this. Why should we cling to a logo that makes things at least a little bit harder for another race? It’s just not worth it.
Also, we have no problem with the team name “Indians.” Northeast Ohio has a rich Native tradition. The logo should reflect that with a dignified representation. There’s no way that Wahoo could be considered as such.
Posted 03/15 at 06:17 PM
I was called a racist about 10 years ago because I’m a Red Sox fan and once upon a time the Sox were run by racists.
Posted 03/16 at 10:50 AM