Retiring Wahoo

In 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.

Once Tribe fans believe that our love for Wahoo is understood, we will be more apt to ask ourselves why we would want to be attached any longer to a symbol as potentially demeaning to a race of people as Wahoo is.

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.

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Comments

  1. Sara K said...

    Great follow-up, Craig, and an important point made. Long-held associations surely must be hard to let go, especially since we essentially root for whoever happens to be wearing the laundry. The great Cleveland area fans deserve to enjoy their team without hint of shame.

    (click!)

  2. Sabertooth said...

    Bah!  I’m Irish and the Notre Dame mascot is far more defamatory than is Chief Wahoo, but it’s fun and this is sports for Pete’s sake.  People need to get a life, or realize how good their lives must be that they have the time and energy and wherewithal to worry about cartoon mascots of sports teams.

  3. Jacob Rothberg said...

    But isn’t this the entire problem? In 2009, the “we’re not racist we’re just ignorant fun lovin’ sports fans” argument just doesn’t hold water anymore. There should be no room for this kind of thing, and anybody who tries to condone it through the lens of nostalgia is complicit in furthering this demeaning garbage. There should be no wiggle-room for any kind of support or understanding of ‘Chief Wahoo’, the people of Cleveland do not need their feelings taken care of, they just need to stop supporting racism. Immediately.

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jacob—if you read the whole post you’ll realize that neither the Frowns’ nor I am condoning it.  We’re simply acknowledging that there are many people who are Indians fans who either don’t think about the racist implications of Wahoo or who may acknowledge it as falling into some “historical exceptions” clause and therefore less offensive somehow. Whether such a position is an intellectually valid one or not is irrelevant.  These are the people—good fans who support the team—that the Indians have to consider when making changes.

    The response is a simple one: acknowledge that your opponents in this (and any) debate are not monsters and that, though you may find their reasoning flawed, they do not.  That, in order to build a positive consensus towards positive change, it’s better to be inclusive than exclusive.

    I don’t see the problem in that.  More importantly, I don’t see how doing that makes getting rid of Wahoo any harder.  Indeed, I think it would make it much, much easier.

  5. Aarcraft said...

    Sabertooth: Isn’t the Fighting Irish mascot a leprachaun? Thats a bit different than a cartoon caricature of an actual ethnic group. It might be demeaning to leprachauns, but I don’t hear them complaining.

  6. Jacob Rothberg said...

    Craig – what i am saying is, there should be no debate. The “good people” you reference are casual racists, whether they like it or not,  and the fact that their feelings need to be acknowledged and assuaged only goes to show how far American society has yet to go before the evils of racism are purged. They are not monsters, they are just wrong, and engaging them in discussion will only serve to lengthen the amount of time that this degrading image can continue to be paraded across America’s televisions.

  7. kranky kritter said...

    Craig,

    Very well put. I would really like to see wahoo retired in a positive way. IMo it’s a far more positive resolution if current fans are allowed to be included as good guys in a collective decision.

    Symbols are quite capable of having different meanings to different people, and no harm is done to anyone’s PoV by noticing this. For example, the swastika used to have other positive meanings, and then it got co-opted by an ambitious graphic designer and ruined by a bunch of heinous a-holes. It’s ruined forever. Just the way it is.

    I experienced a similar thing to the Wahoo tale years ago when our town’s team symbol was a rebel flag for the Walpole Rebels. Being a town in Massachusetts and not the south, we spent a long time building nothing but positive meaning behind this symbol as representative of noble ragtag defiance. Then later it came into question. And when I thought about it, I decided that it was important to me that folks passing through wouldn’t get the wrong idea about what we stood for. That really mattered, to me, and I was able to see that even though the symbol had nothing but positive connotations to natives, the symbol was nevertheless tarnished, and change was called for.

    If you support a symbol, you have to be aware of what it means to others, not just you.

    Jacob, I don’t understand why you think we’re well-served by retiring Wahoo in such a way that a bunch of simple well-meaning folks must be cast in the role of ignorant bad guys. If important change can come while minimizing the bad will and resentment that is created in its wake, more of us win.

  8. Jacob Rothberg said...

    Sabertooth – tell me when the American Government and people carried out a concerted effort towards a genocide of the Irish, and then your comparison will hold water.

  9. Jacob Rothberg said...

    Look – I’m sorry for the language here, and don’t print this if you disagree, but this is something i feel strongly about – If they were called the Cleveland Negroes and their mascot was a grinning minstrel or if they were called the Cleveland Jews and their mascot was a long-nosed banker, there would be no debate. This is the same, its just that Native Americans have been so marginalized that people feel like this kind of casual degradation is acceptable, when it definitely isn’t.

  10. kranky kritter said...

    I think it can be pretty tedious when folks insist that an analogy must provide exact symmetry in order to “hold water.”

    Certainly the behavior of the early American gov’t towards America’s natives was ugly and heinous and shameful. But this does not mean that the modern standard for being offended by stereotypes must include a component of genocide. That’s just silly.

    I’ve thought that the Wahoo symbol is ugly and embarassing to Indians fans for some time, and that it ought to go. But I still stand comfortably with all the folks who think we might be better-served if Americans spent less time being offended and getting all worked up about symbols and word choices. In lieu of that,we could used spend all that saved time being offended by harmful actions. Just a thought from someone who sadly lacks an endless reservoir of both outrage _and_ time to spend feeling outraged.

    In general, I find rage to be a an expensive and unreliable form of mental fuel.

    But if the ND mascot is in fact a leprechaun, which is a mythical creature, then I think that’s a pretty good counterargument.

  11. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jacob—I think we’re misunderstanding each other. No one is suggesting that there’s a debate about the ultimate appropriateness of Wahoo. We’re talking about the practicalities of relegating him to history.  I want that to happen as efficiently and quickly as possible.  History suggests that simply asserting the wrongness of one’s opponents and the righteousness of one’s own cause protracts, rather than contracts, that process.  I have no intention to ever entertain the idea that Wahoo is not offensive and would not do so if I ran the Indians.  At the same time, however, acknowledging that many people who want to support my product—Indians baseball—don’t feel the same way about it as me is a harmless and potentially helpful gesture.

  12. kranky kritter said...

    Jacob, I don’t think it’s acceptable either. And I think that its clear that the folks Craig is highlighting don’t think so either.

    To me, the salient question is how to bring about the change that we’d like to see. Obviously you have very strong feelings about this, and I respect that. In fact I share them to a substantial extent.

    The question you need to ask yourself is this. If the desirable change you want can be brought about, is it essential for it to come about in a way that you get to experience feelings of self-righteous vindication at the expense of folks who are assigned to the bad guy category? Or is that less important than the actual change?

  13. Rob said...

    “The ‘good people’ you reference are casual racists”

    This is exactly the kind of rhetoric that does nothing to move the discussion forward.  We all have to understand that these symbols have different meanings to different people and any argument that boils down to, “You’re racist because I say you are”  is a nonstarter.

    The bottom line is that many people view Chief Wahoo as nothing more than a stupid logo, one that carries more association to a baseball team than to the Native Americans that it ostensibly represents.

  14. tadthebad said...

    While I support removing Chief Wahoo as the Indians mascot, it also strikes me that as long as we as individuals or a whole are focused or obsessed with finding evidence of racism, we will find it.  As far as the Irish go, without going as far genocide, they have certainly experienced racism and efforts to minimilize their existence.  Perhaps not by the US Gov, although I’m sure someone could make a case for it.  Interestingly enough, the Irish (full disclosure: my heritage) are one of the only cultures/nationalities for which it remains generally acceptable to make fun…usually with references to alcohol. 

    I think you are right, Craig.

  15. Bernie said...

    It is a freakin’ CARTOON!  I’m a white guy and look nothing like Homer Simpson and as a child I looked nothing like Charlie Brown.  I see no outrage and call to remove those CARTOONS from the stage.  Why can’t people understand that it’s CARTOON.  What about Fat Albert?  The Family Guy?  King of the Hill?  Like Wahoo, they’re all CARTOONS.

  16. Sean said...

    I hope you meant it, because that Ferris Bueller scene-drop just made my day:

    A person should not believe in an “-ism,” he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.”

  17. Heath said...

    I think I fall on Jacob’s side of the argument on this one, I don’t think that the Cleveland fans are racist, casual or otherwise but that doesn’t make that caricature any more appealing.

    I am a Washington Redskins fan so I am intimately familiar with this debate. I won’t stop supporting my team due to a mascot because, in my mind, it is ultimately “only a mascot”. However as soon as you ascribe emotinal feelings on the mascot (“a part of our childhood and our culture”), you have lost the argument. I have stated to fellow Redskin fans that it wouldn’t bother me in the least if they dropped the Redskins moniker and they have a visceral reaction to that idea while invoking “heritage”, “tradition” and “childhood memories”. If a fan has this kind of reaction, how would you expect a Native American to react to (what many consider) an affront to their entire racial heritage, not just their sporting heritage? If it’s “only a mascot”, that argument has to work both ways.

    All this said, the question is moot as long as the teams are privately owned and public opinion is on their side. The teams will not change the logos.

    Signed,

    A fan of Cherokee descent who is not personally offended by these mascots…

  18. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Sean—that was really a John Lennon drop, from his song “God.”  In the movie, Bueller was quoting the song.

  19. Chris H. said...

    I agree with Rob and (it seems) most of the other comments here that by demonizing the supporters, you end up with a “non-starter.”  That’s true in most situations, I expect.

    The image is, of course, racist.  It’s also the symbol of a team.  It’s many things, and if we ignore that, we’ll never get it changed.

    Jacob: I understand completely where you are coming from.  This is an issue of practicality/expediency.  Yes, if it were the Cleveland Negroes with a minstrel logo, we wouldn’t be having this debate.  Yes, you are correct that Native Americans have been marginalized to the point where there isn’t nearly the same sense of outrage.  But the quickest way to get rid of Chief Wahoo is not by telling the Wahoo supporters that they are racist and wrong.

  20. Chris H. said...

    Bernie: are you seriously saying you can’t understand the difference between a cartoon like The Simpsons and a racist caricature?  Really?

  21. bernie said...

    Please, enlighten me.  Precisely what is the difference between Homer Simpson, Fat Albert and Chief Wahoo?  What, exactly makes Wahoo “racist” and other two not?

  22. Bill Sperounis said...

    The Native American issue is more complex than most today want to admit.  It is definitely a blight on the historical record.  However, if you really get into the history, what transpired was the result of actions by both sides.  The problem is that the early attempts at more peaceful solutions were undermined by representatives from both sides creating a distrust that could not be overcome.  I get where Jacob is coming from but getting rid of a mascot is not going to change any of that.  Maybe it might give a few a more warm fuzzy feeling but I do not see that as a reason for getting rid of a mascot (and I really do not care if it stays or goes; it has zero affect on me.)  Jacob and others want to make a token gesture that makes them feel better about themselves.  Were I a Native American, I would take more offense at the bogus gesture than the mascot.  I actually think it is humorous that people like Jacob want to get rid of a mascot; if they are really upset about what transpired, they should move out of the country as the space that they occupy/own is not rightfully theirs to occupy or own if you carry their logic to its conclusion.

  23. kranky kritter said...

    Bernie, I just can’t credit your hypothesis, which is apparently that a cartoon cannot be offensive or racist. It simply makes no sense whatsoever to me.

  24. bernie said...

    My hypothesis is not that a cartoon “can’t” be racist.  I totally agree it can be.  My question is why are two cartoons, which are obviously exaggerated caricatures, not seen as racist when the other is?  They’re all three in the same mode, yet only one is viewed as racist.  I’m just trying to understand the criteria.

  25. fifth of said...

    It is interesting that a lawyer is pushing the argument that you can’t convince people to change their ways without first acknowledging their innocence.

    It is interesting that, as far as I can tell, the lawyer is more or less embracing Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence theory as an historical inevitability.

    It is interesting in general that white fellow travelers tend to view their role as convincing activists of color to change their methods in order to make them communicable to white communities, when one might otherwise see the responsibility of white subjects as being to ensure that the ACTUAL critique is given a chance to resonate and change history.

    As long as this country condemns a large segment of its population to dehumanization on the basis of their “guilt” that is produced by structural, historical factors, I think it is highly irresponsible to waste a single moment articulating white “innocence” in the context of maintaining legacies of oppression. That the image of Chief Wahoo is offensive is, to me, irrelevant. The image is both a manifestation and tool of a regime of terrorism; we should be tearing down the terror, not building false reconciliation on concessions to feelings of white innocence.

    The linked post treats Chief Wahoo as if the franchise has merely accidentally built its stadium on ‘Indian burial grounds’ and needs an exorcism. If only Scooby Doo can unmask the mascot by Opening Day, this can be the Cavs’ year!

    I don’t see why white people are entitled to receive rhetorical respect for racist culture from a systemically-minoritized population. I see a culture founded upon the racist demonization of multiple populations for the direct purpose of accumulating social, political, economic, and military power in the hands of a white minority that will do anything it can to think of itself as a majority. I see that culture systemically maintaining ties to its racist past in its culture at the same time that it denies any meaningful ties to that past in the context of its hegemony and extreme maldistribution of resources, wealth, and democratic power.

    The debates about Chief Wahoo are, absolutely, not central in the least to the struggles that they’ve emerged from. I find it remarkably myopic to view these debates in terms of how to most quickly and efficiently relegate Chief Wahoo “to history.” I think a more central point is that Chief Wahoo is a symbol of a history that is maintained daily by the actions of people who deem their behavior “innocent” by their own standards. A nation that will not accept the profound innocence of those brutalized in its prisons or slaughtered in its global military operations has no business asking for recognition of the “innocence” of associating a terrorist caricature with the joys of life.

  26. kranky kritter said...

    Bernie, since Chief Wahoo is the mascot of the INDIANS, it’s should be pretty clear to everyone that Wahoo was explicitly designed to be symbolic of Indians as a group.

    In my opinion, that gives all people in the group INDIANS (or sympathetic to the group INDIANS) some right to object to the depiction. They get to say what they sincerely find troubling, and if we have some empathy and think they make a valid point, we support them.

    That’s how decent people behave, I think.

    Homer Simpson is symbolic only of HOMER SIMPSON. That gives all people in the group HOMER SIMPSON (or sympathetic to the group HOMER SIMPSON) some right to object to the depiction. They get to say what they sincerely find troubling, and if we have some empathy and think they make a valid point, we support them.

    So if you are sympathetic to Homer Simpson, and you reallly, truly , and sincerely wish to express what you find troubling about this depiction, Go ahead.

    If instead, you craft this arguement primarily for rhetorical purpose, please state so now, so that our time might thus be saved.

  27. bernie said...

    So, if I can simplify your response, I guess your view is that anything can be called racist if it makes someone feel bad.  In other words, if I personally am offended by something, that automatically makes it racist.

  28. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Fifth:  At the outset, I will not accept your premise that declining to rub a person’s face in their guilt is akin to proclaiming their innocence. None of us are innocent about much of anything in this world, friend, and I will not have you put that word in my mouth with respect to this subject.  With that out of the way:

    If, as you say, “The debates about Chief Wahoo are, absolutely, not central in the least to the struggles that they’ve emerged from,” then why is it necessary to apply your more rigorous standards of racial justice to the issue?  For my part, I agree that Wahoo is, relatively speaking, unimportant to racial relations as a whole.  His removal, while pleasing to me as a baseball fan and maybe—maybe—bringing about some marginal change in the minds of baseball fans, is not going to make life better for contemporary Native Americans nor will it atone for a shameful history.

    At the same time, I don’t see how you can deny the fact that a position in which no intellectual quarter is given to anyone who has ever rooted for the Cleveland Indians is going result in some reactionary response among common baseball fans which, in turn, will shift the focus from the elimination of Wahoo to what will inevitably, if erroneously, be described as an attack on tradition and mom and apple pie and baseball and everything else.  Trying to affect change regarding a perceived baseball icon in 2009 is akin to going after other social insititions 50 year ago.

    On a personal level, I find that silly and counterproductive.  I think baseball will be a slightly better place if the Indians don’t have a red faced racial caricature on their caps, and that if baseball is a slightly better place, so to is the world.  If wanting to make that happen in an efficient manner makes me an appeaser or an apologist or some victim of scorn in the world of critical race theory, so be it.

  29. Ron said...

    I’m going to go ahead and add my opinion, and get ready to write, guys, becasue you’re going have a field day calling me names and insulting me.

    1. Does anything thing that originally Wahoo was designed to be intentionally racist and demeaning? Because it wasn’t. It was a LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON, whatever? Sure, it’s past its time, and probably needs to go. So waht.

    2. Craig, I’ll send you a check for $100. Lets get a drive going to raise enough money to give to Winter Haven so they can paint over a LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON.

    3. Let’s all pat ourselves on the back for solving the problem of racism.

    Becasue the next time a Indian dies of consumption out on the reservation, or a young black guy gets gunned down in a gang war, or immigrant children die from malnutrition, it won’t be our fault. No, we’re a bunch of freakin’ heroes, becuase we got a LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON painted over.

    4. What ever happens after that is no longer our problem. It’s the governments to deal with. But we can kick back and feel good about ourselves, and be community activists because we got a LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON painted over.

    Never mind the 50% unemployment rate amongst Indians, or that over 50% of black kids don’t have an adult male fiugre in their life, or Central American immigrant kids don’t have access to proper health care, we got a LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON logo painted over.

    Yeah, I’m going to be proud to tell my daughter how I made a difference.

    Because I did something.

  30. Sara K said...

    Bernie,

    As I posted yesterday in the “Whitewashing Wahoo” thread – there is a different set of rules for the way a culture refers to itself and the way it refers to another culture. I am assuming (do correct me if I’m wrong) that Native Americans are not responsible for the creation of or the continuation of Chief Wahoo. 

    There is also a different set of rules for the way we refer to groups who are percieved to have more power.  For example, it is ok for the poor to mock the middle-class and the rich.  It is ok for the middle-class to mock the rich, but not the poor.  The rich had ought not be mocking anyone about their lower socioeconomic status.

    This may seem unfair on the individual level (“I didn’t subjugate the NAs, I didn’t ask to be white” etc.), but the fact remains that caucasians are percieved as being (and, for the most part, are) the dominant group in our country.  Racist rhetoric is never a good thing, as it cuts off all opportunity of understanding each other, but humor the dominant group directs at minority groups is in a different category than humor that goes the other way.

    But let’s not lost sight of the original post.  We can agree that the Indians organization and their fans do not have a racist agenda; however, the symbol of Chief Wahoo represents a culture without actually having that culture’s values and interests in mind.

  31. Sara K said...

    Ron,

    I get the feeling that you consider a “LOGO/PICUTRE/DRAWING/CARTOON” as not being worth the effort. The problem is that not enough people have sufficient cultural contact with Native American groups to have any idea what their past and present culture is like.  All most people have are representations of Native Americans in the media, which includes “LOGOs/PICUTREs/DRAWINGs/and CARTOONs.” Does changing Chief Wahoo solve their very real, very challenging economic and social issues?  Of course not.  But given their very real, very challenging economic and social issues, isn’t it Chief Wahoo an image in extremely bad taste?

  32. bernie said...

    Sara K, I figured that was the rationale.  It’s the old “OK to hammer the white guys but don’t touch anyone else.”  Got it.  Given that, I don’t have anything more to say on the issue because there’s no way any amount of rational or logical argument can counter that kind of “reasoning.”

  33. Sara K said...

    I understand that race is a particularly touchy subject, but facts is facts.

    Who is it that is “hammering the white guys”?

  34. Ron said...

    Sara,

    I understand your point, and as you know, I’ve spent lots of time in South Dakota, out and about and on the reservations. I know what it’s like out there, and it’s ugly.

    But people want to cherry pick their moral outrage, and only want to do what’s necessary to get noticed. If the people complaining about Wahoo put as much effort into raising money to build another rehab center, the Indian community would be much better off than if a logo is painted over.

    Especially since 95% of Indians could care less about Wahoo. But since the majority of people taking the high road have never been to Pine Ridge, or Rosebud, or Standing Rock, they take the high road and pretend that’ they’re doing something positive by protesting about a drawing.

    If the people complaining about Wahoo went to Pine Ridge, they would piss their pants. And they still wouldn’t do anything to help the Indian community.

    They want to whitewash Wahoo on a water tower, and that’s what their doing with the real problem. Whitewashing, so it isn’t noticed and pretending like they’ve actually done something when they haven’t.

    They can feel good about themselves, but in the end, they’re more guilty than the people who want Wahoo to stay. Covering up the problem doesn’t make it go away, it just covers it up.  We have to treat the desease, and not the symptom.

  35. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Ron—not to step on Sara’s toes here, but my response to that is that this is a baseball blog.  One that, fortunately for me and thanks to the eyes and contributions of all of you, gets some modicum of attention from the sporting press and baseball front offices from time to time.  I don’t expect that getting rid of Wahoo is going to make any one Indian’s life better, but (a) it’s a positive thing in its own right; and (b) it’s within the realm of the possible for me that many other things aren’t.

    Campus activists and armchair radicals often become deluded into thinking that their pet causes truly mean something significant. I don’t think that about my Chief Wahoo campaign. But just because it isn’t truly something significant doesn’t mean it is meaningless either.

  36. Sara K said...

    Ron,

    I think you just said a lot more than you did in your previous post. And you are absolutely right.  The average person hasn’t a clue the kind of abject poverty many NA groups experience.  It’s truly shocking. And it’s a shame that most Americans know more about professional sports mascots than the actual people who live in the country, but don’t they?

  37. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Sara—hard to tell sometimes, isn’t it?  Don’t worry: come April 5th there will be no mistaking it.

  38. Rob said...

    @Ron – I can’t really think of a better way to help educate the masses to the plight of Native Americans than for the Cleveland Indians Baseball Club to step up and make a public statement regarding their mascot, their logo, and its history by announcing plans to get rid of it and the ridiculous story of its origin.  Ideally, with some monetary action to back it up.  (It sure would be nice for some of these organizations that use Native Americans as mascots to contribute some of the teams’ wealth to their plight.)

    @Craig – Effect, when used as a verb, means to create or generate an action or effect. (e.g., The spin of a ball in flight effects a force orthogonal to the direction of the spin, causing it to curve, slide, sink, or “rise”.)

    Affect means to influence the outcome of something else. (e.g., The transverse force upon a ball in flight affects its path to the plate either by making it curve, slide, sink, or “rise”.)

    Extra credit for using both correctly in a single sentence.

  39. kranky kritter said...

    Bernie, simplify my argument into something I didn’t say if that pleases you. Good luck with such practices over the remainder of your life. Hopefully you shall earn and keep many friends this way.

    It’s utterly unclear to me what you’re trying to achieve here beyond winning an argument. I apologize for engaging with you in what I had hoped could be a good faith discussion.

    Far too many folks haunt blogs trying to win arguments, and far too few make any effort to better understand the viewpoints of other folks or, shudder, learn something.Or acknowledge when someone else makes a decent point.

    Feel free to keep believing that a cartoon of a fat beer-guzzling guy who happens to be white has precisely the same level of symbolic meaning as a dark red-skinned bucktoothed cartoon that represnets a team called the Indians. If you do indeed believe that in your heart, then I have no quarrel with it. I have an extraordinarily hard time believing that you truly believe this, but it doesn’t seem worth pursuing, to either of us.

  40. Jacob Rothberg said...

    hey all – proud to have started a bit of a fire on this issue, the core of my argument is thus: these kinds of images are, and should be, offensive to all rational people. Discussion can be had and “traditionalist” fans can be succored, but only after these things are removed. There does not need to be a value statement, or debate, attached to their removal, other than that no racial group deserves this kind of public marginalization and stereotyping. In this circumstance I believe it is fully justified to shoot first and ask questions later.

  41. fifth of said...

    Craig, where is my advocacy or rubbing people’s noses in guilt? My previous post critiqued the notion that people should be ensnared in other people’s definitions of innocence or guilt. It is a raging double standard that a culture hell-bent on assigning guilt to the people at its margins demands to have its innocence stroked

    Chief Wahoo should inspire people not to redefine themselves in terms of the BS binaries their culture has created of innocent/guilty, racist/non-racist, and so forth.

    I don’t want to rub people’s noses in the guilt of their white ancestors, nor do I consider it guilt as such. Chief Wahoo should be a symbol of the urgent demand that people consider their everyday lives, their desires, and their ways of adapting to the world in a realistic context. The fixation on guilt/innocence has extremely important historical foundations that are inextricable from the birth of a colonial regime of power and its maintenance in the present era. Among many other works that explore this point, I would highly recommend Jacob Pandian’s “Anthropology and the Western Tradition: Toward an Authentic Anthropology,” written 1985. This text represents a sustained and important effort at tearing down a historical lineage of enormous power in order to build anew, rather than tear down.

    In classical statements of radical critiques of the colonial orders, there is an overwhelming concern for how to transcend the techniques of dehumanization created by coloniality. The questions raised by Frantz Fanon in Black Skin White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth are not about how the colonized can wrestle power from the colonizers, but about the struggles faced by the colonized in restoring the humanity of the colonizer – struggles whose overwhelming limit is the systemic dehumanization of the colonized. How to build a radical theory of colonial society premised upon the unwavering belief in the humanity of the people composing the colonial order has been a fundamental concern in the works of the most influential radical decolonial theorists, such as Waman Puma de Ayala, Gandhi, Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Martin Luther King, Enrique Dussel, Sylvia Wynter, and William R. Jones. Many of the elements of Barack Obama’s – who critics such as Anthony Bogues have attempted to place within the context of the neglected history of radical decolonial critics’ influence – approach are highly indebted to these thinkers, but the mainstream is content to reduce this influence only to narrow bands of the thought of Gandhi and King.

    While critics such as Derrick Bell (cited in my previous comment as a major figure whose critique of American racial politics is the most specific and sustained in its analysis of Shyster’s forte, US law) have widely been interpreted by reactionary respondents as part of an anti-humanist black radical vanguard, the clear, nuanced, and ultimately friendly elaborations upon his work by the generations that followed make clear that what is at stake is finding a common ground to analyze our common human existences. The tainted epistemology that has emerged from 500 years of coloniality enmeshes our lives, and radical critics are interested in the construction of an ecumenically humanist world. They have discovered that speaking only within the language and institutions of the colonial regime is incapable of achieving this goal, and so they have set out to build new languages and institutions, using an epistemology that honors and values all humans and their histories.

    Richard Delgado, Derrick Bell’s most influential and prolific follower, has dedicated his life and legal career to exploring the humanist and existential dynamics created by the insights of Bell and other critical race theorists. He has used alternative literary devices and relentless efforts to build bridges to accomplish his goals – moves that met with unrelenting criticism from the same legal community that educated Mr. Calcaterra. While colonial power no longer functions to dehumanize nearly all people of color as it previously has, it still functions overwhelmingly to deny the humanity and humanism of its radical critics.

    I believe that Mr. Calcaterra is skating on grounds paved by a misleading conflation of pragmatism and praxis. The point of the protests against Chief Wahoo should not be to convert the theoretical objection to his continued existnce into an action that eliminates Chief Wahoo – an action that achieves the desire to cause tangible change, no matter its significance. This point should be given careful thought in light of the critiques of the US’s past “pragmatic” reforms. Praxis, on the other hand, is the demand that those theoretical objections shape action. Praxis calls for sustained action that retains, spreads, and adapts theory, rather than action that surveys theory, makes a decision, and moves on.

  42. Ron said...

    Wow, there’s a quote from ‘Blazin’ Saddles’ that comes to mind, and since I’m from Kansas City, I know well.

    Unfortuantely, it would never pass the censor.

  43. Sara K said...

    One worthwhile (I think) observation about the cartoon portion of the debate is that while we have caricatures of white people, such as Homer Simpson, we also have *thousands* of other representations of white people, most of which are fairly accurate depictions of white people as they live, work, and recreate. Almost the *only* widely-viewed representations we have of Native Americans are sports mascots, which most often represent a cultural image of the Indian as a feather-wearing, face-painted warrior, which is not an accurate representation of how actual Native Americans live their lives.

    Another random rhetorical cul-de-sac in this discussion is just what a mascot is intended to be/do. I’m sure there are various valid answers to this (do chime in, y’all). My assumption is that the NA mascot is supposed to be a well-meaning effort at symbolizing the “warrior spirit” of the team, an idea that is now distorted and ironic. Other mascots must work differently, though. I don’t know what a Cardinal is supposed to represent, aside from quickness, redness, and a total lack of relief pitching. 

    FWIW, almost all of the Native Americans I have ever discussed this issue with don’t spend a lot of time thinking about NA mascots, but they don’t like them.

  44. Chris H. said...

    Jacob: and if one of us here had the power to eradicate Chief Wahoo by fiat, I’m sure we’d do that.

    Since we don’t, it behooves us to build popular support for the idea.  Do I wish the Indians would just do it?  Yep.  But since they haven’t, what other choice do I have?

    Ron: it sounds like you’re saying that because (A) the drawing may not have been “intentionally” racist and (B) it doesn’t solve all of the greater ills of Native Americans that we should abandon this altogether.

    First, whether it was “intentionally” racist…what does that even mean?  Racism based on ignorance as opposed to vehement hatred is still racism.  I’m not sure motive matters in the context of this discussion.

    Second, the fact that redressing the wrong that is Chief Wahoo does not solve the more serious issues facing Native Americans does not mean it should be ignored or discarded, does it?  Do we need to prioritize all the problems of the world, sort them by severity, and then make sure only to discuss them in order?

  45. Vinnie said...

    Based on my experience at Marquette—where we tried to revive the Warriors nickname, 100% sans Native American context three years ago—anything caricaturizing Native Americans isn’t very long for this world. Then again, branding issues for a pro team with more money and clout make for a lot more inertia. So maybe I’m wrong.

  46. Adam said...

    Has anyone mentioned that the Indians organization has effectively (and quietly) whitewashed the logo from their organization?

    You will not go into Progressive field and see any evidence of Wahoo on anything other than merchandise sold in a team shop. You will not go into their new park in Goodyear and see it in any signage. You will never see it on any memo or any webpage.

    It merely exists in the realm of merchandise that still remains extremely popular among their fans.

  47. Sara K said...

    Adam – that’d be a start, though I just went to their MLB site and while he’s not a headliner, he’s plenty there.

  48. Aaron Moreno said...

    I won’t lie, I haven’t read any of this, and as an ethnic minority myself, I don’t have to. That said:

    “tell me when the American Government and people carried out a concerted effort towards a genocide of the Irish, and then your comparison will hold water. “

    You obviously haven’t been watching Notre Dame football.

  49. Craig Calcaterra said...

    He’s on the caps, which are visible on every play of every broadcast.  Well, except when they wear those alternates they introduced last year which are SWEEEEEEEEET.

  50. Chris H. said...

    Aaron: piffle.  The American Government hasn’t done anything to Notre Dame.

    Notre Dame has done it all by itself.

  51. Adam said...

    Sara: Big oops there on my website comment.

    Also, I don’t think Wahoo has been the featured logo on any Indians uniform for quite some time. He might be on the sleeve on a few of the alternates from 2003-2004.

    The Cursive I and block C are the mainstays. Although no one really likes the cursive I.

  52. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    Wow! I just want to weigh in and share that this really has been a great debate.  I plan to re-read it over the weekend.

  53. mando3b said...

    Does anybody else remember a NY Times article I’m sure I read sometime in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s in which the writer professed amazement at stopping for gas on an Indian reservation and seeing many of the locals in Wahoo caps? His (her?) take was that they viewed the symbol as somehow “theirs”; the writer made no generalizations about its overall acceptability, and the reader definitely got the feeling that this was something of an inside joke. I know I haven’t made this up—Wahoo irritates me as much as he does any of you. BTW, could those “I” and “C” caps be part of a slow, gradual process of dewahooization? Let’s hope so.

  54. fifth of said...

    Hizouse – just because you quit your tenured Harvard Law post in protest doesn’t mean you are discredited! wink

  55. Hizouse said...

    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.

  56. 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.

  57. Jim said...

    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

  58. 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?

  59. hans said...

    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:

    http://www.letsgotribe.com/2008/4/9/391105/return-of-the-cleveland-bl

    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.

  60. 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

  61. 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.

  62. Sara K said...

    RA –

    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?

  63. 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.

  64. oldpaddy said...

    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.
    Personaly I see no problem with chief wahoo or drunk irish midgets. Devil mascots (Jews) on the other hand…

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