Waiting to Whitewash Wahoo

The only thing worse than having the racist visage of Chief Wahoo staring down at you as you drive around the Indians’ spring training facility is having the racist visage of Chief Wahoo staring down at you as you drive around what is no longer the Indians’ spring training facility:

The face of Chief Wahoo, a symbol of the departed Cleveland Indians baseball team, will continue to smile down on Winter Haven – at least for the remainder of the city’s current budget year.

Money to paint over the Chief Wahoo image, which is stamped into the city water tower at U.S. Highway 17 South and Post Avenue, S.W., won’t be available until at least Oct. 1, the start of the city’s 2009-2010 fiscal year.

City of Winter Haven spokeswoman Joy Townsend said painting a water tower is an expensive undertaking.

“Repainting the one in southwest Winter Haven is not budgeted at this time,” Townsend said Tuesday.

Put this in the “causes I’d donate money to if I were rich” pile.

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  1. Chris H. said...

    OK, residents of Winter Haven.  Time for you to step up.  Here are some cheap ways to get the water tower repainted:

    (1) Get a gallon of paint and climb the water tower and paint something MORE offensive.  Racism against Native Americans doesn’t seem to generate enough outrage, so pick a different target.  Sky’s the limit, here.

    (2) Get a gallon of paint and climb the water tower and paint a religious symbol, then drop a dime on the ACLU.

    (3) Start a local rumor that Chief Wahoo used PEDs.

    (4) Strike a deal with a cell company to use the water tower as a cell tower, then use the resulting revenue to repaint the thing.

    (5) Sell naming rights/corporate sponsorship for the tower.  If you’re lucky, it’ll be Coca-Cola and they’ll paint it a nice, bright red.  If you’re not lucky, it’ll be the Mets.  But hey, any port in a storm.


    (7) Tell C.C. Sabathia that it’s a big ice cream cone.

  2. Rob said...

    I like option 1.  If the teenagers today cared about anything except teh Facebook and teh IPod, they’d be up there this weekend.  That’s actually a great idea:

    Option 1a) Party up at the Moon Tower.  Full kegs.  Paint and brushes supplied.  Slogan:  We only came to do two things, drink some beer and paint some water towers.  Looks like we’re all out of beer.

  3. Ron said...

    Ever been to an Indian reservation and watched them perform a Sun Dance in full regalia for the paying tourists?

    Hell, I’ll give the city the money myself if someone can legitimately convince me how something can be considered a racial stereotype, when the very group complaining about it uses the same images as a source of income?

    Kind of like certain words?

    If its wrong for one group to do something, then its wrong for everyone to do it. Saying ‘its my culture’ doesn’t give you a pass. People need to look to thier own house first, before they complain about someone elses.

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Ron—we’ve been over this before, but my issue with Wahoo (and maybe others’; I’m not sure) is not the feathers or, more generally, the use of Inidans as mascots, which I really don’t get worked up about.

    It’s the red skin, the exaggerated nose, and the giant teeth, all of which have long been used in the same way as blackface and white lips for blacks and yellow skin and slanted eyes for Asians.

    The Indians have the freedom to continue to use Chief Wahoo if they wish, but they are only going to get a minimal amount of support from me as long as they do.

  5. Chris H. said...

    “It’s the red skin, the exaggerated nose, and the giant teeth, all of which have long been used in the same way as blackface and white lips for blacks and yellow skin and slanted eyes for Asians.”


  6. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    “Hell, I’ll give the city the money myself if someone can legitimately convince me how something can be considered a racial stereotype, when the very group complaining about it uses the same images as a source of income?”

    That would be funny if it weren’t so ignorant.

  7. Ron said...

    Craig, fair enough as always. I guess my thinking is, why is this even an issue?

    Isn’t ignoring it the best way to consign it to irrelevance. People bring it up to advance some agenda of their own, in most cases, not because they personally have an issue with it.

    I just wonder why shows like ‘My Name Is Earl’, that mock and ridicule white people are considered perfectly acceptable, but no other group of people in the country can be depicted as a sterotype?

    That being said, it probably should be overpainted, but not as a publiciy stunt. Just because it’s past its time.

    Just in case anyone thinks I’m insensitive, I’m not. My great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Read this book for more.


  8. Ron said...

    Are we going to resort to name calling?

    Craig, give him my e-mail address and we’ll continue it privately.

    It’s easy to be insulting without offering an opinion of why I’m ignorant. Is it because you can’t really think of a reason.

  9. Chris H. said...


    I’m struggling to think of how Native Americans performing a dance for tourists is anything like Chief Wahoo.  Did you read what Craig wrote?

  10. Jeff Mathews said...


    Chief Wahoo is a golliwog plain and simple, and an insulting holdover from America’s racist past.  While the Indians have the right to use him as their team mascot, I also have the right to think they’re jerks for doing so.

  11. Sara K said...

    There have always been separate standards defining what is acceptable for how a group refers to itself and how it is referred to by others. 

    Native Americans still struggle with staggering levels of poverty and limited education. Without engaging in an extended sociological debate about the nature of their current woes, I will propose that images of Native Americans that are used in an effort to co-opt their cultural values (“brave warriors”…fat lot of good it did them, huh?) are insensitive.  Images that do so in such a manner as to caricature Native Americans for entertainment value are particularly offensive.

    I have noticed that we tend to accept jokes about groups who are percieved to have more power. As a young student, I had to learn to cope with images of “geeks” that were belittling, and part of that acceptance was understanding that the jokes sprung from a feeling of insecurity. It was a way for people to “get even” with a group who is, well, smarter than them.  I think the same applies to jokes minority groups make about Euro-Americans. It is simply a different set of rules when the group with more power classifies the group with less power.

    This may strike individuals as unfair – I didn’t ask to be white or smart, and I am not responsible for the disparities that exist in our society – but we do have a different set of rules.  Wahoo must go. 

    And the “Tomahawk Chop.”  Blech.

  12. Chris H. said...

    Well I was going to write up a long thing explaining my point of view, but Sara did it better than I could’ve.

    Thank you, Sara.

  13. Sara K said...

    Thanks, Chris.  There are no really satisfying or simple answers about minority relations and getting rid of Chief Wahoo is a drop in the bucket, but it seems too easy and too obvious a gesture to pass on. 

    By the way, my post could be read as meaning that EuroAmericans are smarter than minority groups, which of course is not what I meant. My point is about how groups with less power are enabled, to some degree, to poke fun at groups with more power.  The poor can mock the rich, but the rich shouldn’t mock the poor, etc.

    (Go Puerto Rico!!)

  14. wade said...

    Ah, yes.  Pandora’s box has been opened, and all the little opinions have been unleashed.  Eeeww.

    “Free Tibet” sticker for your BMW anyone?

    Baseball, people, baseball!.  Take a deep breath, and walk away from the keyboard…

  15. Ron said...


    By your use of the term ‘golliwog’ you should already know it it considered to be an offensive term. I know what it means and typifies.

    Since you seem to be taking the high road on this, why are you using this term? Very disrpesectful on your part to use this word.


    I read what Craig wrote. I always do. Did you read what I wrote?  Much harder question, isn’t it?

  16. Sara K said...

    Wade, why isn’t it ok to talk about what kinds of mascots are appropriate for MLB teams?  It’s not as if there isn’t “100% pure” baseball content on the main page. 

    And the BMW reference, really?  Can we put that in the bin along with the bloggers-in-their-mother’s-basements reference and agree never to use it again?

  17. wade said...

    So, you, Sara, by your own admission, are decreeing that you know what an appropriate mascot is,becausethere was no “talk” of it…at all.  Or you don’t know?  Or that anyone knows?  No?  Yet the unabated urge to keep kicking that dying horse continues.  Pray tell, enlighten me (us) with your politically correct whit and whimsy.  What IS an appropriate MLB mascot?  You’ll never make everyone happy, noble Sara.  You know what they say about opinions?  Just let it go…

    Are you really blogging from your mother’s basement?  That…is…rrrrrrich.  Or rico in Puerto Rico.


  18. Ron said...


    Sorry, I got the wrong name. You weren’t the one I was referring to.

    My apologies for the confusion.


  19. The Common Man said...

    Dammit.  I go away for one freaking day and all Hell breaks loose.  Craig, can you time your “controversial” posts to coincide with days when I’m not traveling?

    @ Ron

    Dude, I love you.  Seriously.  But just because certain Native Americans have chosen to exploit their (or other tribes’) traditions to make a little dough does not mean that all Native Americans are fair game for cynical appropriation and mocking.  I think it’s easy to forget that that, when we talk about Native Americans, we’re talking about dozens upon dozens of different peoples who have been lumped together because Americans were (and still are) too damn lazy to figure out the different nuances between groups they don’t fully understand but that seem similar.  My Iroquois are not your Cherokee are not Craig’s Sioux.  So just because you wandered onto a reservation and paid for a show doesn’t mean that other Native Americans’ visages and traditions are up for grabs.  The upshot is, with respect, I don’t think your point has any merit. (I should also point out that we don’t know much about the context in which these dances are performed and the dancers’ motivation.  There’s a big deal between performing for the tourists and promoting cultural exchange, though I’m not sure how one would legitimately differentiate between the two.)

    My two cents on the general issue is this:  Chief Wahoo is a blatant caricature of Native American appearance.  It mocks many peoples and is not based in their own representations of themselves.  As such, it is a symbol of past racism, continues to promote a hurtful stereotype. And it should be eliminated because, dude, why would anyone want to keep doing something that makes other people to feel bad (especially when, as in this case, it doesn’t benefit them)?  A tasteful C or I or, I dunno, something that doesn’t look like the Indians in a Bugs Bunny cartoon who could only say “how” would be nice.


  20. Jeff Mathews said...


    Yes, that’s what I’m saying: Chief Wahoo is as offensive as a golliwog.  As a grossly exaggerated caricature of an AmerIndian, it is as insulting to Native Americans as an actual golliwog is to people of African descent.  Using that term to describe Chief Wahoo is not disrespectful; the team’s use of him as a mascot is.

    “Also, Dude, “Chinaman” is not the preferred nomenclature.  Asian-American, please.”

  21. Sara K said...

    Wade – sorry my reply touched a nerve.

    No, the talk was not about what an appropriate mascot would be, but about why some of us feel that Chief Wahoo is an inappropriate mascot.

    I’m pretty sure you mean “politically correct” as a put-down.  I’m not sure what is so bad about wanting to avoid using images of a culture without considering the culture. 

    I am not so sure what you mean by “you’ll never make everybody happy.” As it pertains to mascots, it seems to be fairly easy to make people happy.  There’s only one mascot in the MLB that anyone seems to have a problem with, and they’ve thought of several since Chief Wahoo was installed.

    I agree that the topic is old. They should just change it, already! In the meantime, “letting it go means” agreeing that it’s ok. Can’t do it.

    Glad you felt compelled to mention my “whit” and whimsy. I probably should use more folksy slang online. It would probably make me more tolerable. But darn it all, a gal’s gotta be what she is!

    Peace out!

  22. wade said...

    You SHOULD use more folksy slang online…‘dern it.  It makes people seem less implacable.

    Peace out to you as well.

  23. Chris H. said...

    Ron: which question was that?  You’ve asked several, and I’ve seen several good responses, but if there’s a particular one you’d like addressed, say the word and I’ll be all over it.

    You say that most people bring issues like this up to further some agenda.  I don’t have any agenda to further, other than I consider the logo racist and offensive.

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