Dear Defender of the new Atlanta Braves Cap

December 28, 2012 — 12 Comments

Dear entitled-full-of-sh*t-not-so-secretly-racist fan of Indian mascots,

I’m pretty sick of your behavior right now. I’ve written a lot of well-reasoned posts about mascots. I’ve provided both appeals to emotion and to science. I’ve shared stories about how people “like you” have changed their minds about Indian mascots. I’ve shared my own experiences about how I, as a Native person, feel when I encounter these images. I’ve been kind-hearted and tried to be understanding. This is not one of those posts.

Because today, I’m mad. Today, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who has recently been a big friend to the Native community on the issue of Indian mascots, dared give the Atlanta Braves new racist throwback hat featuring a whooping savage the grade of an “F” in his fictional grading system of the new batting practice hats for the MLB. He dared say:

“Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their “screaming Indian” logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey — a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports. Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn’t been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F”

Read those vile and fighting words! Clearly he is calling each and every one of you a dirty, stinking racist. Clearly he is saying that you are the scum of the earth and that everything you hold dear is offensive to someone, so you might as well run around naked and live in a hole in the ground to stave off the “PC police” who are coming for you. Yes, by saying that returning to a tired, offensive stereotype of Native people is “disappointing,” that’s clearly what he meant.


Because in the comments, it seems you and your fellow sports fans have lost your damn minds. There are 30 caps in the post, 30 pieces of commentary from Lukas, but somehow, 99.9% of the comments on the article are concerning the Braves cap. You are so original to pretend you are a “pirate” and are offended by the Pirates, or that you are a “communist” and are offended by the Reds. Or Irish, or a Viking, or even more creatively, you’re an elephant who’s offended by the new A’s logo! L.O. effing L. Cause, yep, Indians are just like pirates and Irish and communists and elephants! All those folks are marginalized racial groups who have been historically oppressed and continue to have the highest statistics for poverty, and homelessness, and suicide, and live in third world conditions, while they constantly and repeatedly have their cultures and lives mocked and stereotyped on every corner. Yep! The welfare lines are just full of elephants this time of year.

And I’m so glad there are people like your friend “chrohandhaivey” who can tell me what I should be honored by and how “fierce” I “was”:

Im tired of this native american racist crap…$@%! you should be honored your race is a team mascot…thats a good thing…it shows how fierce you were to be used as a sports team….its not like its the n****rs or something i mean come on…personally i wish there was an Atlanta team named the “White People”…Id rock the $@%! out of that with pride not complain about it like some puddins

Or your friend “canigs013″ who gave us a backhanded compliment by saying we’re “too smart” to care about mascots:

for real. has anyone actually heard a native american complain about things like that? no, because they’re too smart to care about dumb things that do not matter.

Nope, “canigs013,” you’re right. I’ve never heard of a Native American complain about Indian mascots. Nope, there’s not a supreme court case, or millions of news articles, or decades and decades of activism against the cause. Nope.

But I’m stoked that one of your other friends brought up the infamous Sports Illustrated poll that shows that 80% of Native Americans support Indian mascots. A poll from 2002. Here are 20 other things that were popular in 2002, and I don’t think you’d care to argue their relevance today. Though, who knows, maybe you are rockin’ your CD’s on your walkman right now while fearing a boyband anthrax attack. There are also a million other things wrong with that poll, including the fact that they won’t release their polling sample or how they determined who to interview. Read this article to hear all the ways that poll is ridiculous and shouldn’t be used in an argument a decade later. A decade later. 

I really wonder if you know how you sound. Your arguments are tired, are weak, and are getting more eye-roll worthy by the day. How long will you stand by the argument that “PC culture” is ruining “your” America? I’d like to share this awesome quote by Dion Beary that sums up your thought process perfectly for me:

Politically correct” is just a term assholes came up with so they can dismiss people who have the nerve to want to be respected. Demanding not to be stereotyped is not political correctness, it’s a human right, and you are not some hero for refusing to respect people’s right to be treated like humans.

I am a real person. Hi. I am a modern Indian who likes sports and doesn’t want to take away “your” beloved francise. But the images aren’t yours to keep. They’re representations of me, and my people, and my ancestors, and I should have the right to control them. And you see, the thing is, times change. While maybe at one time (though I’m gonna stand by the fact that it’s never been acceptable) these images were deemed “A-ok,” we’re not in that time anymore. In the not-so-distant past, folks were lamenting the loss of the minstrel show as a lovely form of family entertainment, or demanding that black folks use separate water fountains. Which side of the fight do you really want to be on?

You might think “PC lefties” (actual term in the comments) expend too much energy fighting mascots when they “don’t matter”–but, in all honesty, I can’t believe how quickly and ferociously you jump in to decry the “oversensitivity” of Native folks. You’re sure acting pretty “sensitive” at the thought of losing your mascot for someone who thinks mascots don’t matter. I’m just saying. Did someone touch a nerve?

So really, Really think about what you’re defending. You’re defending your “right” to don a stereotypical and offensive caricature of a Native person. A caricature that I know you look at and feel in your gut is wrong. You’re attacking a reporter who dared call the look “disappointing.” You’re showing your insecurities and your roots, and they’re really not pretty.

I want you to take a deep breath, cause there’s some major smoke coming out of your keyboard right now. Take a deep breath and think about it. Call me overly sensitive, tell me I don’t represent “real Indians,” tell me that I’m being “PC” or “a left wing nut,” but I know, and I’m pretty sure deep down in that sports-loving-heart even you know, that maybe I’m right.

-Adrienne K.

PS-I know not all of you are like this. I know that a lot of you do take the time to think, and a lot of you will and have realized that it’s time to abolish Indian mascots once and for all. I know that you love your teams, and that the Indian images have been a part of your families and lives for generations.  I know that you don’t mean any harm. But I’m confident that when you open up your minds to hear the other side, you’ll realize that it’s time. Native people deserve better than to be memorialized or “honored” by stereotypes on a MLB cap.
(So much for not being kind-hearted and understanding. Damn. Blame my new friend who’s a lifelong fan of that-team-in-Washington, though I’m pretty sure I’ve changed his mind at this point…)

The article that started it all:

ESPN: First Look: New MLB Batting Practice Caps

Earlier:
A reminder of why this blog exists, one reader’s experience(Stanford alum who changed his mind about the mascot)
The Fighting Sioux are back, my passionate plea against Indian Mascots
The Fighting Sioux Part 2, the science (citing a study done by Stanford alumna Stephanie Fryberg)
Thanks for the severed head, you’ve proved my point

(Thanks Doug, Chris, Tessa, and everyone else who sent this over!)

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Johnson/100001135806920 Daniel Johnson

    This is a great article, you’re totally right, but I should point out what the Irish as a people have been put through, because it is definitely comparable to the North American First Nations situation. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057808972 Sarah Kelly

      Oh, Daniel, Daniel, Daniel, as someone both Ojibwe and Irish, I can say definitively: The Irish persecution is not comparable to the American Holocaust genocide. While the Fighting Irish are also caricatures of real people, had their language and culture systematically oppressed and there were once signs that said “No Irish or Dogs Allowed” as there are for Indians, they were not interred, they do not still live on reservations still and they do not experience racism until they say their name.
      However, if we want to win a contest on who was most oppressed … you win, okay?

      • http://profiles.google.com/arkiv2001 Erin Winslow

        However, the English treatment of their Irish neighbors was the “dress rehearsal” for their colonialism. They then “took the show on the road” precisely because their tactics were so effective. Yes, everytime they repeated the tactics, they were more and more effective (all that practice) but I would say that this was a difference of degree, not kind. 

        • http://twitter.com/klerisaeskelsen Klerisa Eskelsen

          The fact that you people are arguing about who’s deaths and battles are worse disgusts me, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Any death or war, or persecution is horrible, regardless of the number of those affected. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/5FG6YKCFSTKDJWQXKCEVVPDPCM CJ

        One wrong does not need to beat another in the Oppression Olympics for us to acknowledge both as terrible. You have a valid point in that discrimination against one group is ongoing; that point could be made without denigrating another group’s experiences.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/MJWO7HPA7M6XCE3W4DCEAUEV7E Alice

      The difference is, Irish Americans are not currently oppressed, colonised and denied equal rights with other Americans – Native Americans are. Irish Americans didn’t always share in white privilege, but they do now. Irish people are not prevented from following their religious beliefs in the same way that some Native American peoples are. There have been Irish American presidents – the US is still nowhere near having a Native American president. And, most importantly, no-one believes all the Irish died out years ago. You’d be terrified at the number of people who believe that of Native Americans. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1094670493 Cindy La Marr

    Thank you for posting this as is. It’s good that you are getting frustrated by the tirades and worn out banter from fans who do not understand the problem with us being used as mascots. There are always those who say they are a bit Indian and don’t have a problem with being “honored” and remembered… or those who ask why this matters when there is poverty, suicide, and other more important issues within Indian communities. I always counter with “We lost our land to you… isn’t that what sports is about…gaining points, yardage (land)..? How is that an honor to you?”

    It circles back to genocide and appropriation of our nations. I ask them why they don’t have anything better to do than complain? It is sickening and disheartening to many of us who have tried to educate the general public over the years. Be assured that times are changing and some people are realizing maybe the R word is akin to the N word. Racism takes place in increments.I asked my grandson (an outstanding athlete) what he would do if he were offered a contract to sign with the Washington DC team, and he said he would refuse..he said money does not matter…he would refuse.  This is what we need to be teaching our upcoming generation, to be educated on the misappropriation of our cultures, to speak up in honor of those who have endured the genocide and loss of our cultures.  I am proud of all the young Indian people who are coming up, getting educated and standing up to the injustices that we should not be forced to endure any longer. I hope that in my lifetime, Indian-based mascots will be eliminated.Keep up the good work and keep using this as a platform to educate the ignorant.

  • WhiteskinsOrg

    Dear chrohandhaivey,

    In regards to your comment:

    “personally i wish there was an Atlanta team named the “White People”…Id rock the $@%! out of that with pride not complain about it like some puddins”

    Here you go:

    http://www.bluecollardistro.com/whiteskins/categories.php?cPath=1347

    You’re welcome.

    Sincerely,
    Whiteskins.Org

  • Ryan H

    Great piece. I grew up in a family that adored the Atlanta Braves and have been going to games since 1987. As it happens, they managed to win 14 straight division titles, beginning when I was age six and ending when I was 21. It’s hard not to be a lifelong fan under those conditions–especially as a white kid, pretty clueless about the harm of Indian mascots and cultural appropriation for so long.

    Nothing in the baseball world would please me more than seeing an end to the “tomahawk chop,” Chief Wahoo, and this terrible revived logo. Maybe we can’t end the first two before the 2013 season, but the months left until Spring Training might allow the Braves organization to rethink what is (in the only terms they care about) a PR nightmare, as well as allowing those who oppose it to continue writing against it, sending letters to the organization, writing to its corporate owner Liberty Media (who also owns Sirius XM, STARZ, and PBS NewsHour), and perhaps even to respected players like Martin Prado or Jason Heyward, urging them to refuse to wear the cap (Heyward, and many other players, are active on Twitter, for those who are good at that stuff). Anyways, thanks for what y’all do on this blog. I will be sharing this with all the fans I know, whose initial reactions have ranged from disappointed to outraged.

  • Joseph Gagné

    Hi Adrienne, 

    I haven’t had time to read your prior article on mascots (I’m on the road), but I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself sharing this podcast that the CBC aired in 2010 on the issue. Thought it was a great complimentary piece: http://www.cbc.ca/revisionquest/2010/2010/06/23/june-30-july-3-the-fighting-sioux-battles-over-the-brand/
    Regards,-Joseph

  • http://twitter.com/klerisaeskelsen Klerisa Eskelsen

    The fact that you people are arguing about who’s deaths and battles are worse disgusts me, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Any death or war, or persecution is horrible, regardless of the number of those affected. 

  • http://beautypersoni.livejournal.com Christopher-J Carlson

    Just here to say that the links to past NativeAppropriation articles aren’t working. Yet. I realise that you just made the change to WordPress; just giving you a head’s up. Love the site!