February 19, 2007
Fighting Political Correctors! Go Home!
University of Illinois just announced that it will be dropping Chief
Illiniwek, its Native American mascot of more than 80 years, after a
final performance this week. This move follows the NCAA’s 2005 decision
to ban the so-called offensive use of Native American imagery, punishing
schools that have such mascots by barring them from holding post-season
now, Chief Illiniwek, donning a costume made by an actual Sioux as well
as intimidating war paint, would rile up the Illinois crowd at important
athletic events. Students, alumni and others affiliated with the
university cheered Chief Illiniwek – and loved him. They called
themselves and their athletic players the Fighting Illini, and have long
been proud of this tradition.
for some odd reason, the politically correct crowd has a way of breaking
into every social institution, however pleasant and agreeable to the
public, and proceeding to systematically ruin said institution. We have
seen this phenomenon occur everywhere from Christmas, to high schools,
to museums and to sitcoms, to name a few. They have now moved on to
collegiate sports, one of the nation’s most cherished institutions.
Apparently someone, somewhere, was utterly revolted with the fact that
several schools use Native American mascots to symbolize their
community. While it is certainly true that there are people who feel
this way, they sure don’t even come close to being the majority. A 2002
Peter Harris Research Group poll of self-declared Native Americans
demonstrated that more than four-fifths of them support the use of
American Indian names in high school, college and professional sports.
Yet as is always the case in political correctness campaigns, it is an
outspoken and well-placed minority that hogs the microphone.
so bad about using Chief Illiniwek, the Braves or the Indians as mascots
anyway? How exactly is it an insult to invoke a Native American term to
represent a team – nay, an entire university and its constituents? It is
hard to believe that choosing such a term would be anything short of an
honor. This is a name that countless people proudly adopt, wearing it on
their hats, shirts, and yelling it out with delight. If the Fighting
Illini didn’t think so highly of Chief Illiniwek, they wouldn’t be so
proud of having him represent them to the world.
face it: Native American culture is going farther and farther out of
sight. Whether it is because of marriage into other races, increased
integration with American society or a variety of other reasons, Native
American culture is hardly being appreciated on a mass scale. When many
people think Native American, they think casinos, tax-free status, the
bad guys in Westerns or even one of those little “race” boxes on
applications that you can check to make it easier to get into
course, when more attention is given to the subject, you see a whole
other picture. You learn about the fascinating culture of Native
Americans, their incredible courage in battle, their perseverance in
dreadfully difficult times, their diversity of tribes and so on. And the
fact of the matter is, little in modern culture glorifies these Native
American attributes as much as do the teams that adopt them. Sports
teams are revered most when they play hard, play fair and refuse to
surrender through the last minute. These are the qualities that athletic
teams strive for, and the qualities that Native Americans are
historically known for. There is just no reason to believe that the use
of Native American symbols and mascots reveal anything other than
attempt to emulate this culture of bravery.
I am a
big Washington Redskins fan and our nemeses are the Dallas Cowboys. I
spend two Sundays every season shouting for the Redskins to completely
obliterate the Cowboys. This is a rare situation – after all, I usually
root for the cowboys and against the Indians when I watch Westerns. Yet
when I go to the game, I join my fellow fans in chanting “Hail to the
Redskins, Hail Victory, Braves on the Warpath, Fight for Old DC!”
in no way demeaning Native Americans by joining in this chant. We are
adopting them, we are becoming them. We are glorifying their culture of
courage and their fighting spirit. This is certainly not an aspect of
American Indian culture we would get at the roulette table. So to the
Fighting Political Correctors, we say, Go! Go all the way home, that is.
And to Chief Illiwinek, we exclaim, Hail to the Chief. You will not be
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