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VIEWPOINT: “Redskins” insults Native Americans

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On Monday the Supreme Court refused to review a case against the NFL that the name “Redskins” violates trademark law.

Trademark law prohibits the registration of names that “may disparage … persons, living or dead, … or bring them into contempt or disrepute.” As reported by Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, “The Supreme Court was being asked only to review whether the claim was brought too late, not whether the nickname was offensive.”

In July of 1994 Marquette changed their mascot from Warriors to Golden Eagles. I wasn’t at Marquette when the change took place, so I did a bit of research to learn more about it.

I learned that the reason for the change was that the university was intent on not offending American Indians. I learned that there was an extremely negative reaction by students, alumni and fans that can still be felt today. In fact, one person even stated, “Who, in their right mind, could possibly consider being called a “warrior” derogatory in any way, shape or form? The name change remains as outrageous today as it was all those years ago.”

And therein lies the problem.

To claim that you can’t possibly understand how such caricatures could insult another human being is the worst sort of ignorance. And the papering of campus with the flyers seen Wednesday morning didn’t just speak to ignorance.

In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling coupled with the original reasoning behind Marquette’s mascot change suggested a more willful, aggressive racism that, directed at any other ethnic population, would’ve been recognized by everyone as abhorrent.

It is here that I should admit that I have no problem with the Warriors name. “Warriors” is not a term owned by any one ethnicity or nationality. In fact, one suggestion made when Marquette was contemplating a name change was the possibility of keeping Warriors, but amending the image to reference Joan of Arc as a Warrior. That’s perfectly acceptable.

What I do have a problem with, and when I do feel insult, is when names turn derogatory or mascots and logos caricature a race of human beings. “Redskin” is the Native American equivalent of the “n” word. The fact that I can write one and not the other in print is argument enough that something is wrong in our society.

It was not the flyers themselves that made me pause, but the spirit in which they were created and posted. The creators were not just thumbing their noses at an ethnic group and insinuating that, with the recent Supreme Court decision, it’s okay to once again demean Native Americans with politically incorrect caricatures.

These individuals were also defiantly dismissing the stance of their university who, 15 years ago, decided to change mascots with the hopes of not being disrespectful to Native Americans. No matter what side of the debate you are on, the wish to not demean another human being is the bedrock on which our Jesuit education stands.

Marquette’s Statement of Human Dignity and Diversity says, “Our commitment to a diverse university community helps us to achieve excellence by promoting a culture of learning, appreciation and understanding.” I don’t know why it’s so difficult for some to view this issue in light of these ideals.

Mandi Linder is a graduate student in the College of Communication.

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6 Comments

6 Responses to “VIEWPOINT: “Redskins” insults Native Americans”

  1. GoldenEagle45 on December 3rd, 2009 3:16 pm

    What I don’t understand about your argument is how the “Warrior” mascot is demeaning in any way. If one simply portrays an image of a Native American and adopts it as a mascot, it is not derogatory in any way. The logo had no demeaning qualities and was not aimed at insulting any group of people. If anything, the “Warrior” logo is a preservation of a culture which was, and is prevalent throughout the Milwaukee and Wisconsin areas. Mark Twain said it best when he stated, “One should not change the past simply because it does not fit into the present.” I believe that Marquette University, the first Catholic University to enroll women and men in the same institution, never had a “racist” logo, but rather, had a logo which represented the area in which the school is located. To call the warrior logo “racist” and “demeaning” is highly ignorant and is completly bogus.

  2. Mandi Lindner on December 4th, 2009 9:38 am

    Yes, you do have a point. The logo itself is one of the better, more culturally-sensitive representations of Native Americans (I’m talking to you Cleveland Indians). Sometimes the mascot debate is not about the logo or name itself, but about the affect it has in practice.

    For example, when a university carries a Native American representation as a logo/mascot and at athletic events the entire arena is shouting cheap imitations of “war cries” last heard in a bad John Wayne western, I can assure you Native Americans don’t feel honored. Or worse, when you see a university student dressed in a poor imitation of an Indian chief costume and dancing around the court to the music of a marching band, again, Native Americans are probably not so honored.

    I am tempted to describe how these stereotypes might play out if other ethnicities were used as mascots, but will not because I don’t want death threats.

    I think that, in theory, Native Americans as mascots may seem honorable and in the spirit of preserving a culture, but in practice they usually do more harm than good.

  3. Mandi Lindner on December 4th, 2009 9:39 am

    I should amend that I wasn’t around when Marquette Warriors were, and do not know if they had a university student dancing around in an Indian costume. I do, however, know that other universities have and the result is as I described above.

  4. Alyssa Massey on December 4th, 2009 11:09 am

    Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame?

  5. Feral Mat on December 8th, 2009 6:50 pm

    youre silly.

  6. Annie on December 14th, 2009 11:36 am

    For your second comment, I totally agree on that. “Warriors” is definitely better than “Redskins”.

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