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Sports Mascots Honor The Native American Indian

1990 words - 8 pages

     The year is 1991.  The Atlanta Braves had just completed their first trip to the Fall Classic in four decades, and the Washington Redskins were undefeated, well on their way to their third Super Bowl title.  All across the eastern seaboard, sports fans were tasting success - while American Indians were in an uproar.  This year witnessed the peak of the protests over the use of mascots with American Indian themes.  With two of the major professional sports teams in question making front-page news across the country, many of us heard American Indians' complaints for the first time.  Suddenly, thanks to the cries of thousands of demonstrators, the names of many Americans' favorite teams had become synonymous with "nigger."  American Indians believe that the use of these mascots presents a slanderous stereotype of their society, and they demand immediate cessation of such usage.  Are these demonstrators justified?  According to the organizations in question, the choice of mascots based on American Indian themes was not intended to be derogatory and in most cases was instead intended to honor certain American Indian tribes or individuals.  In stark contrast, "nigger" was intended from its inception as a derogatory term for African-Americans; it is purposefully used to belittle its victims.  American Indians have made themselves victims here, choosing to be insulted where no insult was intended.  Because the intentions behind them are not slanderous, the use of mascots with American Indian themes should be continued.


      Since its birth, "Indian's" definition has never been derogatory.  It dates back to the 15th century, when Christopher Columbus mistakenly applied the label to the natives of the American islands he explored, believing that he had discovered a western route to India (Microsoft).  Whatever connotations the word may have accrued since then, this denotation is in no way derogatory.  Those American Indians that believe the word to have a derogatory meaning should inform the groups that represent them in the public lobby.  One such highly visible organization entitles itself "The American Indian Movement." This organization's sole purpose is to advance the political interests of American Indians.  If Indian is a derogatory term in all contexts, why does this organization use the word in its name?  Furthermore, the Order of the Arrow, an honor organization within the Boy Scouts of America that bases its ideals on American Indian tradition, consults with a representative committee of many American Indian tribes on a regular basis to decide, among other things, how to refer to American Indians.  For years they were referred to by the "politically correct" label of Native American.  However, while I was attending one of the Order's regional planning conferences in 1996, we were informed that this committee had requested us to use the label "American Indian."  Obviously tribal leadership,...

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