Courting controversy: Issue #1

>> Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just saw an article in the G&M today on a proposal from the Vancouver Board of Education to ban aboriginal-themed mascots.

I have been thinking about this one for a while. To me, the issue seems pretty clear: these team names do tend to trivialize, oversimplify, and exoticize a culture (or actually, many cultures) that are not very well understood but should be, given that they are cultures of the land we live in.

It reminds me a little of a Joseph Boyden short story (highly recommended) about pro wrestlers visiting an Ontario reserve. One of the wrestlers, who is actually Puerto Rican, plays a character who is a warrior / chief type. All the kids on-reserve, from their perspective of who and where they are, consider him a hero. One day he visits their class, causing a great deal of excitement among the kids. He walks in and says, "How". The kids are confused. Do you remember, as a kid, seeing Indians in cartoons or comic books speaking like this? Well, they sure don't in Northern Ontario. Sure, aboriginal-themed sports teams and other heroes could be considered a tribute to the strength and character of various aboriginal people, but it is a caricature that incorrectly essentializes diverse cultures and peoples. The fact that this character literally doesn't speak to aboriginal children should be reason enough for us to make this small change.

I was recently looking over the list of pro-sports teams that have these names and wondering how this still goes on in some of the world's most important cities. A city that houses America's first black president has a national football team called the Redskins. Is it even otherwise appropriate to use that word? And his home state is where the Blackhawks play professional hockey. In 2010, how is this still okay?

3 comments:

Citizen Alert February 18, 2010 at 1:53 PM  

That is such an interesting article and a great commentary on it. It goes to show that sometimes things aren't as obvious as we think they are. I never really thought about this before even though I watch my fair share of sporting events. Thanks for posting this.

b February 18, 2010 at 10:16 PM  

Thanks Sarah, glad you found it interesting...I just had to say something when I saw that article!

b February 22, 2010 at 12:18 PM  

Interesting article here on a related topic:

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/767792--cree-director-neil-diamond-s-real-look-at-reel-indians

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