Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Mascot: The Whining Wills

Although I try not to repeat myself too much on this blog, George Will’s stupidity is forcing me to write again about American Indian names as mascots. In his latest column, Will uses the same wrong analogies in his argument that others have tried - comparing Indian mascots to white mascots.

Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish mascot and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Minute Man mascot are not the same as the Redskins mascot or the Chief Illiniwik. Both the Fighting Irish and the Minute Man are mascots that symbolize the university community. Notre Dame has always been an Irish Catholic university; the minute man symbolizes the proud history of Massachusetts citizens during the American Revolution.

American Indians do not represent a proud history of the university or its community (or in professional sports, that city’s community). Instead, the team is using a stereotype of that group to mock it. Basically, the idea boils down to whether the mascot is a representation of yourself, or a mocking portrayal of some “other”. Since we wouldn’t stand for mascots that mock Middle Eastern cultures, African cultures, or African-American cultures, allowing these mascots shows insensitivity towards one group that we wouldn’t tolerate towards others.

George Will thinks that the call to abandon these types of mascots is a symptom of oversensitivity that is running amok. He thinks the world is trying to prevent people from ever being offended. Using that logic, there shouldn’t be any uproar when someone uses a racial epithet. We should all feel comfortable being as offensive as possible. The problem with this is that when that happens, one group’s offense will always have more meaning than others depending on the power relationship.

Political correctness has the potential to get out of control, but that doesn’t mean that we should rebel and try to be as offensive as possible. Expecting people to use reasonable judgment to avoid an obvious situation where one culture is being mocked shouldn’t be asking too much.