Point/Counterpoint pt2

Tony Cox

Wear the Wahoo — team spirit isn’t racism

Just because it happened over a month ago doesn’t make it any less stupid.

In December, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution discouraging members of the Kent State community from wearing clothing which bears “racially offensive” logos and mascots. This being Northeast Ohio, Chief Wahoo, the long-time mascot/logo of the Cleveland Indians, is naturally the primary target.

That’s right. The Faculty Senate thinks that if you wear an Indians cap to class, you’re committing a racist act.

Listening to Professor George Garrison, one might get the impression that supporting your favorite baseball team is tantamount to cross burning. Allowing students to wear clothing with Chief Wahoo on it is “offensive and harassing to Native American and African-American students.” (I’m not exactly sure how African-Americans got thrown into the mix, but c’est la vie.)

Professor Robert Twieg said the Chief Wahoo logo is particularly offensive because Native American culture is centered on honor. Fair enough, but is there any culture that is centered on dishonor? The Ancient Order of Hibernians don’t have a problem with Notre Dame’s “Fightin’ Irish” logo despite the fact that it is based on 19th century caricatures of Irish immigrants as apish sub-humans. And the National Italian American Foundation takes no issue with the handlebar-mustachioed chefs found on almost every pizza box in America. And I’ve never heard of anyone from Parma complaining about local television legends Big Chuck and Little John, whose comedy skits often took Polish jokes to a new level. The list goes on. So why is Chief Wahoo such a point of controversy?

Popular mythology holds that the Cleveland Indians were named in honor of Louis Sockalexis, a Native American member of the club who played in the early part of the last century. Time and scholarship have proven this to be somewhat of a fabrication, but regardless of the name’s true origin, it hardly seems plausible that fans or players would name a team in which they took great pride as some sort of joke. Similarly, it is foolish to suppose that anyone anywhere would wear an article of clothing with Chief Wahoo on it for the expressed purpose of offending Native American students. And yet the recent uproar from certain members of the Faculty Senate suggests that exactly such a thing is a daily occurrence at Kent State.

It seems as though this is yet another instance of the radical left trying to make other people feel bad about not conforming to their perception of what constitutes offensive behavior. To them, pornographers and flag burners can gleefully dance around under the umbrella of the First Amendment, but wearing an Indians jacket ought to be a federal crime.

Limiting freedom of expression is no way to promote racial harmony. Rather than fanning the flames of racism by making mountains out of molehills, the Faculty Senate should observe anti-racism where it is found most frequently: on playgrounds, in locker rooms and at union halls, among average people who just want to live their lives — not among self-righteous college professors.

The vast majority of people today know the evils of racism. It is only when leftist ideologues repeatedly bludgeon them over the head with charges of bigotry that they react unfavorably. Let the Cleveland Indians play, and let its fans support it by wearing its apparel — probably the most unobtrusive form of support that a fan can offer.

After all, 2005 is supposed to be the year — World Series, baby!

Tony Cox is a junior philosophy major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].