University of Illinois finally dumps racist Native American mascot; 1 down, way too many left to go

… who is portrayed by buckskin-clad students who dance at football and basketball games and other athletic events.

And somewhere someone thinks that somehow all those casinos make up for any of this. I still don’t know how anyone can play for the NFL’s Washington’s D.C. team or how newspapers or TV networks can use its name.

On Thursday, two students who portray Illiniwek filed suit seeking to bar the university from “capitulating to the NCAA by announcing the retirement of Chief Illiniwek.”

One quick guess as to which group neither one of these fine human beings is descended from?

7 thoughts on “University of Illinois finally dumps racist Native American mascot; 1 down, way too many left to go

  1. I’d bet strong money that you’re right that neither of the students mentioned is a member of any of the tribes native to southern Illinois.

    But then, I’d bet that same money that the people complaining about the names aren’t from any of those tribes, either.

    I lived in southern Illinois for about 15 years through the ’80s and ’90s, and every few years we’d get a white liberal starting a campaign to save the world by renaming the Illini and their mascot. The media would try to make a big story out of it, but all the leaders of all the local tribes always said that they loved the name. Everyone thought that someone SHOULD be offended by it, but they never found someone who WAS offended.

    So the story dies… at least for a couple years until people forget and start the whole thing over again.

    If things have changed back home (and for all I know, that is quite possible), and the Illinois native Americans are now suddenly offended by the football team, then I’d wholeheartedly support changing the team name and its mascot. If it’s just another exercise of white guilt, though, that just seems kind of pathetic.

  2. Just curious, am I allowed to be offended by Chief Knockahoma of the Cleveland Indians even though I’m Irish/German/Russian and not Sioux or Cherokee or Seminole or Naragansett or Mashpee?

    Which stereotypes is it OK for me to be angry about and which are just exercises in white guilt? Do you have a list?

  3. Of course you’re allowed to be offended… this is America, the land of the free! One of the fundamental tenets of society that our government is based around is the freedom to have different opinions, speak toward different ideals, associate with different groups, and by extension to be offended by different things.

    The question isn’t whether anyone is allowed to be offended, the question is when, if ever, is “offended-ness” on its own sufficient to compel someone else to do something they don’t want to do.

    To analogize in a different arena, I believe our current President has betrayed the interests of the people who elected him to office in countless ways, by expanding entitlement programs, increasing domestic spending by almost unprecedented amounts, and completely failing to execute on issues of judicial nominations below the Supreme Court. And yet, when people say that he can be outsmarted by the average grade-schooler, and take public money to showcase “art” which encourages assassinating him, I’m offended by that. I feel that advocating assassination is an inappropriate method to express that viewpoint; a certain decorum should be observed out of respect for the office, even if not for the current person holding it. But my offense is certainly no reason to force people not to state their opinions.

    We are Constitutionally guaranteed a right to free speech. There is no such guaranteed right to be free from being offended. And, in my opinion, we should not try to create such a right, as the other consequences would be too great. Many others would disagree, though, and that could be a topic of a whole other debate.

    So are there ideas, that by there mere existence, are so destructive and hurtful that we need to forcefully suppress them? Quite possibly! So how do we decide what they are? Who has the standing to judge between what must be forcefully suppressed and what is merely offensive to some people? I’d propose that everyone and anyone can have an opinion and a voice in the matter, but that people more closely involved deserve louder voices. In this case, that would first and foremost include native Americans themselves, and also the school administration (who may wish to project a supportive image) and students, and voices like my own only appearing much further down the list.

  4. “The question isn’t whether anyone is allowed to be offended, the question is when, if ever, is “offended-ness” on its own sufficient to compel someone else to do something they don’t want to do.”

    Exactly how was anyone compelled to do something they didn’t want to do in this case? Compulsion of this sort usually involves some sort of force or threat of force. It could be a threat of violence, a lawsuit or even societal disapprobation. Was U of I compelled to do this or did they just lack sufficient moral resolve to continue using a caricature of an ethnic group which had been subjected to genocide? Hmm, perhaps Berlin Tech should start using a Rabbi Goldstein mascot.

    The more effective the mass slaughter the easier it will be for the society to appropriate the dispatched group as a symbol for teams and products because there will be few — if any — of the group in question to object to said use.

    Allow me to suggest reading a book that I’m currently in the middle of — “At the hand’s of persons unknown” by Philip Dray. It’s a history of lynching in America and the rather extended fight to block anti-lynching legislation. If you don’t feel like reading quite so much then there’s Without Sanctuary, a collection of photographs of American lynchings. A quick glance at its pages rapidly takes the argument out of the realm of rhetoric.

  5. “Exactly how was anyone compelled to do something they didn’t want to do in this case?”

    Well, never mind going any farther for examples, from the AP wire you linked: “The NCAA in 2005 deemed Illiniwek an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the university from hosting postseason events.” For any large school like U of I, the money lost from that decree is a pretty strong force. If the administration had actually wanted to change things on their own, they’ve had ample opportunity for decades.

    As to the other points, I think it may be a bit extreme to tie so closely together people who grew up with native American mascots to genocidal maniacs. I am glad, though, that this issue came up and gave me an opportunity to research more of the history of the Illini Confederation, much of which I was unfamiliar with before now.

    The problem is that we (with “we” being the society that descended from English settlers coming to the Americas, despite the fact that I and many others have no ancestral ties to those roots) didn’t kill off the Illini. When the first Europeans, French fur trappers, met with Kaskaskia leaders in 1666 (Kaskaskia being one of the 5 most powerful tribes of the Confederation), the Confederation was already down to less than 10,000 people.

    Within 50 years, after suffering from a plot by the Winnebago, and then starting a war with the Iroquois (“The Five Nations”) that went very poorly for them, historians tend to believe that more important than the loss of their warriors was the Iroquois decimation of the women and children to a degree so as to make it almost impossible for the Illini to regain their former numbers.

    Later, almost 100 years after first meeting the Europeans, the British won the French and Indian War and came in to the Illinois territory in force for the first time. As allies of the French, the new British administration was less than kind to the shattered remants of the Illini Confederation, but they could hardly be considered to be the cause of a genocide.

    Before someone protests, I don’t in any way deny that “whites” have had a hand in doing pretty despicable things to a whole lots of other cultures over the last few thousand years. “We” did despicable things to several of the other cultures that existed in North America through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, too. But at least in the print encyclopedia I have at home, and the handful of histories I can find on university websites, I don’t see any evidence that the Illini were one of those cultures. However this is still new research for me, so I am very open to changing my mind if I am incorrect about the facts.

  6. You must not even know wat you are talking about because our mascot isnt racist at all! It is even honoring the Native Indians!

  7. I find your anti-Chief Illiniwek comments to be racist and offensive. You have offended me, my family, the former inhabitants of this region, the current residents of Illinois and all Americans who value their freedom of speech. “The Chief” was established by Eagle Scout Lester Leutwiler of Belleville, Illinois after spending time with the Lakota Sioux, to pay honor and tribute to those who came before us in this region. In our Democratic-Republic form of government, it is the people of Illinois through their elected representatives who should decide this and any other social issue that is not a federal one, not some self-ordained, politically correct, radical such as you who decides what is racist and what isn’t, i.e, it’s none of your f#%n business! Oh, and I find your ignorance offensive as well!

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