Mascots, Real Savages & Respect
~ David Kitchen
Let me begin this by saying any Sports
Team Indigenous or other wise that is
respectful, understand that the following
is not about you.
When I was a young man some Lakotas came
to Atlanta. They wanted us to join them at the Atlanta Braves stadium because the Braves were playing the Cleveland Indians. Well, we decided to go see what it was all about. We got to the protest and they had us all roped off to "protect" the baseball fans from the dangerous Native American protesters and their supporters.
Atlanta had called out the Red Dog Police Unit to surround us and keep us separate.
On the outside of the rope were drunken Cleveland Indians fans. Some were wearing animal skins and pretending to do war dances like "savages." One had a mock "peace pipe" and he threw it and hit me in the chest with it, as I stood there quietly watching the ordeal. I guess he picked the second biggest guy there to pick on, because the Lakota guy in charge was just a little bigger than me. The "Red Dog" just looked amazed that I just stood there.
They shouted nasty things about Indigenous People and generally made a mockery of the culture. Basically they reduced Indigenous people to caricatures that were subhuman savages. But the protesters just stood there quietly, except for the drum that was playing the real Indigenous heart beat (not the one made up in Hollywood that they play at these games) and singing real songs (not the phony chants at the games).
And when we left the "Red Dog Unit" stood in a line at attention and saluted us for our calm demeanor under fire. And I do mean "under fire." Except that the darn fake "peace pipe" just somehow flew right back at that weird Caucasian guy with the "war paint" on and hit him in the back of the head. The weird guy yelled, "He hit me." to a "Red Dog" officer. The officer, who had his back to us also, said, "Who hit you." The weird guy stared for a minute, shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Then the Drum played and sang an honor song for the "Red Dog" unit. And we left quietly. And on the way home I asked my wife, who had been real quiet during the whole thing, "Who are the real 'savages?" She just said, "The ones who acted like savages."
You know I remember that they used to hunt Indigenous People for the bounty on them then they would skin them and take that back to collect the bounty instead of taking the whole body. That is where the term "Redskins" came from, making reference to the color of the Skins they were bringing in for bounty. What a wonderful way to honor Indigenous People by reminding them that their ancestors were hunted and skinned.
I tried an experiment a several years ago. I put the words to the "Jubilation T. Cornpone" song from the musical "Little Abner" which made a caricature and a mockery of southern heritage. I got outraged people telling me off and cussing at me. I could do the same stereotype mockery of any group, north, south, east or west. And I'll bet I'd get the same outrage and cussing.
So let me ask you this. If it's not okay for me to do a caricaturization of other groups of people, why is it okay to do it to Indigenous People?
Is it because Indigenous People are really less than other people?
I don't think so. But the centuries of conditioning could certainly make some play into that mindset. Just remember this. Just before Adolph Hitler began his campaign to exterminate the Jews, he began a publicity campaign with caricatures of Jews in cartoons with big noses. Until the public, he hoped, would see them as less than human and not deserving of anything, much less life. Ask any Jewish person who escaped that holocaust what it means when they caricaturize you and make you less than human.
So go ahead and let them mock Indigenous People. But the next time that Indigenous issues don't get the serious recognition that they deserve, don't ask why. Just look at the big nosed cartoon of the "savage." And then you'll know why you didn't get taken seriously.
But what do I know? I'm just an old guy who has maybe seen more than he should.
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