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Sunday, August 14, 2005

More on the NCAA and School Nicknames

The ReviewJournal.com weighs in with a story titled

EDITORIAL: Political correctness run amok
and opens its editorial with the following rather ridiculous claim.
The unchecked spread of political correctness at the nation's university campuses has overrun the NCAA.
I love the precision of thinking of this web site. "Amok" can only be used of discrete entities (Dictionary.com offers up examples of people and plans running amok.) that are moving about in some frenzied way, as if there might be a new kind of Cylon (see the new Battleship Galactica), an artificial intelligence device created by universities, which has become a scourge devastating the US by ridding us of all "politically incorrect" linguistic references. "Unchecked" is an odd term to use. This suggests that conservatives, who, by and large, are the ones who oppose efforts by universities and others to rid American political and social life of disparaging references to minorities and women in public discourse, should mount an army of "Right(wing) thinking people" to do battle with the PC Cylons and "check" (stop) their terrible actions.. Is it the premise of these warriors against political correctness that civil conduct among people of different ethnicities or races or genders, etc., in public is Anti-American or in some other similar way defective?

In a August 13 blog at we find a blog titled "The Modern-day Red Indian Scare."
The use of "Indian" names by sporting teams clearly implies admiration of the strength, determination and bravery of the Indians concerned, so how can it be in any way demeaning to American Indians? Sporting teams don't call themselves "The Powderpuffs", "The Poofters" or "The Weaklings" do they? They want to convey by the name they use how admirable and formidable they are. So such names are in fact a great and generous tribute to the heroism and strength that America's native people showed in defense of their original way of life. How the sick minds of the Left can see it any other way continues to be beyond me.
Before commenting on the claim that these terms are positive in the way our blogger suggests, let me say that it is hard to take seriously anyone who thinks it is reasonable to speak of Amerindians as "Red Indian". Historically, the two most oppressed people in the United States, Amerindians and African-Americans, have been referred to by color words derived from their skin color. We have "red Indian" (our wild and wooly blogger) and "Redmen" (St Johns's in the recent past before this university decided to adopt a more civil nickname) and "Redskin" (The Washington Redskins of the NFL) and "blacks" for American Indians. There is, in a way, little more demeaning than referring to a group of people by an aspect of their physical make up. "Redskin" and "Redmen" are the Amerindian equivalent of "cunt" for women. However, American Blacks seem to be okay with the word, by and large. Probably because it is an improvement on "nigger" or "Negro" (which also means "black.")

Let this "sick mind of the Left" consider an alternative interpretation to the use of Indian names to our Blogger's notion that these names are used by universities by way of honoring Amerindians. The problem with this view is that sports teams, generally, like to use words like "Lions" (Detroit NFL team, think "man-eating") or "Tiger" (Detroit MLB team, think "man-eating" again), "Predators"(Nashville NHL team, scary enough for an Governor Arnold movie), "Raiders" Oakland NFL team, think "bloodthirsty, rapacious") and "Buccaneers" (consider the Tampa Bay (NFL) logo provided above), and so on and so forth. It is the dangerousness and hostility of an entity, whether animal (Michigan Wolverines -- NCAA) or natural event (Miami Hurricanes -- NCAA) or or kind of human (American Indians) that has made them attractive to sports teams.

I argued in my previous blog that it must be left up to the people affected to say whether a word or phrase referring to them is demeaning. After the Florida State Seminoles put up their dukes in defense of their use of "Seminole" on the grounds that the Seminole tribe approved. Immediately after, some self-appointed representative of the Oklahoma branch of that tribe (remember the Trail of Tears) say they didn't approve, the tribe itself spoke up saying they did approve. Based on my criterion, the NCAA is going to have to back off since the people affected have spoken up on the issue. I don't know whether there are any living members of the Illinois tribe to object to or approve the University of Illinois' use of "Illini" but if there are it is up to them, not the NCAA, to say whether this fine university (where my father, two uncles, a pseudo-uncle, and my wife got degrees and I taught before becoming a Buckeye (harmless nut unless you eat it) should lose its team name. While I was at Illinois, the only action involving a reference to the Illinois tribe was a half-time dance put on by a person wearing a beautiful Indian headdress and clothes. The dance might have been a war dance, but it could have been some other sort of dance.

Florida State doesn't totally get off the hook. Their pseudo-Seminole (I imagine) rides into the stadium before games on a horse and throws a spear into the ground at mid-field. That is a hostile act. As is the tomahawk chop that fans do. Interestingly, the name "Seminole" was applied to this tribe, formerly known as "Creeks," by others (Hispanic Whites?). I cite this interesting site on the Seminoles where it is said that "The term "Seminole" is a derivative of "cimarron" which means "wild men" in Spanish." Its pretty clear that Florida State has the "wild men" image of Indians in mind as they do their tomahawk chop. Maybe they can drop their spear throwing and tomahawk chopping (fortunately no tomahawks are actually employed) to appease the NCAA.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Elenamary said...

As my friend Jorge Pancho said:

"Pairing caricatures of Native Americans alongside of caricatures of cats,
birds, and other various bovine creatures is hardly glorification."

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11:17 AM

 
Blogger Cristi said...

i noticed a mention of 'enid' in this post, or a recent one. would that be enid, oklahoma? it would be nice to see a fellow okie (is that still an offensive nickname?) on the linguoblogosphere.

10:51 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

I am an Okie. The word doesn't bother me. As I noted in my blogs on political correctness, it is hard to insult a White male middle-class or higher WASP (former P) with pejorative terms. That's why we shouldn't be involved in saying whether terms, including Okie, are hurtful. You have to ask a dirt farmer in the panhandle of Oklahoma. They were the original Okies. You would have to go to California to find them.

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