In Cleveland we are being treated to a Cleveland Indians fan wearing redface coming face to face with Native American protestors. But what people like this do is point out other instances where someone might wear whiteface, or similar. Nothing like a good straw man to distract from the slime that oozes from the prejudiced or ignorant. Enough with the “but whens” and the “other guys.” If there is one thing a bigot can be counted on for, it is incessant rationalization of their prejudice. It does not matter what other people do, it matters what you do, because enough people doing something does not elevate the act, it just populates the mud.
This country in the mid 1800s, through its newspapers, engaged in a propaganda of fear or misanthropy against the various tribes in order to undermine them and incite the popular support to move them by force. Why? Railroads. Business. We do the same thing today with poor inner city residents, except it is smoother and less abrasive. You might know it by its corporate term — gentrification. Yes the fan in redface is a fool, not just because it is insensitive, or due to the fact he probably thinks the Trail of Tears is a Visine ad jingle. He is a fool because he does not realize the biggest shame of all: most tribes were peaceful, respectful, and environmentally conscious peoples whose goal was to live in harmony.
To wear this garb is to disavow knowledge, easily discovered, that proves Native Americans were systematically persecuted. It is to ignore the messages of peace, and the contributions to farming, and the myriad survival techniques that were based on respect for all of God’s creatures, not just the capitalistic. It would not be acceptable to have a mascot of an African American man wearing a gold tooth and name your team the Thugs, or a Mexican with sunglasses and name the team the Cartels, so why is portraying natives to be savages acceptable? It isn’t.
The tragedy of stereotypes is not just the prejudice they foster, but the beautiful truths they obfuscate. If you want to make a respectful mascot based on the culture of a fascinating and by and large peaceful people, a screaming savage is not where you start. If you want to accurately portray the vast majority of Native American culture in one symbol, don’t start with an arrow, start with a big, red, striking …