Stereotypes And Racial Imagery In College Mascots Must Go

By Corey Elliot
Beth Hall-USA Today Sports Images

Nicknames deep-rooted in racial stereotypes have got to go.

Especially with Native American nicknames.

As a society, we have a difficult time seeing racism towards Native Americans. While we are very quick to recognize racism towards African Americans and other social groups, the general public can’t understand the term “Redskins” is the equivalent to the “N” word in the Native American culture.

A lot of logos use racial imagery. Recently, Miami (Ohio) University changed their logo from a Native American’s face with war paint to a red tail hawk. While still using the name Redhawks, the university took some of the first steps to make it right.

While the issue may not be as prevalent in college football it’s still an issue, regardless. Florida State University is one of the few that may have a free pass. The school’s nickname from the Seminole Tribe is more of a tribute to the heritage of the Native American culture. At the same time, though, the “tomahawk chop” is often deemed offensive by those in the Native American culture.

It is a large area of grey that needs to be analyzed and debated. What should be done with the names, logos and traditions of these universities that are Native American oriented?

Nick names like “savages” and other derogatory names were used by a lot of high schools all over the country. The names were born out of a cowboy-Indian fantasy portraying Native Americans as some wild untamed creature we had to civilize.

America was a breath away from genocide.

The behavior of the American soldier was far more egregious than the Natives in most cases. The trail of tears, for example, is an obvious case.

It’s the times that are changing and the pace we must keep to maintain a lifestyle that fits those guidelines. Ole Miss had to change their mascot from a confederate colonel to a bear because, well, you can’t have a confederate colonel portraying the image of your school.

How do you explain that to an African American recruit?

“Hey, we really want you to come and give your all to the Red and Blue here at Ole Miss! Hotty Toddy! What do you say?!”

Um, coach, your student section used to chant “and the south will rise again” at the end of your fight song and your mascot was a colonel that fought to keep slavery alive. I think I’ll sign with someone else.

I think people are overly sensitive these days, but I also think there is a huge difference between overly sensitive and morally right. The movement to do right by the Native American culture and change the derogatory logos and nicknames is without a doubt, morally right.

Universities sell tickets and apparel with Native American images, while marketing the school behind a Native American nick name and again, despite the Seminoles and the Fighting Illini, where the schools honor the heritage, make a lot of money off of a culture founded from oppression and struggle.

The NCAA needs to join in on the cause that many are beginning to support. Take the negative portrayal and disrespectful references of Native Americans, and other races and cultures, out of sports.

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