Readers continue the debate:
Congress wants to be involved because the topic seems national, seems important (aggrieved minorities), seems controversial (big biz vs tribes), and gives the politician a platform on which to look important (spouting). The whole farce is just a simulacrum of doing the real work of legislating (which is slow, quiet, and requires hard work), and further proves that Congressional DC is becoming a theatre of the absurd, only play-acting in their mission to serve the people.
I wanted to write in as an alum of the Central Michigan University Chippewas. Your reader who worried about an overreach of political correctness – “Are the Atlanta Braves next? What about the Florida State Seminoles?” – might want to reconsider a few points:
(1) Your reader suggests that stigmas can be removed as a society matures. Would anyone find it appropriate to walk onto a Native American reservation and call the inhabitants “Redskins?”
Would anyone even think to use the term “Braves?” A word that can’t be said to the face of those it represents still carries a stigma. These are words that still hurt.
(2) The Atlanta Braves should absolutely be in this discussion. Another simple test: is it a net good when a 14-year-old Native American can turn on TBS and watch a stadium of predominantly white Southerners perform the “tomahawk chop?” Appropriating exaggerated stereotypes of a marginalized society is a harmful thing, even if the actions aren’t ill-intentioned.
(3) Finally, to answer your reader: it matters a great deal when tribes approve their names to be associated with a school. If the Seminole Tribe finds it positive to have a relationship with Florida State University, that’s their business. The same can be said of my school: having a Native American tribe tied into my identity at Central Michigan was extremely positive. Our student body was able to learn about a culture they otherwise might not have been exposed to and develop a greater appreciation of our neighbors.
Another sends the above image:
More images in the same vein on a website that examines racism in sports here. Bill Moyers speaks to Sherman Alexie about racist sports mascots and lack of power in the Indian communities here. Changing bullshit racism in sports matters, just as changing bullshit homophobia in sports matters. It contributes to what society does and does not think is okay.
(Image: “Mascots” from the National Congress Of American Indians‘ racial equality ad campaign)