Staurowsky's article "You know we are all Indian" speaks about the controversy over 2005 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announcement of a policy that prevents colleges and universities from displaying Native American mascots and imagery for any NCAA-sponsored events. The author examines the controversy over NCAA's policy with White people and their privilege in the United States. Staurowsky reveals the fact that such White privilege and power are means of sustaining racism. Like we discussed in previous class about the protest against displaying Washington RedSkins' Indian mascot held in down town street, Minnesota, this article also make me realize that this is serious issue on shaping Native Americans' identities, especially for young children. Using Indian mascot is problematic in terms of dehumanizing Native Americans and devaluing Native American's culture. For young children, what they see is what they are influenced most powerfully. Displaying Indian mascot as well as the team name "Red Skins" are both very discriminating particular race. This topic was new to me at first, so it was little difficult for me to understand the topic. However, through the discussion in the class and reading the article allowed me to have better understandings and seriousness in the issue. Also, I learnt that it is not only about personal problem with identity but also about societal problem of education.
This reading focused very closely on the power of publicity when it comes to racial issues and the rigidity of certain representations of racial stereotypes. The fact that society is well aware and passionate about the controversy surrounding "The Fighting Sioux" yet do not recognize the issues of educational funding for Native individuals s a clear example of the power publicity plays in today's society. Publicity is what this case is all about in a way, the Native Americans do not want their representation in the world to be publicized as a mascot, the teams want to present their connection to the history of this school through the common mascot, and the people fighting for or against the change are in part doing it because it brings attention to the matter and garners supporters on both sides.
The thing I found most striking in this essay is the topic that Staurowsky draws on Strong to discuss. This topic the idea that by using Native American representation as mascots the practice treats the native people "as signs rather than as speakers, as caricatures rather than players and consumers, as commodities rather than citizens" (65). This statement of treating the Native American as a commodity, I feel, ties in to the practice of individuals checking the Native American ethnicity box even if they are not of Native decent. The knowledge that this trait of 'otherness' can open doors that would not otherwise be welcoming is enough motivation for a person to aspire to that label.
In Staurowsky's article she talks about a man who pretended to be an Indian, and became very famous for it. It wasn't until after he passed away that people found out the Grey Owl, was not actually Indian at all. She goes on the compare this to schools and sports teams that have Indian themed mascots. She says that supporters of these teams are doing the same thing that Archie Belaney/ Grey Owl did. The fans of these teams are Indian impostors as well. They are ignoring what these team names/mascots are actually representative of. They instead only recognized the version that has been changed and branded for White consumption. The NCAA recently decided to ban some of this imagery in some ways.
It is difficult to police the subject when either way things go it is going to be unfair. There are some teams that appealed against the NCAA's rules and were supported by Native American groups, while some others are still not supported. The way that sports teams use the Indian themed mascots is what teaches many Americans about American Indians, and the things they are teaching and the way it is representing them is all wrong. This is why there are stereotypical beliefs about Native Americans still, and why many don't know much about American Indians other than they wear feather headdresses and carry tomahawks. This is why these mascots should not be supported. They are distorting the worlds views and knowledge of American Indians. There are many people that are also against changing the mascots and team names as well. These people are the ones that benefit from the teams and don't want to have to change the names due to completely different reasons, such as branding.
Staurowsky's article on the perpetuation of damaging Native American representations and White supremacy is in line with our recent readings that effectively uncover entire systems of White privilege and racism, and serves as a useful body of work in exposing various 'hidden histories'. The article's focus lies on the NCAA's 2005 decision to ban the use of Native American imagery (that is, representations not approved by corresponding Native American tribes) in NCAA events, and the subsequent negative reaction from the University of North Dakota (specifically, President Charles Kupchella's). Staurowsky describes in detail Kupchella's attempts to justify UND's practices, which include appeals to the supposedly good initial intentions of the university, the seemingly unfair admission of Florida State University's nearly identical use of Native American imagery, and a direct criticism of the NCAA's review method.
Staurowsky's focus seems to be on the historical dehumanizing of Native Americans and modern attempts to supplant past overt assertions of racism with tokenizing forms of supposed representation. Indeed, the origins of such imagery appearing among sports mascots lie in perceptions of the 'other' that served to ease the practice of genocide by likening Native Americans to animals rather than humans. The process is perhaps as old as civilization itself, or at least colonization, and represents the basis for continued racist depictions of races other than White. Believing that students at universities taking part in the perpetuation of racist images is somehow honoring the marginalized communities of focus resembles deeply misguided thinking. This is not to say that all of the blame lies on students who partake in offensive traditions, but rather their actions embody a perpetuation of White supremacist thinking that has become engrained in the minds of 'Americans' over the last five hundred years, and one that will require further exposure to the (to borrow a term from Staurowsky) ignominious actions of the individuals whose tradition much less resembles one of honor, and much more one of despicable genocide.
Ellen Saturowsky's article applies the concept of White privilege directly to the context of college sports and their particular use of American Indian mascots. The embrace of images of American Indians as warriors is "culturally comfortable and comforting" and gives Whites a perceived legitimacy or authority to control this imagery that serve to make American Indian culture into a commodity or caricature of its true form. "Part of the cultural power of Native American mascots is that they dress racism in a benign guise." The mascot mentality of universities places pressures and undue stereotypes on American Indian students, and even creates this dynamic "in which people who are not 'ethnically Indian' have strategically claimed Indianness." It so happens, that this strategy is implemented as a voting technique to favor the retention of these images.
Given as a type of case study example was the controversy surrounding the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux mascot. In essence, the NCAA administered a policy effectively eradicating Indian imagery that is otherwise offensive and unapproved, to which UND is clinging to in the name of the history of the university. UND President Kupchella released a statement that included, "We [UND] certainly do not believe that we agreed by our membership that--as a condition of full membership privileges--a small committee would have the authority to change the architecture of sports facilities that we do not own or cause us to modify our very history." I am of the opinion that Kupchella's privilege is being threatened by the NCAA's empathy towards American Indians. He doesn't realize that the small committee exercising some major authority is the very way in which small colonies of English settlers removed American Indians from their lands and erased their histories. The evidence of this lies in our treatment of them as "others," today. The anecdote of Grey Owl appearing to audiences as a caricature of himself because it was what Whites expected to see, or the afterthought of including tribes in discussions and engagements, among other wrongs are proof that we are trying to protect an "acceptable racist image," rather than truly honoring, empathizing, or understanding history that is lost on White power.
To that effect, I enjoyed the details of Saturowsky's article and how they added up to unconscious White power and privilege superseding American Indian values because I felt a greater sense of understanding. However, her strong and direct language split my emotions. Her arguments made me feel angry that the American Indian voice and opinion could be ignored so easily, which caused me to feel unnecessarily greedy for wanting to support a cause to save a mascot that had its own history tied to that of a university. I wanted a compromise where there isn't one. But then I became frustrated in the ignorance of our own ignorance. How could we, for so long, pretend that the American Indian didn't exist, devalue its worth to that of a myth, and then become shocked to realize that these tribes exist, and are angry at their lack of unequal treatment? And we (Whites) are the ones who are angrier?
DISCUSSION QUESTION: How is this issue of mascots and American Indian imagery a way to redevelop racial identity for both Whites and American Indians?
In recent years, the NCAA including Florida State University (FSU) University of Illinois, and the University of North Dakota (UND) has been under fire due to its representations of American Indian culture. The author of this article, Ellen Staurowsky, explicitly believes the ways in which American Indians are represented only serves the need for White consumption and White power structures. What Staurowsky means by this is American Indian "images and personalities are celebrated because of their attendant qualities of fighting prowess and bravery but not because they represent peoples" (62).
Staurowsky believes American Indian culture is misappropriated through mascots, fight songs, and other forms of imagery by students, alumni, sports fans, and citizens (62). For example, "Chief Osceola" is the mascot for FSU, "Chief Illiniwek" represents Illinois, and UND is called the "Fighting Sioux".
In August 2005, The NCAA decided to put an end to American Indian discrimination and racism through mascotting by establishing a policy. This policy required colleges and universities with Native American mascots and imagery to refrain from displaying Native American images during NCAA-sponsored events. If a university/college did not comply with the rules and continued to display Native American imagery, as of 2006, it would lose its eligibility to host any NCAA championship.
Lastly, Staurowsky makes the claim, "If we truly were all Indians, we would not tolerate the hardships Native Americans have suffered..." (73). She notes the purpose of the NCAA policy decision was to eradicate the white power struggle found in the university and colligate school system, however, she is hardly impressed by the NCAA efforts. She believe the misappropriation still present in the wake of this policy, continues to feed into the "continuum of "acceptable" racist imagery that becomes a portal for resistors seeking ways to justify racist practices" (72), which appears also thought it will never disappear.
Until reading this article I did not realize the severity of this topic. The research I did for my presentation this week also reflects that mascotting is not only derogatory for racial groups, it also enforced by white power. I believe Staurowsky's correlation between white power and consumerism has strong impact on the fact that these racist images still exist, because the majority opinion trumps minority. This is infuriating! I do not understand how some people could believe calling a football team the "Redskins" is not racist, especially in 2014! I only hope more American Indian groups will stand up against this injustice, as well as the negative stereotyping in other forms of media, because they deserve respect too.
Side note: I found this MLKJ quote which I believe describes this issue perfectly.
"... We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations."
Staurowsky's article is a detailed examination of the use of American Indian iconography within collegiate sports, and the battle that is currently underway between universities and the NCAA. The article begins by giving some historical context for the ways in which white audiences have been conditioned to see the Native American identity as something to be tailored toward myth and entertainment, and therefore informs the inherent insensitivity that is present when discussing the reasons behind why certain tribes or terms were chosen as team mascots for collegiate teams in the first place. The major problems seem to lie with UND and their former mascot the "fighting Sioux" which, in line with the recent rules on Native American mascot usage instituted by the NCAA. UND feel as if it's being treated unfairly because other teams like the Florida State Seminoles get to keep their mascot. The author tries to point out how UND's claims are most likely unfounded due to the fact that a majority of the Sioux tribes in North Dakota disapprove of the name use, and a conflict of interest may be occurring from a known white supremacist donor giving 35 million dollars to the school. The article concludes emphasizing the importance of understanding the plight of Native Americans, and why their identities must be so vigilantly defended from the existing notions created from centuries of abuse ingrained into the white majority identity.
Reading this, I found myself getting very angry with the leadership of UND and their insensitivity to the issue at hand. The tribes they are "emulating" find their use as mascots disrespectful. What more reason is there to justify the stoppage of using the mascot? FSU has the explicit consent of the Seminole tribe to use as their mascot, and do so in a culturally respectful way. UND is notorious for having insensitive fans that promote stereotypes and lampooning of the tribes the school is supposedly "honoring" and the fact that the push back to all this is largely fueled by money is absolutely disgusting. No one deserves to have their identity cartoonified and mocked. All cultures are rich and can be taken pride in appropriately without devolving to oversimplification.
"You Know, We Are All Indian" by Ellen Staurowsky explores how white people of privilege and power reacted to the NCAA Native American mascot policy. The policy would require colleges and universities with Native American mascots and imagery to refrain from displaying those during NCAA-sponsored events. This issue pertaining to the NCAA has created more spitefulness and resentment than any other. According to Staurowsky, Whites feel a sense of inclusiveness and acceptance by taking on the American Indian identity by embracing university mascots of Indian heritage. One would think this would be viewed as a positive by the American Indian culture. However, Staurowsky suggests that reaping the benefits of the glorified American Indian identity that comes with the affiliation of a university is actually insulting to American Indians. Whites haven't "lived" as American Indians, experiencing the prejudicial suffering and cultural difficulties that come with that heritage. Staurowsky cautions the use of American Indian mascots serves to treat American Indians like signs and caricatures and as commodities rather than citizens. Whites reap the benefits without experiencing the pain they have endured. We need to consider the added harm we cause to a culture already misunderstood and misrepresented, and what added difficulties come to American Indians that attend these universities.
I found this interesting and surprising because I would think that it would be an honor to have a college represent your heritage. This is different than the article we discussed earlier in the semester about the Washington Red Skins where they felt more like a joke where these particular groups were not ashamed, but rather insulted that others could claim their identity as American Indians when they were not. As the article went on, I began to understand more their point of view as I did with the Washington Red Skins example.
Discussion Question: Is there something specific about the American Indian culture that would cause this reaction or would any other culture feel this way if they were represented in the same way?
"You know, We Are All Indian", authored by Ellen J. Staurowsky, sheds further light on the growing controversial issue of using American Indian mascots, imagery, and misconfigured ideology for the benefit of collegiate institutions comprised largely of non-American Indian students and supporters. A key point established was the relationship between white privilege and American Indian ideals. Staurowsky mentioned that non-American Indian prospective students would apply, under false pretense, as an American Indian. This then results in an unrealistic high representation of American Indian students in law schools despite the statistic that 40% of American Indian students drop out of high school. This idea is especially interesting in that it appears that typically dominant members of society (white college applicants, for example) are making a conscious choice to check the American Indian box, to don a false representation in order to what? To heighten their chances of being accepted? Staurowsky did not delve further into this interesting issue, yet the mere fact that this specific lie was being told prompts me to think this person must have felt checking the American Indian box would be beneficial in some way. To think that a white or other dominant member of society feels the need to, at their leisure, falsely associate with characteristic typical of what society has deemed as subordinate only presents the great extent of white (or other dominant) privilege. And that is sad to me.
Staurowsky also focused specifically on the University of North Dakota and it's Fighting Souix mascot outlining both visceral and deep influences, political strain, and arguments associated with the debate over whether to keep the name. This power struggle between UND and NCAA demonstrates political tension, white privilege, and has acted as somewhat of a slight catalyst for the overarching controversy. Although it seems that neither side has not handled the situation well (when does an argument ever go well though?), I feel that UND's argument has next to absolutely no standing or merit. Sure, there may be one out of multiple American Indian tribes who offered support in keeping the name, but that is only one! Additionally, the manner in which UND President, Kupchella, was presented led me to reach the conclusion that he seems to be very inflexible, unwilling to try to understand the complexity of the issue, and rude. I realize that the slant of the article must be taken into account, however I do still feel that Kupchella could/can be more reasonable concerning the issue.
DQ: In what ways do you feel that the UND - NCAA issue could have been better handled? Do you feel it is sometimes necessary to muddle through an issue such as these and is there a graceful way to do this while also bringing attention to the controversy?
Relating the idea of white privilege to the NCAA debate over Indian mascots was an interesting perspective. It was an angle that is rarely considered when actual debate is taking place. However this idea was tied directly into Staurowski's article. She encouraged this angle by claiming that the NCAA debate over the Indian mascots was actually fueled by white ideals. It was their decision, and use of white hegemony to decide what each Indian tribe thought of their names being used. More specifically that they all felt disrespected and needed to be protected. This assumption generated the policy of changing mascots/imagery in order to compete in NCAA competitions.
Moreover, white privilege can be seen in the pride that non- American Indian people take on the use of the native symbolism. For example, many schools, no matter the race of the student body, will proclaim that they are Indians and take pride in it. These student bodies take the chants, traditional fighting techniques, and stereotypical personality and turn it into a mascot. In doing so, you are making their mascot what white people expect from Indian communities and what they imagine of persons. Additionally, the trouble with this is that it has caused a hurt self-image among American Indian communities. This mascot misconception has made turned the killing and displacement issues of the past, into a heroic non-existent person, that is on the side of white America. This white hegemony has shaped how the Indians of the past and the American Indians of the past, into people that they never were.
Lastly, the article addresses the trouble between UND and NCAA. The issue was created when UND did not want to change their fighting Sioux mascot, claiming that it was being used in pride of the tribe. Whereas, the NCAA, claims that their imagery and chants are not actions of pride, but of stereotyped negative imagery. Even though this issue has now made UND give up their imagery of the Sioux at NCAA games, the white privilege ideology can still be seen behind the actual argument. The argument specifically has generated sides and made actions without in place of the tribe. Once again, both sides have generated what white America wants and what they think American Indians want.
So in conclusion, the article is a new and interesting perspective on an old issue. In placing the idea of white privilege into the actions of colleges, laws, and companies, you can truly see how white hegemony and privilege plays into many aspects of debate and issues. It seems that white America feels that it is there job to assert the views and solutions to all issues generated in their communities.