World Series excitement is still in the air, and while all the attention is still on baseball and our winning game, I wanted to draw attention on the losing team, and a more controversial topic – the team name/mascot. Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks – in almost every sport there is at least one team with a potentially offensive team name and mascot. Not everyone has a problem with these team names. Some people claim they honor Native Americans, especially the Blackhawks, because Black Hawk was a real person with a story. He was a leader of the Sauk tribe, forced out of his land in the early 1800s by American settlers. In trying to recover land, the tribe became involved in a conflict that came to be known as the Black Hawk War. You could argue that the Chicago Blackhawks made Black Hawk’s story more known. The Redskins however do not have as much support. Many think of redskin as a slur against Native Americans.
Personally, I think all these names are dehumanizing, because mascots tend to be animals, and having a race represent a team is like degrading them and saying they are animals. Even if their intention is to honor Native Americans, there are other ways to do it. Using Native American mascots isn’t only offensive to them, but it is ethnic stereotyping, and also leads to further problems like cultural appropriation. Non-native people using indigenous music and costumes among other things when celebrating these sports, such as wearing the feathered headdress displayed in the Blackhawks logo, contributes to the system of dominance that oppresses Native Americans. Next time you’re celebrating a win of the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Redskins, or Cleveland Indians, think about what you’re really supporting.
~Riya (teen blogger)