The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Monday, August 08, 2005

Politically Correct Incorrectness 

If we can all agree on one thing (and maybe we can't), it's that one of the basic complaints about "isms" (racism, sexism, religionism, etc.) is that people end up stereotyping someone based on the larger group they belong to. From the old Jim Crow stereotypes, to women being inferior to men, to all members of Islam being terrorists... you get the general idea. There are a lot of people of course trying to fight these stereotypes (as they should), and trying to highlight their use in everyday society. That's fine. What I always find amusing, and really just as bad, is the reverse. What I mean is when an organization that claims to represent said group is naturally assumed to speak for all members of that group. Do all black people agree with the NAACP? Do all women agree with NOW? It seems to be just as bad to think that an individual or small group can't seem to have a separate opinion, based on their own values and experience from the larger group. In essence, it's no better than going back to Jim Crow stereotypes.

The most recent example of this type of thinking is the NCAA's decision to ban college teams with Native American names and mascots from the playoffs. While some may claim this to be an important victory for Native Americans, what I find fascinating is that nobody seemed to consult the actual tribes that were affected. For instance, the Seminoles (the tribe, not the team) is rather incensed over the decision. It seems that they like the nickname:

The NCAA on Friday banned the use of American Indian mascots and nicknames by 18 college sports teams -- including the FSU Seminoles -- during postseason tournaments beginning Feb. 1, 2006. Nicknames or mascots deemed "hostile or abusive" will be prohibited from team uniforms during NCAA-sanctioned tournaments and bowl games, and those schools would not be allowed to host postseason events.
...
"Florida State University is stunned at the complete lack of appreciation for cultural diversity shown by the National Collegiate Athletic Association's executive committee," he said in a statement. "That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole people as culturally 'hostile and abusive' is both outrageous and insulting."

He pointed out that the Seminole Tribe of Florida in June passed a unanimous resolution declaring its support for FSU's nickname and mascot, Chief Osceola, based on a warrior and tribal leader from the 1830s.
...
"On June 17, the Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida spoke unequivocally of its support for Florida State University in its use of the Seminole name and related symbols. Accordingly, I intend to pursue all legal avenues to ensure that this unacceptable decision is overturned, and that this university will forever be associated with the 'unconquered' spirit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida."

The Seminoles aren't the only tribes shaking their heads at the NCAA's culturally insensitive decision. Central Michigan University is also asking what the problem is:

Central Michigan University defended the use of the Chippewas nickname after the NCAA on Friday banned the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments. The league did not prohibit them otherwise.

The university said the nickname was adopted in 1942 "to reflect the rich Native American heritage of the mid-Michigan region" and its use has been approved by the area's Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

"CMU's continued use of the name is dependent on whether the Chippewa people in our region continue to feel that CMU's use of the name is in fact a proud reflection and is used with dignity and respect," the university said in a joint statement with the tribe.

To me, it is the highest form of racism, and nannyism to implement a policy that supposedly protects a group's dignity, without even asking that group if it's what they want! The NCAA has decided to treat these tribes like little children, who don't seem to know what's best for them, or what should and shouldn't insult them. Instead of trying to protect them for their own good, how about you ask them what they actually want? That is how you truly honor a people, by letting them decide for themselves.

Comments:

Now, this one seems to make perfect sense to me. The US government has been treating Native American tribes like children and pretending to know what's best for them for a good 200+ years. The NCAA would be foolish to do something else and pretend that they knew better than Uncle Sam.

  Posted at August 08, 2005 12:44 PM by Anonymous Anonymous  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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