Tag Archives: collegiate sports

We’re All on About Paula Deen, But What About the Blackhawks?

25 Jun

This whole thing with Paula Deen is a total mess.  Previously, the most outwardly offensive thing about Deen was her overuse of butter and heavy cream.  In fact, one of my favorite games to play back in the day was “predict when Paula Deen is going to add more butter/heavy cream.”  Turns out no matter when you said “butter!” or “heavy cream!” you were right more often than not.  It got old fast but it sure was funny the first few times.  So anyway, Deen has been all over the news and rightfully so.  However, there are many people who have rushed to her defense.  One of those people was a commenter on the New York Times website by the name of Sandy who said,

“I am Paula’s age and live in the South. Whom among us hasn’t laughed at a joke or said something about another race and yet not been racist. (Um, Sandy, you are obviously racist.) I for one believe Paula is like me. We grew up in the 1960’s and definitely know about civil rights and honor them. To fire her for some off hand remarks is a knee jerk reaction by the Food Network who has made a lot of money off of her show. She was sued for the money and now dropped by the Food Network for fear it’s watchers would revolt against her and the Network. Shame on you!”

This attitude was repeated by Deen herself as well as her sons, Jamie and Bobby, who both spoke to Chris Cuomo of CNN in defense of their mother.  I would love to pull the whole interview apart, but I fear I could not do even close to the job done by Alyssa Rosenburg of Think Progress so I encourage you to read her piece entitled “What Paula Deen and her Sons Tell us About the Four Ways Racists Defend Themselves.”  It’s super well written and gets at some of the things a lot of us have been trying to articulate over the past few days but have struggled with.  Anyway, all of this is actually not the point of this blog post because, honestly, I have not been reading up on this Deen-bacle enough to really be able to express my feelings about it in a way that I could get behind.  Perhaps that will come sometime in the future.  The point of this blog, instead, is to point out something that has sort of been boggling my mind over the past few days which is the fact that while we are all talking about Paula Deen, and while people are criticizing her and defending her with equal fervor, we watched with fascination and excitement an incredible Stanley Cup final.  One of the two teams in the final wears a jersey featuring the face of a Native American (worn, may I point out, by a team made up overwhelming of white men). Why aren’t we outraged about this?

As pointed out in an article in The Native Press from 2003, there have been lawsuits brought against many professional sports teams, most notably the Washington Redskins, for their use of racist and derogatory names and imagery.  The term “redskins,” according to Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the non-profit Morning Star Institute and an advocate for American Indian rights, “is the most derogatory term for Native Peoples in the English language.”  And yet in 2013, the Washington Redskins still retain their name.  And then of course there is the Atlanta Braves and their infamous tomahawk chop, which is shared b the Florida State Seminoles, a team that also features offensive imagery on its jerseys.  As pointed out in a recent article on Policymic.com by Sarah Dropek, the Blackhawks were criticized most recently in 2010 for the “the racist nature of the name, emblem, and mascot of the team.”  To the people who claim that “political correctness” has no place in hockey, Dropek declares that

“the problem with decrying political correctness as a reason to throwout a legitimate discussion of racism is that it claims the racism is frivolous, that it is not worth upsetting the fandom or the team dynamic. The suggestion that the racism is not worth arguing against is a claim that it has no real negative impact in our world, that it is not worth bothering about in light of other issues.”

This, I think, is exactly the point. And Dopek does not stop there.  She then says,

“The objectification, commodification, and logo-ization of a group of people (a very real, live, and living people) is cause enough for change. The continuation of racist stereotypes of Native Americans based on these logos is reason enough for change. The majority of sports team logos and names center around animals, much like the Boston Bruins (bears). When you slap a stereotypical image of a Native American on a jersey you are equating them to these nameless, carbon-copy animals that populate other team’s locker rooms. They are no longer a people with agency, history, and future like anyone else, they are a thing to be harnessed however the individual in charge decides. “

For those who then point out that teams such as the Blackhawks compensate tribes for the use of their images as a way to let themselves off the hook for blatantly racist and dehumanizing actions, I say you are missing the point.  No amount of money can undo the damage of commodifying an entire group of people.  If there was a professional, or collegiate, sports team called “The Kikes” that pictured a shifty-looking guy with a big nose on the jerseys I think we would have a lot to say about that.  So why is it that in a country willing and able to have a conversation about Paula Deen’s blatant racism, we are so incapable of being critical of the even more obvious racism presently featured in the sports world?  Are Native Americans so invisible to us that we don’t even notice anymore? Or are we just so attached to these names and chants that we simply can’t bear to change them.