Created on Friday, 30 March 2007 21:16
Written by Jack Random
CHIEF WAHOO & SPIKE LEE:
BASEBALLâ€™S TRIBUTE TO CIVIL RIGHTS
by Jack Random
Major League Baseball is paying tribute to the civil rights movement on March 31st with its inaugural Civil Rights Game in Memphis, Tennessee â€“ home of the National Civil Rights Museum and the city where Martin Luther King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
The inaugural event, featuring the St. Louis Cardinals versus the Cleveland Indians, will invoke the memory of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the major league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the spring of 1947. Appropriately, the league will honor filmmaker Spike Lee (Get on The Bus, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing), Vera Clemente (widow of the immortal Roberto Clemente) and the late Buck Oâ€™Neil (who championed recognition of the Negro League but was inexplicably snubbed by Hall of Fame voters) for their varied contributions to the cause of civil rights.
What could possibly be wrong with such an admirable event?
THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY
Take a closer look at the teams invited to commemorate this
solemn and momentous occasion. There is certainly nothing wrong with
selecting the world champion Cardinals as National League
representatives â€“ although the Dodgers might have been a more fitting
choice. As for the Indians, it is acknowledged that Larry Doby broke
the American League color barrier with Cleveland only months after
Robinsonâ€™s debut â€“ an admirable event worthy of commemoration.
The problem arises with the official logo and mascot of the Indians: Chief Wahoo.
of color, race, ethnic identity or political philosophy, any objective
view of Wahoo must concede: It is a demeaning stereotype â€“ the smiling,
drunken fool so eager to please his racially insensitive white fans.
not mistake the nature of my objection. I am a fan of baseball and I
like the Cleveland franchise. Leaving the Washington Redskins aside, I
do not personally object to names like the Warriors, the Braves or the
Indians. (If the American Indian Movement does not object, neither
should we.) Chief Wahoo, however, is beyond the pale. It is so
deliberately and flagrantly racist that it cannot hide behind the
typical excuse that some Native Americans are not offended.
may be some African Americans who were not offended by Aunt Jemima,
Stepin Fetchit or Little Black Sambo but I assume Spike Lee is not
I am certain that the family and friends of Buck
Oâ€™Neil would object if some corporation wanted to use his image to
bring back Uncle Tom to sell white rice.
As Arlen Melendez of
the National Congress of American Indians said: â€œIt is absolutely
irresponsible to include a team such as the Cleveland Indians, whose
buck-toothed Indian mascot promotes blatant racism, mockery and
negative stereotypes of Native Americans.â€
We do not expect
Major League Baseball or its feckless corporate lackey of a
commissioner, Bud Selig, to do the right thing (unless of course he is
shamed into it) but we do expect as much from Spike Lee.
it down for him, Spike. Put it to him in terms everyone can understand:
Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Cochise are noble warriors;
Chief Wahoo is a bad joke.
I suggest a whiteface act, replete with red nose, red cheeks, bulging belly, a bottle of whiskey and a fat cigar.
Come on, Spike: Do the right thing.
RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND
GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE
APPEARED ON THE ALBION MONITOR, PEACE-EARTH-JUSTICE, THE NATIONAL FREE
PRESS, PACIFIC FREE PRESS, LEFTWARD, DISSIDENT VOICE AND COUNTERPUNCH.
SEE RANDOM JACK: WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM