Friday, April 08, 2005

Q: What's an example of Institutional Racism?

Sports writer Greg Couch from the Chicago Sun Times went where no one wanted to go this season, to the "Chief" controversy in Where's the Chief? Illinois must decide. He even consulted a sociologist apparently.

His article outlines the bureaucratic process of how institutional racism works, tabling, debating, "honoring" justifications, and ultimately no change. Meanwhile the number of American Indian students on campus are few. Some of them have made their positions clear that they do not support the "Chief." But what the controversy does, is makes them politicized before they even get here. University education is challenging enough not to have to be a spokesperson for a movement against racism. Charlene Teters, the graduate student who energized the movement, was motivated in part through her position as a mother and wanting her children to understand and be proud of their heritage. Here we are 15 years later with a movement, but no institutional change within the university.

So my question: If you know many American Indians do not feel "honored" by a mascot, and in fact feel your "reverence" is a covert racism given your refusal to listen to what they want (no more "Chief"), why would you continue to support it if you are genuinely interested in offering honor and reverence? Wouldn't honor and reverence be better expressed, for example, through scholarships for American Indians - living people - rather than standing at half-time to "honor" an empty symbol of school spirit?

Ideas for other mascots have been the "Prairie Fire," "Orange Crush" (the name of the super-student-fan-block), and I'm sure there are others I haven't heard.

UPDATE: Here is a link to a post on a sociologist's rather new blog, Smidgen of Truth (added to the blogroll), on loving sports and hating racist mascots. I concur. It's baseball season and the Cubs need a closer!!!!

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