It’s been a while since I stood on my soap box , and after the Box Office numbers for Single Mom’s Club it appears I wasn’t alone in my thoughts about the efforts of one Mr. Tyler Perry.
You may be wondering what has me on my soap box again, that is if you were under a rock for what was for whatever reason one of the randomly most racially charged weeks in recent sports history with seemingly every sport enduring some controversy based on race. From the “take that racist scum” of soccer star Dani Alves eating a banana thrown at him in Madrid , to the “ridiculous because you’re directing racial comments at a man who’s little brother was your number one draft pick,” to THE incident of the week: “Being an NBA owner who is recorded being vocally racist towards your mixed race mistress probably means you’re gonna have a bad time.” If you engrossed with the Donald Sterling scandal and the NBA’s switf justice and/or made it through all the links and wondered “where’s baseball?” well my friend that is where the soap box comes in.
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As always I feel it necessary to preface statements like the one to follow with facts about me so you can understand my perspective. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and will always remain a very proud fan of the Cleveland professional baseball team. I am an African American man with very minimal knowledge of the culture of Native Americans and as such would not equate what people of my culture have experienced in this country with their own plight nor would I attempt to say I truly know how they must feel about this situation.
Now that that’s out of the way I can say this… Chief Wahoo has to go. First and foremost I will say that I have owned apparel with the logo on it, and that the logo is as much a part of my growing up a Cleveland sports fan as the frustratingly iconic “our logo is our helmet” logo of the Cleveland Browns. When given the choice between the Chief Wahoo logo and the cursive “I” or block letter “C” logo I probably would have chosen the more offensive version until recently.
You may wonder what made the “until recently” part of that statement come to be. It wasn’t the similar plight faced by the Washington professional football team, which is well documented. It wasn’t even the protest by the Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (EONM) or their clever #deceive hashtag campaign and call to boycott Nike for producing apparel featuring the Wahoo logo. It was realizing that if the shoe was on the other foot, and the mascot was of African descent, I would be less than pleased to be on the other end of a scene like this.
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Every Halloween in the post social media age it seems like my timeline is flooded with reminders that some people still think “blackface”, or the painting of one’s face to caricaturize the stereotypical facial features of someone of African descent, is funny. Be it ignorance, an attempt at being subversively funny, or just thinly veiled racism, I constantly find myself annoyed or disgusted every Trick or Treat season. Then after seeing images such as this I imagined myself taking my family to a sporting event, buying a ticket, going to sit down, only to realize that we were sat directly next to someone who regardless of their actual intent was only serving to continue a sad tradition of racial and cultural misunderstanding.
How would I explain to my kids “Oh well Jr. THAT isn’t racist because it’s in a sporting context and I’m sure the guy next to us has a lot of black friends” or “well he doesn’t mean it to be racist he’s just supporting a team that so happens to have a mascot that cartoonishly embodies all what White America thinks we look like… want a hot dog?”. To be honest as much as I love calling my team “The Tribe” in the same way that I still call Progressive Field (formerly Jacob’s Field) “The Jake”, it’s time for not just the mascot but the team name itself to change as I’m pretty sure there is still some controversy as to whether it’s acceptable to use that term when referring to America’s indigenous peoples.
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Lastly, while I respect tradition and history as much if not more than the next man, the argument which uses tradition as a crutch needs to die in a fire. Simply put, institutionalized racism a.k.a “that’s just the way things have always been”, is no longer an excuse, if you think so just ask Donald Sterling if he or his advisors think that “it’s how he was raised” or “he’s from a different era” will hold up in court as he attempts to block the NBA from forcing him to sell his multi-billion dollar playoff team. If America is ever truly to mature and accept and make amends for this part of our history (but never forget!) then we have to hold every level possible accountable, which means again, Chief Wahoo has to go away which I’m sure he will. My only hope is th find a new mascot before we make the World Series.
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