I am beginning to fear that we live in a world that caters to the thin-skinned and the overly-sensitive.
Case in point-the Fightin’ Whities, an intramural basketball team at the University of Northern Colorado that has been receiving nationwide media attention. According to the Coloradoan, the team chose its name to call attention to the “offensiveness” of Eaton High School’s “Fightin’ Reds” name and mascot.
The team’s outspoken stance even earned them the invitation to speak to the Multiculturalism and the Media class here at CSU earlier this week.
It would seem that the members of the Fightin’ Whities find the use of Indians as school mascots objectionable because it represents a stereotype of the Native American.
I guess my problem is that I just don’t see anything wrong with the whole issue.
I grew up just east of Fort Collins, going to school in Pierce, Ault and Windsor, three of the towns that surround Eaton. From the time I was old enough to play competitive sports, I remember playing the Eaton Reds on a yearly basis. I had, and still have, friends that attended Eaton High School. For all of us growing up in the area, the “Fightin’ Reds” were a reality and a near constant influence in our lives.
Yet, even with the constant influence of this “stereotype,” I do not know one single individual who believes that Native Americans sit around with their legs and arms crossed, wearing a loincloth and a headband with one feather sticking out of the top.
So, the question I would ask is – Where is the evil here?
Is it evil that when Eaton High School was built, the administrators wanted a mascot that would inspire student pride in their school? Is it evil that the administrators wanted to give the students an identity, a symbol to stand behind? Or, is it evil that the school happened to chose that symbol, that mascot, to be a caricature of an Indian?
The evil in the situation exists in stereotypes. The problem with that is, stereotypes aren’t written or painted on walls, stereotypes exist in the minds of men.
The Fightin’ Whites can’t erase the stereotype in question by erasing the cross-legged caricature off the walls at Eaton High School. The only way to erase that stereotype is to educate, a method of fighting that the Fightin’ Whities say has failed.
I would argue, based upon the fact that I don’t know anyone who has seen the light of day even briefly during the last fifteen years who really expects to run into a Native American dressed like the Eaton Red, that education has worked.
To me, and to most people possessed of a grain of common sense, the Eaton Red is nothing more than a fictitious character on par with the Philly Fanatic-and that is the way it should be.
That same grain of common sense tells me that there has got to be a cause more worth fightin’ for than pressuring one of Colorado’s many cash poor schools to spend valuable money changing every mention of the fictitious Eaton Red to something more benign.
We gotta look at the bright side-at least they’re not the Eaton Lambkins.
Scott Wilkinson is a senior majoring in civil engineering.