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Volume 68, Issue 69, Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Opinion
 

Politically correct mascot catches on

Richard Lutz
Opinion Columnist

The battle over political correctness has taken another humorous turn.

In early February, a group of students at the University of Northern Colorado discovered that a local highschool's mascot was the "Fighting Reds." Native American groups in general say that the use of Native Americans as mascots is offensive.

The position itself is debatable to an extent while the majority of mascots are animals, implying dehumanization, I have never heard of any complaints by Trojans, Vikings, Spartans or even the Irish. However, when a people in general decide that they don't want to be used in such a manner, it's better to respect their wishes. Now if only the same reasoning worked on Polish jokes ... 

Anyway, the UNC students met with the high school's administration and asked that the mascot be changed; the request was denied.

It just so happened that these students, a mixed group of Native American and European descent, were on UNC's intramural basketball team. They decided to make their mascot the "Fighting Whites," and "Every thang's going to be all white" as their logo. They made T-shirts.

The joke grew. The UNC school paper ran an article in March, and the team has since become national news. They have copyrighted several variations of their name, including "Fightin' Whities." At first they simply sold T-shirts to interested people; now they sell shirts, hats, boxer shorts, mousepads, mugs, backpacks online.

The American Indian Movement estimates there are about 3,000 teams, professional and amateur, in the United States that use offensive names or mascots, and the Fighting Whites are doing a good job at spreading awareness.

What's more, they've raised more than $100,000. Instead of using the money to fight stereotypes and racist mascots, the team felt the money would be better used by creating a scholarship fund for Native American students.

The response indicates that people find the Fighting Whites quirky and amusing. The team member managing the T-shirts discussed with CNN the possibility of "white pride" groups taking the name and logo seriously but by and large, the jab is appreciated for its humor value.

When Native Americans are used as mascots, they feel justifiably upset about being reduced to a stereotype. When whites are used as mascots, the danger is in the suggestion that other people have a desire to be "white" because of some superiority of European culture.

When Vikings are used as mascots, we simply assume that the team is suggesting an affinity between itself and those famously successful Scandinavian raiders. Some Danes could theoretically be offended by the stereotype of their people as barbarian pillagers, when in reality they were advanced in areas such as shipbuilding and metalsmithing.

However, the one Dane I have spoken with on the issue finds it just as amusing as we find the Fighting Whites. Of course, Nordic people are separated from the Vikings by history.

The part that disturbs me about this is that, in order to be a good mascot, you need to be dead.

Lutz, a senior English and German major, 
can be reached at drachir_j@hotmail.com.

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