Hey basketball fans, believe me when I say this, St. John’s used to be excellent. There was nothing more exciting to me than watching mid-1980s Big East Basketball. But I’m not here today to tell you about the athletic exploits of Walter Berry and Mark Jackson and Bill Wennington (2 of them played in our High School league). I’m here to discuss the St. Johns Red STORM. St. Johns was among the first of the NCAA institutions that had Native American-themed mascots and who have since changed them.
Here is the most recent example:
I’m not here to debate the political correctness movement. Let’s grant that we should be very sensitive to representing the victims of oppression as mascots. And I think a lot of folks share sympathy with such a sentiment. Which leads me to my puzzlement of the day.
Why are so many people so sensitive about depicting the victims of oppression in these sorts of ways, but seem to have no problem at all with glorifying the victimizers? Seriously, the vast majority of horrors perpetrated on the Native Americans were done by the US government. And it started soon after the Revolution. Try this passage on for size:
The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them
That was in the 1785 Northwest Passage and of course it has the dreadful term unless in it, which presaged 228 years of usurpation of rights of all kinds since, and not just the Indians. Or go check out how Crazy Horse was killed during the lengthy struggle the Ogallala Sioux had with the US government in the Black Hills of South Dakota after the US government promised those lands would remain theirs (gold was found in those hills, so that ended any promise of sovereignty). Or how about the forced relocation of Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee and other tribes from their prime lands East of the Mississippi to the dusty plains of Oklahoma. We could go on of course.
So why do Congressmen and Senators get prime slots during our holiday parades? Why do we not get the heebie jeebies when we see baseball teams named the Senators? Why does there not exist a moment during our Memorial Day when we recognize, solemnly, the horrors committed by Americans abroad and at home, including by the current Commander in Speech? The answers are not hard to imagine. We’ll explore one particular application of this mentality tomorrow.