Rosie’s statements were racist

Jenn critically analyzes Rosie O’Donnell’s “ching chong” statements as well as taking a look at the myriad of racist responses from the media/blogosphere. O’Donnell’s statements on the view seem to have been overtly overlooked by most mainstream news outlets. It appears to be a trend that media coverage of racism against Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans is swept aside to make way for the more stereotypical and polarized “white vs. Black.”

Note: Jenn’s blog, Reappropriate, is a great read. Her critiques on social justice issues are top notch. You should add her feed to your feedreader asap.

Sunday Links

Racism and Sexism in Arizona and Michigan

The state language of Arizona is now English.

Affirmative action has been banned in Michigan.

Arizona | Proposition 103: English as Official Language
Would make English the official language of the state of Arizona and significantly reduce government sponsorship and funding of dual language-printed material for circulation.

Michigan | Proposition 2: Restrict Affirmative Action
Proposed amendment to Michigan Constitution would “prohibit the University of Michigan and other state universities, the state, and all other state entities from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.” On June 23, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, ruled in favor of affirmative action in the University of Michigan’s admissions policies. The Bush administration opposed the university’s pro-affirmative action admission policies.

Chief Illiniwek needs to be discontinued

Chief Illiniwek
I’ve been thinking a lot about my recent post regarding Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois. I published my entry and then left town for a weekend at the Oregon coast. When I returned home, there were 4 comments on my post entitled “Chief Illiniwek needs to stop dancing.” The comments were fairly lengthy and by new readers. Instead of commenting on the original post, I decided that it would be worthwhile if I created a new post with more of my thoughts/feelings/etc.

PAgent asked a great question:

Is it the fact that the Chief is typically portrayed by a white student the aspect that is offensive? Then why not say so explicitly?

I did some research on Chief Illiniwek. Apparently, Chief Illiniwek has been portrayed by non-Native American students at the University of Illinois since 1926. Chief Illiniwek is offensive because the Chief represents a stereotype. There are less than 150 Native Americans who attend the University of Illinois. Chief Illiniwek has been portrayed mostly by white men. It’s like telling the Native Americans and anyone else at the University of Illinois that inside every Native American is a white man. For more information on stereotypes, othering, and assimilation please read Suzanne Pharr’s “The Common Elements of Oppressions.” I tend to link to it a lot because I feel that it’s very useful/informative.

By the way, the Native American House at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the American Indian Studies faculty at the University of Illinois have this to say about Chief Illiniwek:

The Native American House at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides a place where students, faculty, staff, and community members may increase their knowledge and understanding of the histories of American Indian peoples and their cultures, both past and present. Part of this understanding rests on the ability to critique and set aside images that confine the perception of an entire people to a limited and narrow existence. Stereotypical images, negative or positive, are barriers to understanding and seriously miseducate the public about Native Americans. Therefore, the Native American House and American Indian Studies faculty insist that the University of Illinois Board of Trustees discontinue the use of ‘chief illiniwek’ in name, performance, and symbol.

In October of 2005, the American Psychological Association released a statement regarding the use of Native American mascots:

The American Psychological Association is calling for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations, the Association announced today.

APA’s action, approved by the Association’s Council of Representatives, is based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.

“The use of American Indian mascots as symbols in school and university athletic programs in particularly troubling,” says APA President, Ronald F. Levant, EdD. “Schools and universities are places of learning. These mascots are teaching stereotypical, misleading and, too often, insulting images of American Indians. And these negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.”
Full text of the resolution can be found at http://www.apa.org/releases/ResAmIndianMascots.pdf

PAgent finished his comment with this statement:

I can’t help but wonder if this is another step toward the generalization that ANY depiction of a Native North American is offensive, regardless of content or context.

How is the depiction of a Native American in any content or context different than white folks in blackface or yellowface? I am offended by Chief Illiniwek because it is racist and stereotypical. Ever since Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, things have not been good for indigenous folks. White folks have tried to exterminate and assimilate Native Americans in this country since 1492. The debate over whether or not the Chief is offensive represents another incident in which the dominant majority is trying to tell a historically oppressed group how to feel.

Michael Smith commented on the issue of political correctness:

And just how far should we go to ban the “offensive” use of native symbols in the name of political correctness?

The term political correctness or “pc” is usually brought out by a member of the dominant paradigm as a means of diluting conversations on social justice and equity. I do not feel that it is morally correct to reduce Native Americans to a racist caricature and then to dismiss the conversation by relegating it to the bowels of political correctness. I feel that we should go “all the way” when it comes to banning the use of native symbolism that is not sanctioned by native peoples. (Yes, I realize that there have been native folks who are pro-chief, please go back and read Pharr’s words on tokenism and assimilation.)

Lyn had this to say:

The court struck a blow for freedom from the tyranny of the few…I really don’t care if a white kid, green kid or whatever portrays the fictional character of Chief Illiniwek. I don’t care if the dance is too authentic or not authentic enough…It doesn’t have to measure up to all of these standards set by the aggrieved group…The idea that only the feelings of actual Native Americans should count on this issue is backassed since it is supposedly the image of Native Americans as perceived by the larger population that is at stake her. The larger population overwhelming sees the Chief as a positive figure. Let freedom of expression win.

I can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time… Yes, the tyranny of Native Americans and their allies is well documented. (Please note that sarcasm is set to ludicrous and plaid.) I usually try to approach my blog commentors with a dose of compassion and charity, but this is really stretching me. Lyn, us white folks need to sit in a room and talk about our privilege for a bit.

Whew, I have almost made it to the last commentor — Erik. Erik, please join me and Lyn in the room where we will discuss our white privilege. Bring water and food. It’s going to be a while.

In closing, I would like to urge the University of Illinois to listen to the Native American House and the faculty of the American Indian Studies Department. UIUC’s non-discrimination statement states that:

The commitment of the University of Illinois to the most fundamental principles of academic freedom, equality of opportunity, and human dignity requires that decisions involving students and employees be based on merit and be free from invidious discrimination in all its forms.

The University of Illinois will not engage in discrimination or harassment against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation including gender identity, unfavorable discharge from the military or status as a protected veteran and will comply with all federal and state nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and affirmative action laws, orders and regulations. This nondiscrimination policy applies to admissions, employment, access to and treatment in the University programs and activities.

It is my hope that the University of Illinois will stop engaging in the oppression of Native Americans. I feel that the depiction and defense of Chief Illiniwek is morally reprehensible.

Chief Illiniwek needs to stop dancing

The University of Illinois needs to discontinue its use/sanctioning of racist imagery. Chief Illiniwek was given further life and validity by the 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago. The three judges voted 2-1 in favor of throwing out a lawsuit against the university.

Judge Shelvin Louise Hall cast the dissenting vote and is my new hero. Hall stated that the “Chief’s presence created a hostile environment, especially ‘in light of the number of prominent educational institutions that have voluntarily discontinued the use of Native American nicknames, symbols and mascots.'”
Judge Hall

Judge Warren Wolfson and Judge Thomas Hoffman voted to throw out the lawsuit. Hoffman claimed that “he doubted the plaintiffs could prove their discrimination claim.”
Judge WolfsonJudge Hoffman

Judges Wolfson and Hoffman, please refer to “Crimes Against Humanity” and this post by Blaxplanation.

The use of Native American imagery/symbols is unacceptable.

Appeals court sides with Chief Illiniwek

By Michael Higgins – Chicago Tribune

September 19, 2006, 5:57 PM CDT

Dances by Chief Illiniwek, the University of Illinois’ athletic mascot, do not violate the state’s civil rights laws, a divided state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The Illinois Native American Bar Association filed suit last year against university officials, alleging that the Chief’s performances humiliate Native American students and create a hostile environment that dissuades them from attending games or participating in other school activities.

But a trial judge threw out the lawsuit, and in a 2-1 decision Tuesday the 1st District Appellate Court in Chicago upheld that ruling.

Writing for the majority, Judge Warren Wolfson noted that in a 1996 law, the General Assembly declared the Chief to be an “honored symbol of a great university.”

If the state’s current anti-discrimination law, passed in 2003, had been meant to overturn that “glowing exaltation of Chief Illiniwek,” the state legislature would have said so explicitly, Wolfson said in a 17-page opinion.

The court’s ruling on Tuesday was one of the few pieces of good news recently for supporters of the Chief, a barefoot student in a buckskin costume and a feather headdress who performs at some athletic events.

NCAA officials have barred the university from hosting postseason tournament contests as long as the 80-year Chief Illiniwek tradition continues. The NCAA rejected the university’s appeal of that decision in April.

University officials were pleased with the appellate court’s ruling, Thomas Hardy, executive director of university relations, said Tuesday. He said the school’s trustees are studying the predicament raised by the NCAA ruling, but “no decisions have been made.”

The bar association, which sued the university and five individual plaintiffs, plans to appeal Tuesday’s ruling, said Kenneth Dobbs, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

“Every university, college and high school, except for a handful, have abandoned the use of racist Native American imagery,” Dobbs said. “It creates a hostile atmosphere. … But people tolerate it because of a misunderstanding of Native American culture.”

Judge Shelvin Louise Hall cast the dissenting vote, arguing that the plaintiffs had the right to take their case to a trial.

Hall said reasonable jurors could conclude that the Chief’s presence created a hostile environment, especially “in light of the number of prominent educational institutions that have voluntarily discontinued the use of Native American nicknames, symbols and mascots.”

But Judge Thomas Hoffman concurred with Wolfson’s opinion and went even further, saying he doubted the plaintiffs could prove their discrimination claim.

There was no evidence that the university excluded the plaintiffs from any activities or that the Chief’s performances were aimed at them personally, Hoffman wrote. He said that merely finding the Chief’s “gestures or dress … offensive” wasn’t sufficient to support a lawsuit.

@ the Chicago Tribune

“White privilege shapes the U.S.”

I just finished reading Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks. bell hooks is amazing. Her writing is pleasantly painful. I wish I could write as eloquently as hooks. Her words are completely accessible yet they have meaning that can take days to process.

One problem that plagues our society that has been stirring my mental pot is white privilege. Thanks to bell hooks, Beverly Tatum(Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) and Janet Helms (White racial identity and A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life ), I now have an awareness that is light years from where I started. Self awareness can be challenging and very frightening. I wrestled with Janet Helms until I could finally understand what she meant when she says that all white people start there lives as racists.

On that note, I would like to start a discussion with my readers. I want to ask a question and attempt to elicit responses via comments. I will moderate comments so that hate does not appear. Dialogue is good, but hate has no place on my blog.

Feel free to add comments to the following question(s):

Does white privilege exist? and if you answered “yes”, how have you become aware of it?

I will post my answer to the question in a few days.

If you are not aware of what white privilege is, please consider the following excerpts from Robert Jensen and Peggy McIntosh.

From Robert Jensen’s essay on white privilege:

“In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves…

I have struggled to resist that racist training and the ongoing racism of my culture. I like to think I have changed, even though I routinely trip over the lingering effects of that internalized racism and the institutional racism around me. But no matter how much I “fix” myself, one thing never changes–I walk through the world with white privilege.

What does that mean? Perhaps most importantly, when I seek admission to a university, apply for a job, or hunt for an apartment, I don’t look threatening. Almost all of the people evaluating me for those things look like me–they are white. They see in me a reflection of themselves, and in a racist world that is an advantage. I smile. I am white. I am one of them. I am not dangerous. Even when I voice critical opinions, I am cut some slack. After all, I’m white.” (as cited in bell hooks, Teaching Community:A Pedagogy of Hope, 2003)

If you do not feel that white privilege exists, please consider the following:

Daily effects of white privilege:

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.

25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.

45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.

49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social” (McIntosh, 1990).

McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved Dec. 01, 2005, from http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.