In the Washington Post, sports columnist Mike Wise, having recently written a column on the Navy-Maryland football game that included an irrelevant aspersion on the number of teeth possessed by the average West Virginian, today denounces the use of American Indian names by sports teams:
And, please, enough with this, "We're paying homage to the bravery and warrior mentality of the Native American." That's the same tired excuse Florida State University uses to continue the tradition of a student on horseback in full Hollywood regalia, chucking a flaming spear into the ground at midfield before football games, while thousands of people participate in the Tomahawk chop and the accompanying war chant also popular at Atlanta Braves games. The truth: The indigenous people of this continent were almost all hunters, gatherers, craftsmen and craftswomen before some of our ancestors nearly exterminated them and turned them into b-western caricatures.
Not warriors and braves, just "craftsmen and craftswomen." Yeah, sure... just ask the Hopi about the Navajo...
In contrast to their attitudes toward blacks, whites, on the whole, long held profoundly mixed emotions about American Indians...
Of course, back then whites admired Native Americans for virtues that are now suspect: manliness, ferocity, bravery, stoicism, self-sacrifice, taciturnity, and dignity. The feminist and civil rights revolutions introduced new social ideals that made Oprah Winfrey -- emotional, glib, self-absorbed, and shameless -- the prototypical modern American.
In this new cultural environment, where Bill Clinton promised to "feel your pain," American Indians, whose elders taught them to try not to feel even their own pain, grew increasingly irrelevant. The role models of today's American youth are rappers, who embody the verbosity and braggadocio that Indians abhorred.
Since we pay so little attention to the real merits of Indians anymore, it's been easy for us to invent fantasies depicting them as fashionable Noble Savages. Schools try to propagandize kids into believing that Indians were ecologists and, hilariously, feminists. (Tellingly, the Secretary-Treasurer of the activist National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media is Anita Hill of the Clarence Thomas confirmation brouhaha.)
For true believers in the new conventional wisdom about Indians, nicknames like the U. of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" sound like racist stereotypes. Who could imagine a Sioux ever doing something so patriarchal and dead-white-European-maleish as fighting? (Well, Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer could.)
Not surprisingly, modern boys subjected to this school room cant assume that American Indians must have been total wimps, and go back to listening to Fifty Cent rap about how many millions he's making.