Wednesday, April 05, 2006

what the fuck is up with wahoo?

So the most oddly synchronistic thing happened yesterday.

Backstory: My kids' father is from Cleveland, Ohio. He's a big sports fan, mostly football, but nevertheless I've been exposed to far more Brown's and Indian's events, history, and lore in this lifetime that I ever thought possible. Last week I was having a conversation with him and we got on the topic of the Cleveland Indians and I inquired about the current whereabouts of the infamous Chief Wahoo, the ugly and incredibly offensive team mascot who is a red-faced, big-nosed, half naked, loud, obnoxious Indian dude. My hope was that he had finally met a long overdue death and was no longer embarrassing the American Public by demonstrating clearly that we are, after all, the nasty bunch of self-centered, eurocentric, indigenous culture-hating bigots that we appear to be. (Hyperbole intended.)

A (their dad guy) told me that unfortunately one still runs into vestiges of the mascot's reign of terror, meaning that while his face appears occasionally on some sports insignia, the stadium at least no longer features him animated or alive. Progress, right? We had a long discussion about whether or not it was even appropriate for the baseball team to continue calling themselves Indians. I was leaning more toward the idea that it is not appropriate to name a sports team after a race of people (especially if the name you are using is not even the name that most clearly identifies that race respectfully), while he was leaning more toward the idea that as long as the race of people after whom the team is named are OK with it, then so be it. We both agreed wholeheartedly, though, that Wahoo was gross and unacceptable by anyone's standards.

That said, I want to make it clear that Chief Wahoo has not occupied my thoughts with any regularity in the last decade. I mostly did not think about his existence until I would become faced with his ugly mug again, and every time I was newly shocked that anyone ever could have thought it would be acceptable to publicly demonstrate their racial hatred in such a jovial manner. But then I would remember things like slavery, or the entire genocide of the Native american population, Apartheid in South Africa, the Holocaust, hell, the 1950's in America and be brought back to my senses. Of course we could make fun of a race of people whom we've already decimated, humiliated, and's our birthright! (Again, hyperbole intended. I recognize that when I say "we" I am perpetuating some sort of white guilt motif. I am well aware that it was not me, per se, who committed atrocities towards people of other races, in fact I have tried very hard to consciously respect people of other races in this lifetime, and I do not walk around lamenting the fact that I am indeed a white person. However, that does not change the fact that it was largely the portion of my ancestry that was light-skinned and European who did commit such atrocities. While I know that I am in no way responsible for their behavior, I sure want to acknowledge that they did behave reprehensibly, that I do not condone such behavior, and hope to do everything in my power not to perpetuate such racist and hateful acts in the future. Plus, I really like to shit talk on white people...we're such easy targets.)

So, lo and behold, yesterday morning I am taking a morning walk with my kids and dogs. It is a gorgeous and sunny day on our beloved mountain. The wind was crisp but the sky was wide and bright and we were enjoying each other's company, the exercise, the blessing of living in such a beautiful place when what to my wandering eye should appear but an unnaturally red blob on the ground before me. Suspiciously shaped, oddly familiar, it looked like a red foam finger. As I got closer I could read in bold, blue letters, "GO INDIANS!" I stepped toward it, picked it up from the ground and turned it over to find THAT HATED FACE staring back at me!!! What the fuck?! What the fuck is Chief Wahoo doing brazenly laying on the ground in the mountains of Bat Cave, North Carolina? What is going on here? Into what twilight zone episode have I just stepped?

For a moment it felt as if by simply mentioning his name that I had somehow summoned the unholy figure to my home.

So, I was inspired to write about it in part for the sheer absurdity of finding the Cleveland Indian's mascot whom I so despise laying face down on the ground a few hundred yards from my home so very far from Cleveland, OH, but also because I wanted to take this moment to ponder what the fuck we are doing as a species sometimes. How can we be so ignorant? Isn't it amazing how that question is applicable to almost everything we do in regard to our relationship with everything, including each other, on the planet?

But, when cities like Cleveland, however gradually, do make the effort to phase out offensive characters like Wahoo, it does feel like we are making some progress. We are, perhaps, evolving to recognize that at any given moment we, whoever that we may be, either humans in general (as opposed to animals or plants), or humans of a particular gender, humans of a particular color, humans of a particular religion, etc. are NOT so important that we can neglect to notice how our actions toward others affect them. At least I hope so.

I'm waxing conviluted...distracted by my life outside of the internet. Thanks for being there for me to share this weird story.

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