Mascots as Racist Stereotypes
The most general argument against Native American mascots is that they symbolize racist label of Native Americans. Stereotypes of Native Americans emerged throughout United States popular culture, such as in: movies; government seals; commercials and signs for products, statues and paintings that non-Natives have in their homes. Scholars have identified two main stereotypes:
- The “bloodthirsty savage,” which conveys the notions that Native Americans are wild, aggressive, violent, and brave;
- The “noble savage,” who depicts the idea that Native Americans are primitive, innocent, quiet, and part of the natural world (Williams, ix, Bataille & Silet, 23; Hilger, 47; Lyman, 18).
According to Berkhofer “The Indian was a white Invention and still remains a white invention” (3) It is the stereotype of Native Americans as bloodthirsty savage that led the colonists to choose Native American mascots for game. Traits linked with this stereotype, such as having an aggressive spirit, and being forceful, valiant, devoted, and proud, are paired with sports, and so selecting a Native American mascot links sport teams with such conduct. The appeal of this stereotype to many individuals in sport is represented by the following quotation from supporters of Native American mascots:
“I look at that mascot, that Indian head, and it stirs me up. I think of getting real aggressive, and it brings out the aggressiveness in me. And it makes me go out there and really wrestle hard and fight hard, you know, because that’s what those Indians were” ( quoted Davis 1993, 15).
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