And the Fightin’ Stereotypes Take the Lead!

Here’s part of a letter a reader sent into Phi Beta Cons:

I do understand that Indian imagery in sports — logos, tomahawk chops, and so on — can be offensive. But I went through and looked up Indian team names and mascots for pro and NCAA teams, and for the most part these names and mascots were chosen for positive reasons.

Dartmouth’s team was very likely called the Indians because it was established by Wheelock for Indians. When the Tennessee Titans were looking for a mascot, they wanted something that reflected “power, strength, leadership and other heroic qualities.” Apparently, most of the “Redmen” teams were called that because the players wore red uniforms; they were the men in red. Afterwards, the Indian imagery was attached.

I know that part of the M.O. of Phi Beta Cons and similar sites and organizations is for them to work against what they perceive as an extremely undesirable tendency toward political correctness on campus. Fine. If that’s your thing, that’s your thing.

But this isn’t really an intelligent response to the controversy over campus mascots. I’m Jewish, and if some team named themselves “The Fightin’ Jews” and, in the ensuing outrage, a PR flack stepped up to a podium and explained, “Jews, as we all know, are crafty, able to adapt to different circumstances, and care deeply about knowledge and learning, so we saw this as a positive portrayal,” I wouldn’t be mollified. Nor would I feel better if the same team had been established for Jews a long time ago, had been populated with Jews at the time, but had long since turned into a mostly gentile group. To look at this issue without context is to not really look at it at all.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.