Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cleveland vs. Indians

My former illustration professor, DB Dowd, has a couple thought provoking posts (1, 2) on his blog, Graphic Tales, concerning the mascot of the Cleveland Indians. In the wake of Cleveland's domination in the lead-up to the World Series, he calls into question the portrayal of Native American sterotypes in the graphic arts.

I sometimes wonder about the persistance of these images and their acceptance in popular culture. Those of us practicing in the visual arts are to some degree at the front line of the issue, when we design characters that represent ethnic groups. Here's an excerpt from one of DB's posts:
Given the degree to which American Indians have been reduced in number and marginalized in the era following their near extermination, it’s hardly a surprise that majoritarian impulses, even when astonishingly crude, go largely unchallenged except in the rarefied precincts of universities. (See Dartmouth College and more recently the University of Illinois.) Hence, the mortifying figure of Chief Wahoo remains in use on the shores of Lake Erie, which nowadays is not exactly Gitche Gumee.

This is surely not a new topic of discussion in the sports world (the Braves have gotten a lot of heat in the past for their chants), but when you're rooting for the Sox tonight, it's something else to think about.

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