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Jewish World Review May 14, 2001/ 21 Iyar 5761

Wesley Pruden

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No more bigotry
on the fruited plain -- THE U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is rarely civil and seeks to promote privileges not rights, nevertheless made the back pages of the newspapers the other day with a pronunciamento that the use of Indian names and mascots "may" violate anti-discrimination laws.

As usual, nobody paid much attention. The commission has no police powers, some of its members vaguely resemble poorly embalmed corpses, and it survives only because getting rid of it would be more trouble than it´s worth to timid pols who could otherwise more profitably employ their pandering time.

But some Indian "activists" think the commission gave them a boost in their campaign to clean up the nomenclature on America´s playing fields, now rife with faux Indians, Braves and Tribes.

"I think it´s going to make a big difference," says Cyd Crue, president of the Illinois chapter of something called the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media and who obviously does not have much to occupy his time. "I realize it´s not the end of stereotypes in sports, but I think it was really important that a federal commission get involved to move our country toward more equality and social justice."

Indian names and mascots, the commission says, could be viewed as "disrespectful and offensive" and can create "a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students." How can you study calculus if you´re worried about whether the Redskins can stop the Cowboys´ passing game?

The Indians, some of whom prefer to be called "Native Americans" even though new archeological evidence suggests that "Native Americans" may not be native to America after all but who just booked passage on an earlier boat than the Spanish and English, complain that Indian mascots are disrespectful. You might think that since these activists reject the term "Indian" it wouldn´t matter what others do with it. The Cleveland baseball club, after all, does not call itself the Cleveland Native Americans.

Whoever would have thought that descendants of the Cheyenne, the Apache and the Sioux, whose braves struck terror in the hearts of the Seventh Cavalry (and scalps from the heads of hundreds of homesteaders) would quail at the prospect of being taken for a linebacker or a split end.

Geronimo weeps, somewhere out on the Happy Hunting Grounds. Sissification proceeds apace, even in the home of the braves.

Curiously, "activists" in other sorehead causes complain that the University of Mississippi and dozens of high schools in the South ought to quit calling their teams "Rebels" and get rid of Confederate regalia because such customs pay honor, not disrespect, to the wrong side in the late War of Northern Aggression.

Hundreds of teams call themselves Indians and Braves, though some school districts, colleges and universities have changed their team names at the urging of fanatics. St. John´s University Redmen are now the Red Storm, Stanford´s Indians are the Cardinals (though the university, sorely in need of crash courses in remedial English, insists on "Cardinal" in the singular). Miami University of Ohio changed its team from Redskins to RedHawks. (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are painting placards now.)

The New York state education commissioner sent a letter to school districts the other day to urge them to drop Indian names, symbols and mascots lest they hurt somebody´s feelings. The Afton, N.Y., school board, eager to get hip as hip is defined in Afton, voted unanimously to drop an Indian mascot and logo for its sports teams, but not until the school year ends. You can´t swear off bigotry cold-turkey.

If the Native American "activists" are to be properly appeased, merely dismissing a few mascots and discarding the odd logo does not go nearly far enough. If we are to erase the most prominent of our founding fathers from the national memory, as we must converting the Lincoln Memorial to a Starbucks, the Jefferson Memorial to an Old Navy, the Washington Monument to a reminder to practice birth control, all because those honored now were slavers or appeasers of slavers we must eliminate all Native American names from the national landscape lest we offend the sensitive.

This won´t be a quick fix. Thousands of geographical names, of our rivers, rocks and rills, our fruited plains and templed hills, are of Indian origin. So are the names of half the states. If commemorating Indian bravery by calling mere baseball clubs and football teams by Indian names is offensive, how much more offensive to call entire states, the largest rivers and hundreds of whole cities and towns, with all their evil-doers, by Indian names.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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