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Jewish World Review July 3, 2001 / 12 Tamuz, 5761

Ann Coulter

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Consumer Reports

Justice intrudes in mascot fray -- WHEN you read that the U.S. Justice Department could be deciding whether some public school in Maryland may keep the "Braves" as its team name, it kind of makes you wish the Indians had defeated the settlers. Last week, the Justice Department agreed to mediate a dispute over Indian team names in Maryland. The Clinton administration pioneered the cause of action, saying mascots could be creating "a racially hostile environment."

It's hard to imagine a less appropriate role. If invoking "civil rights" is all it takes for the federal government to decide whether a school in Maryland can call itself the "Braves," we may as well admit that reactionary right wingers were right: Federal anti-discrimination laws really have given the federal government license to stick its nose into everything.

Only a few years ago, one might have used team mascots as a slippery-slope argument. Now the federal government is investigating. We're at the bottom of the slope.

When everything is a federal issue, only the powerful get to be victims. It becomes a form a bullying: Take offense at everything and then call in the Feds to protect you. And the Indians evidently have a lot of power these days.

After the Clinton administration launched the first-ever investigation of a high school mascot, Deborah van Arink of the Native American Intertribal Association said: "This is a sign of, look, you're going to be in litigation and you're going to have the Department of Justice down your back. ... They've basically backed people into a corner."

Last year, Clinton's Interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, announced that he would turn over the remains of a 9,300-year-old skeleton, "Kennewick Man," to Indian tribes for a religious burial. Scientists studying the remains said Kennewick Man seemed to be European or North Asian rather than Indian. But the tribes claimed the body was "the Ancient One" described in their "oral tradition," so the scientists abandoned their research.

Just last week, a federal judge questioned the Indians' claim, noting that, strictly speaking, there is no mention of "the Ancient One" in the oral tradition.

In April 1999, in response to a petition filed by seven Indians, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked the trademark of the Washington Redskins on the grounds that it was "disparaging." This marked the first time the office had canceled an existing trademark for offensiveness. (The Redskins first got their name as a Boston team in 1933 when their coach was Lone Star Dietz an American Indian.)

The Indians' expert evidence in that case included two female educators who testified that the term "Redskins" implied that Indians were "violent, warlike, provocative" or "ferocious, strong, warlike and brave."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's exactly why "Redskins" makes such an excellent name for a football team. There's a reason football teams are never called "the Vichy Resistance." (The French Resistance acquired most of its members after 1945.)

Interestingly, there has been no mention of the separation of church and state in the Kennewick Man case, nor has the First Amendment impeded federal investigations of Indian mascots or commercial trademarks. Any group whose claims trump the Constitution ought to be required to forfeit its victim status.

Americans strive to avoid giving offense. One poll, submitted in the trademark case, showed that the general population is more likely to oppose the use of Indian mascots than are Indian respondents. But offenses that multiply, popping up where there was no offense yesterday, only breed resentment. Indian coins, such as Sacagawea, are in; Indian Web sites (with tomahawks and peace pipes) are in; cigar-store wooden Indians are in or are they out? It's hard to keep track. Not to worry: The Department of Justice will.

JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. You may visit the Ann Coulter Fan Club by clicking here.

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Copyright ©2001 This column first appeared in USA Today

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