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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo: He's Bad For Mental Health

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- As baseball takes its mid-season All-Star break, it now looks like the Indians stand on the verge of having a better year than their mascot, Chief Wahoo. The American Sociological Association has joined with the American Psychological Association and says the mascot -- along with other uses of Native American nicknames and logos by sports teams -- is a threat to sound mental health.

The mascots, including Wahoo, have long been denounced for reinforcing mean-spirited racial stereotypes. But the sociologists said they are worse -- they are harmful to people of color.

"Negative psychological outcomes for Native youth include lowered self-esteem, lowered view of one's future potential, and more negative views of one's own Native people," said Laurel R. Davis Delano, who did research for the American Sociological Association. The group voted earlier this year to urge the discontinuation of mascots, logo and nicknames like Chief Wahoo.

The group's position statement includes a bibliography of several research studies over the years that document its concern.

The American Psychological Association adopted a similar resolution in 2005. It cited the "potential negative impact the use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities have on the mental health and psychological behavior of American Indian people."

Sen. Barack Obama's Protestant denomination, the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, has pushed for elimination of Chief Wahoo. And the UCC has enlisted support from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Mark Pelavin, the associate director of the Religious Action Center, said in Reform Judaism Magazine's Winter 2005 edition:

"But sometimes were are asked to add something to our agenda. One example is joining the fight to change the names of certain American sports teams -- the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Redskins, and the Cleveland Indians -- which offend Native Americans. If most Jews gave the issue a moment's thought, they'd say, 'the Native Americans have a point' and then move on. It's not an issue of particular concern to us as a community, but it's very important to the United Church of Christ, which is headquartered in Cleveland and has taken this on as a major issue. As part of their campaign to rename the Cleveland team, they asked us to sign letters to team owners and join in some quiet meetings with team officials, and we were glad to do so."

[Note: I have not been able to find anything Obama, D-Ill., has said about Chief Wahoo or the Indians. It would be interesting to learn his thoughts. I do have the complete text of a speech the Democratic presidential candidate delivered last month at his church's national synod, a speech he called the "Politics of Conscience." Obama said "we all have the capacity to do justice and show mercy; to treat others with dignity and respect; and to rise above what divides us and come together to meet those challenges we can't meet alone."]

1 comment:

  1. Check out this funny take on the subject: