Is the Cleveland Indians Logo, Chief Wahoo, A Racist Symbol?

I once went to one of those Indian pow-wow deals when I was in high school. I was wearing a Cleveland Indians ballcap and never realized it meant anything until we left when I mentioned to the friends I was with that the people seemed rude and cold toward me. It was then brought to my attention that I had Chief Wahoo on my head. Obviously, I may have offended some of the people participating. I did not do it intentionally and nobody asked me to remove the hat or to leave.

I do not feel that the artwork on the current Indians logo is racially offensive. I have a friend who is part Sioux who I asked (he is an Indians fan). He explained to me that the Washington Redskins name and logo are much more offensive because it is a generalization that stereotypes skin color. Without getting too controversial, many races would go nuts over a team name that did that.

A few more things to ponder:

  • While growing up I played Cowboys and Indians. Nobody corrected me saying it was wrong, so I kept playing.
  • I was raised to believe that Thanksgiving was a holiday that the Pilgrims celebrated with their friends, the Indians who occupied their fair share of the land. Kids in school still make head dresses out of construction paper this time of the year. If that would seem racially offensive, I’m sure schools would halt the gestures.
  • Indians had more controversy with each other than with the early English settlers. Had they banded together, history would surely be different in a few ways.

Bottom Line: I am sorry to all people that this logo offends. I have spoken with a few Native Americans about it over time and they say the minority cries about it. Most are not offended and could care less. I am also sure that over the next twenty or so years that the logo will be changed because a new politician from Oklahoma will feel he is doing his job by creating new laws about racially insensitive sports names.

5 Responses to “Is the Cleveland Indians Logo, Chief Wahoo, A Racist Symbol?”

  • Stellwagen:

    You have so much unconscious racism embedded in your rationale that you will probably never grasp why the Cleveland symbol is offensive. The fact that you think Cleveland is in Oklahoma explains a lot.

  • Evan:

    I personally believe that Chief Wahoo is not a racist symbol. I say that Chief Wahoo is being taken out of context as a simple caricature meant to represent a MLB team whose name happens to be the Indians. This caricature exemplifies a proud United States by sporting the national colors. And, by definition, a caricature is meant to accentuation certain things. Instead of making just one thing stand out, they may the whole symbol obtuse with the red face and large facial features. In the end Chief Wahoo is not a part of racism but reverse racism.

  • WeirdFish:

    @Evan: that’s just rationalization and is ultimately empty — a sort of “ends justifies the means” argument. Your rationale essentially says to those who are offended at the logo’s antiquated view of a people and a culture that they should merely “get over it” just because YOU don’t find it offensive.

    Ultimately, both the name and the logo marginalize an entire culture, just as the name “Washington Redskins” and “Atlanta Braves,” among countless other sports teams that use Native cultures as mascots.

    How quickly do you think a sports team named the Montgomery Negroes or the Savannah Darkies would be shut down, especially if their logos featured blackfaced Sambos? Pretty DAMN fast, I would imagine.

    The underlying issue is that Native symbology in sports team names and mascots continue because those who are left to protest are dwindling.

    I suspect that similarly, a team named the San Francisco Chinks would be immediately shut down by local Asian-Americans. Just because YOU don’t find it offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t, and this applies to the original author of this old article as well.

    A lack of instances of correction does not automatically make something “correct.” Correlation does not equal causation.

  • [...] I believe I prefer the model pictured above (although uncertain of her Native roots).  Certainly Chief Wahoo from the Cleveland Indians also has his share of detractors.  I have to be honest, it was only [...]

  • Carrie:

    Chief Wahoo is extremely racist! It is of a foolishly grinning Native American. If this were of a grinning black person ,it would probably incite a riot.Anyone who wears this logo is showing racism and making fun of another culture, even if they don not think they themselves are racist. Please Cleveland change this humiliating caricature.

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