Friday, September 19, 2008
Chief Wahoo blow-up!
Terry Provost, a person I respect and admire, posted the below on the clevelandpoetics listserv in response to Ray McNiece's video clip on SportsChannel (check out a few entries down.) Many people have strong opinions on this. How would you answer the questions that Terry poses at the end of his comments?
"For my part, when I see Chief Wahoo, I do not just see a racist caricature and a malignant celebration of a history of US genocide against native Americans, but, since he is overwhelmingly displayed as a head detached from a body, I see a decapitated racist caricature.
There is nothing I can do to separate that image from the team it represents, at least in my perception.
Anything that promotes that team, endorses an attitude of racism, and a gleeful indifference to genocide.
I therefore cannot join the celebration of any commercial however well done, by anyone, especially anyone who I would consider a part of my community (and yes I do consider Ray to be a good guy, and a member of my community.)
In fact, the better the ad, the worse, a la Leni Riefenstahl (did she really only die in 2003?)
In fact, according to the historian John Toland, Hitler based his ideas for the Holocaust on the American extermination of the native population (how Riefenstahl can you get?)
I've always thought that one of the best things about this list serve is people¢s readiness to celebrate the success of others. Whereas, yes, I can see a Debbie Downer aspect to saying what I have, I can also see a real problem with boosterism.
To maybe make this non-personal I suggest the following 3 questions:
1. Is Chief Wahoo a racist caricature?
2. Is it possible to separate Chief Wahoo from the Cleveland Indians?
3. What is the right attitude that a poet, artist, or any sentient human being should have towards the Wahoo/Indians complex?
I expect it makes sense to continue this conversation, if at all, at the clevelandpoetics blog rather than the list serve. But since the congratulations went out on the list serve, it seems appropriate that the demurral should as well."
The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau