Victim Checks

Someone please explain this to me. The Chief was banned because he was perceived to be abusive and racist and generally demeaning to Native Americans. What I am having trouble understanding is how did this happen and who was the recipient of this racist demeaning information? There are three groups involved. Those who heard about the issue and never saw the Chief perform. This group could not have been affected by the demeaning exhibition because they didn’t see it. The second group is the observers who felt that the performance was demeaning. This group was largely made up, I assume, of Native Americans and those who generally think well of Native Americans and were therefore charging the Chief with racism. (Obviously if they were bigoted against (Native Americans) they would probably care less about that aspect of the performance. This group is not likely to become anti Native American over a performance that they deem derogatory and it’s unlikely their good opinions of Native Americans will be affected … if it is a matter of individual self image of Native Americans in the audience then why not skip the Chief performance. There are millions of things in the world to offend any one of us if we seek them out. Who needs the aggravation? The third group involves those who watched the performance and enjoyed it and were pro-Chief. Throughout the entire debate about the Chief, this group has overwhelming testified that they found the chiefs performance to be a tribute to Native American; and in fact most of the individuals in this group said the performance increased their respect for Native Americans. So, if the Chief’s performance was actually racist and offensive, it did not achieve its goal of demeaning NA to the only group that actually saw the performance and who were not Native Americans or already sensitive to Native American issues. In truth, it had the opposite affect on this “impressionable” group in most cases and actually was increasing respect and admiration for Native Americans. So who has been saved from the affects of this abusive display which, as the anti-Chief crowd has alleged, includes encouraging an atmosphere of intolerance and racism against Native Americans? I doubt the second group is going to become racist against themselves over a display they find non authentic. On the other hand the removal of the Chief definitely took away a positive symbol of Native Americans in the eyes of a majority of the people in group three. Further, the undemocratic process by which it done and the tactics used by the anti chief crowd definitely resulted in the lowering of many of the third groups opinions of Native Americans. So, what was accomplished in terms of Native American image? It was damaged. So why did they pursue this so vehemently? Not to achieve what could never be achieved by banning the Chief … improving relationships and perceptions between Native Americans and non-Native Americans (I can say this definitely did not happen) and improving the image of Native Americans. (For whom? Most non-Native Americans thought the Chief improved the image of Native Americans) … but revenge … now. That is sweet and for that victory I salute the anti-Chief crowd. I wonder if it will be worth it however since so many of the give away, special rules like casinos, special treatment like the NCAA’s rulings on Chief Illiniwek and preference programs for Native Americans are fueled by guilt and pity for past wrongs. As Native Americans bring more and more “victim checks” to the bank to be cashed the balance in that account is diminishing. It would be wise to spend the balance on something more substantive and profitable than Chief Illiniwek.

Lynne Avery

Poway, CA