Last week, I saw a story on the web about a t-shirt that had gotten suddenly popular on several reserves of the Ontario First Nations. Here's the shirt, a parody of Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians lettering and logo:
The t-shirt came to prominence when a member of the group A Tribe Called Red wore it in a publicity photo--and a festival the group was scheduled to perform at was threatened with a boycott because of the racist shirt. I wonder if the person or people calling for the boycott insists that Chief Wahoo is a loving tribute?
Is the shirt offensive? Not to me. Is it racist? I honestly can't say. It's mildly amusing, but certainly not as effective at making a point as this effort from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) from 2001:
Part of the problem with the Caucasians t-shirts (which is illustrated by the NCAI hats) is that I don't know if there's really a 'one size fits all' slur that's going to cut white people the way an N-Bomb will, or the way a war-whooping Indian image does. They're too easy to shrug off: Cracker? I'm from New York. Redneck? Sorry, that's a farmer (and Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy somehow made 'redneck' somewhat fashionable among rednecks, at least based on all the t-shirts sold at the county fair over the last ten years). Honky? Last time I heard that was on The Jeffersons, and I still don't know what the hell it means. Those words really don't seem to hurt the average white American because it's too easy to say, "Sorry, that's not me."
I believe that most white people aren't malicious. We're just insensitive, which is born out of the fact that we haven't had to deal with discrimination on a level that really hits home. We haven't been subject to stop-and-frisk measures because or our skin color; found ourselves doing more time for the same crime as someone of another race; been forced from our homes and sent to live hundreds or thousands of miles away; or had a price put on our head by the government, which was certainly something I never learned when studying the colonial period in school, and may be where the term 'redskin' really comes from. As a result, it's hard for us to really understand. "Toughen up," we say. "Get over it already. It really isn't. We've made great strides in so many areas in the last hundred years, and even over the course of my lifetime. There's still a long way to go.
That's all for now. Have a pleasant weekend.