Column: Public in denial about Indian mascots

"On Facebook, the popular, student-driven social Web forum, a University of Illinois undergraduate began a group late last year called 'If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist.'

These were two students' postings on the site, aimed specifically at an American Indian woman who wants the school to stop using a caricature of her culture as its mascot.

'What they don't realize is that there never was a racist problem before,' wrote one, 'but now I hate redskins and hope all those drunk, casino owning bums die.'

The woman opposed to the caricature hasn't slept much the past few months and still is awaiting the outcome of a university investigation into the Web forum, which may lead to at least one student's expulsion from school.

'Part of me is stuck in the idea that some crazy person is out there who intends me physical harm,' she said by telephone. Requesting anonymity for personal-safety reasons, she added: 'The other part of me knows I've probably been operating in a very dangerous climate for a long time and I'm just now admitting it. I mean, there are 110 people signed up. I play these psychological games with myself every day just to get to class and walk on campus.'

Crazy, no? We get all lathered up because college football does not have a playoff system. We produce talk shows about gender equity. We want our student athletes paid, as if that will somehow right another NCAA wrong.

Yet when we come across the most serious and offensive issue on campus -- a hurtful reminder to a people of their grave mistreatment, a blatant misappropriation of their religious and spiritual practices -- we go into denial. A woman is physically threatened by a Neanderthal kid and we want to rail about the BCS again.'

Get the Story:
Mike Wise: Illinois Still on the Offensive (The Washinton Post 1/27)
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NCAA Update:
Status of Indian Mascot Policy (April 28, 2006)

NCAA Executive Committee Decision:
Native American Mascot Appeals Decisions (April 28, 2006)

NCAA Policy on Indian Mascots:
NCAA Executive Committee Issues Guidelines for Use of Native American Mascots at Championship Events (August 5, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Chief Illiniwek, University of Illinois - http://www.uiuc.edu/dialogue/index.html
Retire the Chief - http://www.retirethechief.org

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