Opinion: Stereotyping Indians at fraternity party
"On Tuesday, Nov. 3, a Letter to the Editor from Neal Fox, Co-Chair of the Minority Rights Coalition, was published in The Cavalier Daily regarding a “Cowboy and Indian” themed party at an IFC fraternity. The intended purpose of this letter was to start a positive conversation about how American Indians are misrepresented around the Univeristy, and — more widely — in American culture. Unfortunately, Fox’s word choice in two or three places distracted from that intended purpose. Words like “racist” and “hatred” can be alienating. This was the opposite of the intent of the letter, which was meant to open the door for communication, education and understanding about an issue that concerns the entire University Community. In this column, the MRC and the IFC, with the American Indian Student Union, hopes to bring to light some of the nuances of this issue.

The Inter-Fraternity Council, which governs 29 fraternities, cannot control the actions of all its members, but it can engage the community in examining the underlying causes of regrettable events. It is unfortunate that this incident has just now sparked broader attention to this issue, but it is important to use it as an opportunity for reflection and positive action rather than blame.

Still today, many people just don’t think about the fact that not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone can afford to go to a movie with friends every weekend, or drink on their 21st birthday without violating the commandments of the Qur’an. The theme party from this past weekend is just another example of assuming others come from the same background.

Stereotypical representations of American Indians are neither specific to nor the result of the actions of any one IFC fraternity. It is pervasive and often unchallenged in American society. This is an issue that is often exacerbated by pop culture. Logos and mascots of professional sports teams such as the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks, and the commercial sale of “Indian” costumes further demonstrate the prevalence of common stereotypes about American Indians that remain acceptable to the majority of Americans. Closer to home, 60,000 fans in Scott Stadium at the William & Mary football game saw “CavMan” defeat a stereotypical American Indian."

Get the Story:
Neal Fox and Charles Gamper: Underlying stereotypes (The Cavalier Daily 11/5)

Related Stories:
Apology for video depiction of 'Indian' mascot (9/16)
Letter: Pregame video depicted 'savage' Indian (9/10)
Media guide depicts UND 'Indian' being chased (9/9)

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