"Field Hearing" on Tim Johnson's resolution
This morning in Champaign, Illinois, there was a field hearing on Representative Tim Johnson's bill that seeks to create a law that tells the NCAA to butt out of UIUC's business with regard to UIUC's racist mascot, "Chief Illiniwek."
I was there and offer observations:
Several people who wish to have the mascot retired arrived, wearing t-shirts that said "Racial Stereotypes Dehumanize" or "Love the Team, Not the Mascot" or home-made shirts. They were not allowed to wear these. They were stopped by police officers providing security for the event and told they could not come in wearing those shirts. Reason? These shirts were "signs."
Meanwhile, many people walked in wearing "Chief Illiniwek" shirts with the logo, and others with just the word "CHIEF" on front. These were not "signs." They are the "symbol" of the university.
Examples of institutional racism. That's what they are.
Several people were invited by Tim Johnson to give testimony for the hearing. None of them are American Indian. Johnson said he asked the Peoria tribe to give testimony but they declined. Johnson COULD have followed with the Peoria tribe statement asking that the mascot be retired, but, being Tim Johnson, he did not do that.
Stephen Kaufman spoke with great power, clarity, and eloquence as he summarized the history of the issue.
State rep Chapin Rose gave testimony, saying that the entire Illinois House of Reps had written to NCAA and gotten no response. Not even the "courtesy" of an acknowledgment that their statement had been received.
I found his repeated statements about not getting acknowledged or heard as IRONIC. Talk about being unresponsive! Native peoples across the country and our professional organizations have denounced the use of Native imagery for sports team mascots.
He said it was "sheer arrogance" that they had the "audacity" for NCAA to ignore their statement.
Who's being arrogant?!
The Congressman from Michigan (I'll post his name shortly) wondered if a school in his area would be in trouble now, since they changed their name from Indians to something like Beavers. He wondered if the Humane Society would come out in opposition to the use of Beavers. Apparently the Congressman saw nothing wrong with equating Native Americans with Beavers. Kaufman pointed that out to the Congressman during the Q&A.
Tim Johnson, in an effort to say UIUC likes Indians and has Indian support, said "Ogala." He likes us so, and holds us in so much esteem, that he mispronounces the name of the tribe he's trying to say supports the mascot.