Dominguez Says Dolan Meeting Just a First Step

To the Editor:

It is indeed a sure sign of spring in Northern Ohio when local news broadcasts include lengthy segments on how the “tribe” is busy preparing for the opening day of professional baseball.
Hopefully, after meeting on Dec. 12 with Oberlin’s American Indian Council, student trustees and a few interested students and faculty members, Cleveland Indians owner and Oberlin trustee Larry Dolan has much more on his mind this spring. Hopefully, the packet presented to Dolan by senior AIC President Amber Schulz containing historical, scholarly and position papers about American Indian team mascots, has caused him to rethink his remarks about Chief Wahoo not being racist. Like many people in the Oberlin community, Dolan believes that Wahoo is a non-issue, a “fact” supported by the absence of protest other than opening day every April.
If Dolan did read the packet he now knows that in the past decade, groups such as the American Jewish Committee (1993), the Commission on Catholic Community Action (1993), the United Methodist Church (1996), the USA Presbyterian Church (1999) and the NAACP (1999) have published national statements that read similar to the position of the National Educational Association’s 2000-01 resolution. The NEA “deplores prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, size, marital status, and REJECTS THE USE OF NAMES, SYMBOLS, CHARICATURES, EMBLEMS, LOGOS, AND MASCOTS that promote such prejudice.” The Penobscot Nation passed a resolution in Oct. 2000 calling for the Cleveland Indians baseball organization to eliminate Chief Wahoo as its team mascot. There are currently over 75 organizations across the U.S. from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to the Asian American Journalists Association with public statements regarding the mascot issue. All of this information was supplied to Dolan, who can no longer say he did not know.
While Oberlin is to be commended in its efforts to bring Larry Dolan to the table for civil discourse on the mascot issue, especially since he DOES NOT discuss the issue publicly, this opening dialogue should be the first step in the education of Larry Dolan and the entire Oberlin community. As you start noticing the red-skinned, buck-toothed, beady-eyed, hooked-nose face appear in windows, on bumper stickers and screen savers, please take a few moments to think about this issue. Try to put Wahoo into the context of American racism. Historically, violence against American Indians was sanctioned by religion; because they were “savage heathens,” extermination was justified. By the mid-1800s, when the “noble savage” replaces the heathen, racism is sanctioned by the burgeoning new science of phrenology; proving Indian inferiority scientifically justified continued American exploitation and extermination. Today, racism against American Indians in the form of mascots is legally sanctioned through the argument of free speech. Exploitation still continues, only the excuse has evolved.
As the April 2 opening day approaches the Cleveland area, the Oberlin community has several opportunities to weigh in on this issue. There are two very distinct types of protest organized for that day. Oberlin community members should make informed decisions before plunging into protest on either side. With a trail of national media, the local committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance will be staging a protest, complete with National Indian celebrities, burning effigies and intentional arrests. On the other side of the stadium (Gate C), the American Indian Education Center of Cleveland will be sponsoring an educational picket. Please take some time to become informed. Oberlin, after all, is place where one CAN make a difference.

–Susan Dominguez 
Affiliate Scholar, History


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