Cultural Absolutism Essay, Research Paper
Take Me Out to the Ballgame?
I awaited the day before the big game in nervous apprehension. Would the Red Sox be able to rebound from a 0-2 series deficit and advance to face the Yankees? They had already won two straight games and evened the series at 2-2. The next game would be the do or die situation. I stylishly dressed in all of my Red Sox apparel (even the lucky red socks) and prepared for an invigorating game. Mike from the third floor came down to the first floor lounge to watch the big game. Being from Cleveland, Mike was sporting all of his Indians apparel. For the next the 3 hours Mike would be my most bitter enemy. Mike was the antichrist. We would swear at each other, hurl projectiles at each other, and possibly even have an outright brouhaha if things got out of control. In the bottom of the second inning, the Indians got 2 hits, which spawned an outrageous reaction from mike. He sprung from his seat, arms failing about, and began to do a mock Indian dance in front of me. “Sit your silly ass down,” I probably yelled. Then he began to do the tomahawk chop to his fabulously clich?d rendition of an Indian chant, “Ohhhh oh oh oh Ohhhh oh oh oh.” I looked up at Mike’s hat. The Cleveland Indian logo goofily stared down at me.
The mascot of the Cleveland perpetuates a stereotypical image of Native Americans as a savage being tamed by settlers. Baseball, an American institution, is guilty of disgusting racism. This blatantly racist symbol must strike an angry chord with contemporary Native Americans, whose past overflows with examples of cultural abuse. On the hat of each player, an Indian with swollen red face and stupid slaphappy grin appears in an expression of gloating jubilation. All his facial features are exaggerated, and an erect feather stands above his head like an alfalfa bean sprout. If it was up to me, I’d say scalp the commissioner of baseball for allowing such an atrocious symbol of cultural racism to blossom and affect the masses on television. How have the Cleveland Indians been able to get away with such a culturally demeaning mascot without a significant public outcry? Our cultural absolutism along with our naivety places Native Americans on subhuman animalistic level and feeds our unconscious notion that the logo is harmless.
The majority of Americans practice cultural absolutism. Cultural absolutism, the tendency of individuals to view their culture as superior, ingrained itself into the American way of life before Columbus landed. Americans have a worldwide reputation as arrogant, ignorant, simple-minded cowboys. And these stereotypes are completely justified by past examples of cultural butcheries. I, as an American, can recognize our tendency to dominate others in the service of spreading the “superior” way of life. Native American people, misunderstood to this day, have been simplified to this naked, feather toting, red-faced, stupidly barbaric sub-human creature. (Notice that I use Native Americans, as opposed to Indians as Cleveland’s team so casually labels them. Calling Native Americans Indians is submitting to Columbus’ blunder, and would make me even more ignorant than I am already.) They chant, dance and worship strange deities; somehow they are below Westerners on the evolutionary chain. We have no context to judge their culture except our own, which is absolutely the normal, righteous one.
Sport teams are usually coined with names of savage, or fierce connotations, fierce animals conquered by white settlers. The Cleveland Logo represents this dominated wild animal. It exists for the same reason a gloating hunter puts some poor animal’s head on the wall as a trophy. The Cleveland Indian asserts the American cowboy’s cultural absolutism. One would expect the politically correct 90s to abolish such a disturbingly blatant case of institutionalized mainstream racism. Is tradition ground for allowing this Logo to receive sustained mainstream attention enforcing harmful cultural stereotypes? I’m sure the MLB association would say yes! But what do you say?
To understand what’s wrong with the Logo, let’s step outside our cultural perspectives to create some equally culturally offensive teams: How about the Boston Negro Boys, the Penny Pinching Baltimore Jews, The Springfield Spanish Spics, The Williamstown Whities, or Georgia’s flying Gooks. Those teams sound pretty absurd and offending. But are they any more absurd and offensive then the Cleveland Indian’s logo? Hell no! Naivety assumes that the Cleveland Indians logo is harmless. Through childhood games of Cowboys and Indians, cartoon depictions, movies, and logos like that of the Cleveland Indians, enculturation leads us to unconsciously accept these images. We succumb to naivety if we accept these fallacious notions, culturally fed into brains, at face value. Close your eyes. Try and wipe away all your cultural biases. Have you ever been unfairly classified or belittled? Of course you have. It pissed you off, didn’t it? Keep you eyes closed. You are a Native American, proud of your heritage, haunted by your past. Open your eyes, and look down at the Cleveland Indians logo. A ridiculous stereotypical caricature that insults you, your ancestors, and your people stands before you. I suppose we can never understand the animosity that this image conjures up, but we need to overcome our naivety and begin to recognize it as damaging.
Why does this culturally appalling image still exist, and not our examples of other culturally degrading teams? Where is the outrage? Indians do not have the kind of political representation to fight the logo. Shoved off in their secluded reservations, Indians have become artifacts, a kind of link to a past man. The preconceived notions about Indians pervade in the mind of everyone who played cowboys and Indians as a child. The logo and Indian stereotypes have become such institutionalized symbols that they are similar to apple pie.
Native Americans have been bullied long enough. The national baseball ball association, those fans who do the Tomahawk chop, and you Mike are guilty of cultural racism. Applying culture relativism is difficult. Behind the smile of the seemingly harmless Cleveland Indian logo hides another example of American cultural absolutism. Are you unconsciously being a racist? Don’t be fooled! And by the way Mike, who ended up winning the game?