Retire the racist Chicago Blackhawks logo
The Chicago Blackhawks logo is iconic for many Chicagoans. Though slightly altered throughout the team's history, this logo has remained essentially the same: the profile of a Native American man's head covered in warpaint. The players are adorned with this cartoon on the fronts of their jerseys, along with crisscrossed tomahawks in a patch on their shoulders. These depictions often inspire fans to attend the games dressed in simplistic Native American garb, with headdresses and even red face paint.
Unfortunately, what this all adds up to is a flattened understanding of the complex cultures of Native Americans and a prevalence of negative stereotypes. After attending a Blackhawks game, one might think that Native American cultures revolve around tomahawks, face paint, and headdresses, instead of being complex communal systems. Additionally, many Blackhawks fans think of Native Americans and Native American cultures as something to utilize in order to be entertained and to help them have a good time. It is not respectful to associate a race of people and their many complex cultures with a fun, wild party, which is the atmosphere at hockey games.
To truly understand the offensive nature of the Blackhawks logo, one must also understand the history behind Native American logos. There is a long, sordid American tradition of portraying Native Americans as "noble savages" and consequently turning them into sports mascots in order to convey a sense of team ferocity and drive. It was in this racially charged atmosphere that the Blackhawks and other racist sports logos and names were created.
The near genocide of Native Americans and their culture by the US government in the 19th and 20th centuries is what enabled these sports organizations to create these racist, exploitative logos. Basically, American society brought Native people to the brink of destruction and then created this false version of them to be a source of entertainment, using logos that trivialized their true culture and portrayed them as "noble savages". The racist majority of this era forcibly silenced the minority voice of the decimated Native population.
Supporters of this logo claim that it honors the very people it exploits, by depicting Native Americans as "noble" and "courageous". However, these are words traditionally used in the context of war and fighting, illuminating the reason why Native American logos and mascots were used in the first place, because the race was viewed singularly as inherent warriors. Truly, the motive for using Native Americans as sports mascots is qualitatively the same as the motive for using ferocious and/or proud animals as mascots.
The psychological harm these logos have on Native Americans is well documented. As the National Congress of American Indians states: “When exposed to these images, the self-esteem of Native youth is harmfully impacted, their self-confidence erodes, and their sense of identity is severely damaged. Specifically, these stereotypes affect how Native youth view the world and their place in society, while also affecting how society views Native peoples. This creates an inaccurate portrayal of Native peoples and their contributions to society."
The NCAI further speaks on the physical harm that Native Americans experience as a result of these logos: "The intolerance and harm promoted by ‘Indian’ mascots have very real consequences. The alarmingly high rates of hate crimes against Native people indicates a need to take immediate action in a number of areas, including the removal of harmful images and education of the general public to diffuse additional hateful activity against Native peoples. According to Department of Justice analysis, ‘American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race.’"
We are all humans, no matter what race we are, not animals! We are complex individuals and we can be anything we want, not just "noble warriors". We can be doctors, lawyers, engineers, actors, politicians, you name it! It is very troubling that in these modern times racist relics from the past, such as this logo, persist as they do.
That is why this logo must be retired in favor of something less offensive. Other professional sports franchises have been very successful in similar endeavors, such as the Golden State Warriors, not to mention all the college teams that have eliminated their exploitative Native American imagery. We can't let this logo continue to try to pigeonhole Native Americans as "noble warriors"!
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