Wednesday, January 31, 2007

newest asa member resolution: taking another political stand, but not one that will keep us away from chicago

Following the successful American Sociological Association resolutions in past years against the Iraq War and against the prohibition of gay marriage, circulating this year is a resolution against Native American nicknames in sport. Full text as follows:
Proposed Resolution of the American Sociological Association on Native American Sport Mascots

WHEREAS the American Sociological Association comprises sociologists and kindred professionals who study, among other things, culture, religion, media, sport, race and ethnicity, racism, and other forms of inequality;

WHEREAS the American Sociological Association recognizes that racial prejudice, stereotypes, individual discrimination and institutional discrimination are socially created phenomena that are harmful to Native Americans and other people of color;

WHEREAS the American Sociological Association is resolved to undertake scholarship, education, and action that helps to eradicate racism;

WHEREAS social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport reflect and reinforce misleading stereotypes of Native Americans in both past and contemporary times;

WHEREAS the stereotypes embedded in Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport undermine education about the lives of Native American peoples;

WHEREAS social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport harm Native American people in psychological, educational, and social ways;

WHEREAS the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport shows disrespect for Native American spiritual and cultural practices;

WHEREAS many Native American individuals across the United States have found Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport offensive and called for their elimination;

AND, WHEREAS the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport has been condemned by numerous reputable academic, educational and civil rights organizations, and the vast majority of Native American advocacy organizations, including but not limited to: American Anthropological Association, American Psychological Association, North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, Modern Language Association, United States Commission on Civil Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Association of American Indian Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, and National Indian Education Association;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION calls for the discontinuation of the use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport.
As with all member resolutions, signatures from 3% of members are needed to place it on the ballot. Apparently if you copy the above text and send it to (presumably along with your name) that is sufficient to count as a signature.

The drive is being organized by Jeffrey Montez de Oca and Laurel Davis-Delano. I have sent an e-mail asking about the evidence regarding WHEREAS #6 of the resolution (the one about evidence demonstrating harm). I'm not saying anything about the quantity or quality of this evidence; I honestly don't know. It seems to me that there should be a requirement that resolutions that make claims about social science findings should be expected to provide references to those findings and preferably with the resolution itself. I'll let you know what response I receive to my query.

The resolution does not itself imply any actions other than ASA "calling for the discontinuation." I have a friend who works for ASA; I wonder if he'll have to be the one who gets on the phone and makes these calls. But to whom? By contrast, the American Anthropological Association has a at-least-ten-year boycott on holding meetings in Illinois (e.g., in Chicago) because of the University of Illinois flamboyantly offensive "Chief Illiniwek" mascot.


john said...

If the ASA is "dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession serving the public good," then, as Jeremy says, it should put up, in the scientific sense, or it should shut up, in the resolution sense.

Anonymous said...

I vote for "shut up."

Do you suppose one could propose a resolution prohibiting ASA resolutions? Would it pass?

Tina said...

I don't much mind the ASA making its collective feelings known on a topic, but I have to say that I was put off by the process of getting this around to members.

The petitioners sent it to all the section chairs and asked them to distribute it to their listservs. Given that most people who belong to sections belong to more than one, this put me in the awkward position of deciding between spamming the listserv or appearing to take the side of Chief Illiniwek. So I spammed.

Isn't there a process set up by which ASA members can contact each other, without bothering the sections?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think this is a little silly. The problem isn't with naming teams after groups of people. It's what they do with it after they have the name. There are lots of teams named after other groups of people that people don't get worked up about because the schools/teams don't attach stupidity to the mascot. If handled right it could be considered an honor. Patriots, Yankees, Packers, Texans, Cowboys, Vikings, Pirates, Wizards, Celtics, Saints, etc.

If the ASA is going to pass a such resolution, why don't they make one against naming a team after ANY group of people--if nothing else to avoid future problems. Or they could be even more careful and eliminate all animalia, or all living things, or anything that casts a shadow.

Better yet, as effective as this is going to be, why not just make a resolution calling for the discontinuance of racism. That should do the trick.

Anonymous said...

WHEREAS Jeremy Freese is sooo cute, the ASA shall henceforth cease and desist from forcing its membership to vote "for" or "against" puppy dogs and grandmothers...

Shamus said...

I'm not sure what evidence you're asking for, Jeremy. Evidence that negative symbols have harmful social, psychological, and educational effects on those they're negatively targeting? For that, there's lots of evidence. Like you, I simply don't know about the specific case of Native Americans. But I'm not sure I would require evidence in this particular case. I have no reason to believe that the general observation (negative symbols negatively harm those they're targeted at) wouldn't apply to the this specific case.

I wonder more about the amount of collective energy going into this kind of resolution, and whether or not it will actually do anything in the world, other than make some people feel good about themselves. Seems to me, the energies could be better spent, if you really wanted to change things.

jeremy said...

Shamus: I appreciate the point about collective energy. It just seems to me that this: "social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport harm Native American people in psychological, educational, and social ways" is a quite specific claim made in quite decisive terms ("demonstrated"). I don't know the field, so I'm wondering what this is based on. If it's not specific research on Native American nicknames and harm to Native Americans, I think this statement would be very misleading.

I should note that, politically, I would obviously prefer that Chief Illiniwek be retired and the Washington Redskins change their names; moreover, I don't think that position depends at all on the question of whether there is demonstrable harm in the sense of Native Americans doing worse in school or being more likely to drop out because of offensive nicknames.

Tom Volscho said...

There is a great essay on this matter by Ward Churchill:

jeremy said...

From the Churchill essay:

"...Understand that the treatment of Indians in American popular culture is not "cute'' or "amusing," or just "good, clean fun."

Know that it causes real pain and real suffering to real people. Know that it threatens our very survival. And know that this is just as much a crime against humanity as anything the Nazis ever did..."

Hmm, those last three sentences seem three very different claims.

Anonymous said...

That essay is totally over the top. "Redskins" is a serious problem. But just using *any* kind of NA identifier isn't the same as naming a team the "Niggers" or the "Spics" (as he suggests are parallel).

What about lakes (Oswego Huron), rivers, roads, towns, counties, states? If you're not against that, how can you be against the Illinois Illini (although Chief Illiniwek is a different story--which is my point).

Anonymous said...

Oh god, TV is still going on about Ward Churchill?

Tom Volscho said...

The main point is that we are living on stolen land the product of a genocidal campaign waged against the dozens of societies that are today called "Indians" or "Native Americans" that lived here before Columbus washed up on the shores of the Caribbean. The dehumanizing images used of these people is the moral equivalent of NAZI caricatures of Jewish people used before and after the holocaust to justify their extermination. B. In fact, Hitler closely studied North American "Indian" removal policies and figured it was the biologically destined imperative of all the nordic german-descent folk living in the United States in their quest for "lebensraum". He admired the idea of reservations and slavery...put 1+1 together and you have his holocaust. Do you know any actual "Indians"? Have you asked how they feel when you use the oppression of their ancestors as a punchline for a sporting event?

Might explain why this is only mildly insulting (or even amusing) to your white privilege....because no one slaughtered your ancestors.

Anonymous said...

"The main point is that we are living on stolen land the product of a genocidal campaign..."

and where exactly on the planet is this not the case?

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to your indignation, I've lived with an "Indian" for the past 40 year--who (a) prefers the label "American Indian" and (b) thinks this is typical liberal bs: they yell about it to make themselves feel righteous while they ignore much more important issues and aren't really willing to sacrifice any privilege to make things better. Anybody out there want to give up their house to help correct the stolen land problem? Didn't think so.

Tom Volscho said...

Lucky for me I'm not a liberal and I'm not white.

Its always disturbing to see fellow people in my discipline so dismissive of the reality and centrality of oppression to this country (it might just be the dominant method of training sociologists to be very pro-system). Perhaps THAT is what privilege is all about, "boo hoo hoo" and that is typical liberal behavior. If this offends you--then you need to be offended (wow, you are so privileged that the worst thing is to be offended).

Just like any other group of human beings, "Native Americans" do not all agree on what to call themselves. The opposite (i.e. "if N.A., then x) is called the fallacy of the essentialization of "race" (quite similar to early survey research where "black" people would not be polled because the "white" social scientists "already knew" what "all 'Negroes'" believed).

My wife reminded me of an incident reported in one of Joe Feagin and Melvin Sikes' books (I think it is in Living with Racism) of a young African-American girl in an nearly all-"white" school being called "Aunt Jemima" by her teacher and how she came home and cried as a result--obviously she was hurt and obviously this was an outright racist act. It is no small stretch of the imagination to believe that many "Native Americans" are indeed offended by the mockery of their ancestors in the use of sports mascots.

Here is a link to an article from Indian Country Today reflecting that many are upset, offended, and demeaned by the specific case of U. of Illinois' mascot.

Funny, I know a professor who once taught at one of the schools in that system and "go home jew bitch" was written on her office door. Systemic Racism?

Back to point...

It is very powerful when a mainstream organization like the ASA condemns the use of mascots.

Jeremy is fine to suggest that a series of cited studies demonstrating harm is included...but perhaps the studies have not yet been done. A lit review is in order. And it would improve the case if the studies were there.

The American Anthropological Association has come out against the concept of "race", too bad our discipline has not. Another useful news story in ICT:

jeremy said...

Incidentally, I received a reply last night with citations regarding the resolution. I'm behind on posts, but will post this in the next couple of days.

Tom Volscho said...

Cool, I will be interested to read them.

Tom Volscho said...

Did those sources ever get posted here on the blog?