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Cleveland, It's Time To Drop Your Racist Logo

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Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So why is it important to speak out strongly against the use of a racist indigenous character as the logo for the ill-named "Cleveland Indians?" Simply because racism matters.

I vividly remember what it was like for me as a young boy growing up in Ottawa attending a public school to be referred to as" Jewboy" or "kike." Sadder yet were the cryptic antisemitic notes and roughly drawn caricatures of hooked-nose Jews that would appear on my desk from time to time.

It was after all the early 1960s. Racism, bullying and ethnic stereotyping hardly seemed to matter. It did however matter to me. And having had to endure this form of baiting as a young person, I suppose it's fair to say that its pain stuck.

Almost 60 years later as I watch the same pain being expressed by Canadian indigenous leaders over the "Chief Wahoo" logo used by Cleveland, I more than get it.

Remaining quiet about racism and ethnic stereotypes today is not an option.

What boggles my mind however is how many folks just don't understand. Many have commented on my Facebook as I posted my own feelings about the Cleveland logo: "you're overreacting" writes one, "...don't be silly," I'm told, "you're looking for something that isn't there," writes someone else, and yet another warns me that "Some special interest groups are ruining our lives. Leave things alone in this sporting world at least."

One person even asks, "What about the Toronto Maple Leafs as an affront to our national symbol?"

That was enough for Bob Goulet a First Nations friend. He wrote the following in response:

"I am not 'Indian,' 'Redskin' or a 'Wahoo.' I'm certainly #notyourmascot. I am a proud Anishnabee.

I couldn't imagine the children of Israel having to endure similar offensive, stereotypical, anti-Semitic terms and imagery. Yarmulkes embroidered with team names, fans waving their tallits over their heads after a home run or blowing their NFL-brand name shofar after a touchdown. Then hearing people defending the practice as harmless.

Yet my children see it every single day when they turn on TV. It's truly demeaning and offensive to all humanity."

And thankfully, 2016 is no longer the 1960s. Remaining quiet about racism and ethnic stereotypes today is not an option. Other good people are beginning to speak out.

No longer are folks being complacent about bullying words aimed squarely at minorities in this country. No longer are differences seen as "problems" today as we say at the Mosaic Institute, "Difference is the solution."

And thanks perhaps to our own anguish over the last few years as we emerged from that dark tunnel where we finally began to understand the harm we have caused Canada's Indigenous people over the last 100 years, many Canadians are prepared to stand with First Nations in this fight.

Church leaders have spoken out joining hands with other Canadians to bring pressure on the Cleveland franchise to join the 21st century. Jays Sports broadcaster Jerry Howarth emphatically announced that he would not use Cleveland's team name in his broadcast because it was so offensive to First Nations.

One Facebook friend summed up what many were feeling when she wrote:

"It is illegal in Canada to disparage a group by portraying in a stereotypical fashion which is demeaning and ultimately discriminatory. This is guaranteed under the Charter of rights and Freedoms. Americans accept that those who go to the US abide by their laws. As Canadians we expect no less. No 'Indians.' No mascot caricatures of 'Indians.' Kudos to Cardinal for finally standing up to the MLB."

Her reference was of course to Doug Cardinal, a renowned First Nations activist and Order of Canada. Mr. Cardinal has lodged complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and also sought an injunction from the Ontario Courts to forbid the use of the name and logo during playoff games in Toronto.

Cardinal lost his request for that injunction but he won another important victory. He showed us all that Indigenous people will be respected. Indeed, recalling the words of a First Nations Elder who once noted "Children learn from what they see. We need to set an example of truth and action," Cardinal and many others, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are in fact setting a fine example.

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