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Toronto Star Column Defends Racist Logos By Being Weirdly Racist

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The Toronto Jews crest is the most gorgeous team logo in sports, vibrant and proud. Only the bullies and bureaucrats of grievance could possibly find stereotyping offence in the noble profile of a Jewish Hassid.

Would you agree?

I can't imagine Rosie DiManno would, even though I only replaced a couple words in the lede of the Toronto Star columnist's recent article "A reference -- especially in a logo -- needn't be racism" in defence of the Chicago Blackhawks and all other native sports mascots.

Yes, even the Redskins: "He's the owner, he can call the team whatever he damn well pleases."

racist logo

"Racism is a term too easily thrown around, draining and diluting it of meaning," the columnist continues. "Since when has mere referencing of a tribe or an indigenous character constituted racism, particularly if the allusion is affectionate or -- pardon the buzzword -- empowering?"

Now I would never imagine that DiManno listens to anyone else's argument so I wondered what she herself might think if there actually was a sports team called the Toronto Jews which had no Jewish players and mostly if not entirely non-Jewish fans.

"It is rather presumptuous for a non-Jew to define anti-Semitism. That's not something a Gentile can feel in the bones, especially in its nuanced rather than overt form," DiManno wrote back in 2009.

"Stating the parameters of anti-Semitism -- for many that means making a contorted distinction between Jews and the Jewish state of Israel -- is akin to whites telling blacks what constitutes racial bigotry. There's an inherent condescension."

Indeed there is, 2009 Rosie DManno; perhaps you should have a chat with your 2016 self.

Is 'Indian' a derogatory word?

But Rosie is not the only one to disprove her own article. She also argues that "Indian isn't derogatory" and "there's no slur implied" though that is not the official position of her newspaper.

The Toronto Star's public editor Kathy English published an article in 2009 headlined "Is 'Indian' a derogatory word?"

Her conclusion was yes. "Its usage should be carefully considered and used only when applicable in a legal context."

"Its usage should be carefully considered and used only when applicable in a legal context."

The issue at hand was a review of a residential schools-themed play "A Very Polite Genocide or The Girl Who Fell to Earth." An education guide had been given to reviewers explaining that the word Indian was "archaic and offensive" and the writer respected that. However, aboriginal was changed to Indian in copy-editing.

"We simply must consider the strong sensitivities here," English wrote."The Star, in line with the style guide of The Canadian Press, should respect aboriginal peoples' preferences about how they wish to be identified."

But while DiManno doesn't care about that. In her absurd defense of the Cleveland Indians mascot Chief Wahoo, she dismisses groups of Native Americans who have staged protests for the past two decades because the "overwhelming majority of Clevelanders" are opposed to changing the mascot.

cleveland indians mascot

The neon version of the Cleveland Indians' mascot, Chief Wahoo, that used to hang over the Municipal Stadium now rests at the Western Reserve Historical Society. (Photo: Jim Chambers/Flickr)

"Again, the alleged stereotype is in the eyes of the perceiver," she writes, and by "perceiver" she means "person being stereotyped."

Clearly, being a non-native, this is a very "presumptuous" position with "inherent condescension."

Really, DiManno's target is the Equity Summit Group, a so-called "censorious cabal" of 26 school board equity officers from across Ontario who want to ban offensive native sports logos at school due to their "exploitation of indigenous cultural, spiritual and intellectual identity, and in many cases, a racist misrepresentation of that identity."

But if she won't listen to them, what about the American Psychological Association which in 2005 called for "the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations... Research has shown that [it] has a negative effect on not only American Indian students but all students."

Anyway, it doesn't matter if non-natives aren't offended because, as Rosie DiManno taught me, that's not something they can feel in the bones.

So let's consult someone who can. Last year, I spoke to Ottawa activist and musician Ian Campeau of A Tribe Called Red who successfully "convinced" the local youth football league Nepean Redskins to change their name to the Nepean Eagles. All it took was a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights tribunal.

"We're seen as cartoon characters," Campeau explained. "So until we're taken seriously and seen as human beings and not these ancient relics or ridiculous stereotypes, we won't be taken seriously for these quote-unquote more important issues. But to me this is of the most utmost importance."

Oh, and for Rosie and anyone else who loves the Blackhawks logo, here's an infinitely cooler one.

mike ivall

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