ESPN commentator Bomani Jones sparked controversy (depending on who you ask) Thursday when he wore a t-shirt on the “Mike and Mike” show mocking the Cleveland Indians and their mascot, Chief Wahoo. The shirt featured the word “Caucasians” in the same font and style as the Indians logo, with Chief Wahoo given white skin, blond hair, and a dollar sign instead of a feather. He later said he purposely wore the shirt to elicit a response, and it did.
Jones’ shirt makes a point, but perhaps not the one he wanted to make. It seems some were offended with the shirt because they thought they were supposed to be offended, as our current “outrage culture” dictates. However, most reacting to the shirt on social media weren’t that upset with it at all.
Jones was hoping to offend white people who don’t believe the current Indians team mascot is offensive. Like the “Redskins” controversy in the NFL, liberals think the mere use of the word “Indian” and a cartoon depiction of an Indian warrior is racist and offensive. Jones wanted to show the hypocrisy among white people when they were confronted by a “white stereotype.” But that didn’t happen.
Instead, the lack of outrage shows that the liberal response to Native American mascots is much ado about nothing. If the “Caucasians” shirt isn’t offensive, how is the nearly-identical “Indians” mascot offensive? This is not a case in which a caricature or stereotype is used to deride or belittle an entire race. There have been plenty of instances of that in history, but the use of “Indians” or “Redskins” as sports mascots hardly rises to that level. Yes, “Chief Wahoo’s” face is a bit garish, and the use of bright red skin is obviously stereotypical, but not racist. The intent was to be cartoonish, not derisive to Native Americans.
The Indians baseball team is using “Chief Wahoo” less these days, which is a good thing, but not because it is racist, but because it isn’t a particularly appealing character. Cleveland fans, however, love “Chief Wahoo,” proof that he was never meant to be offensive, but obviously a better depiction could be found. The Redskins’ use of a stern face of a warrior as a mascot may offend a select few, but most find the depiction noble.
Ultimately, Jones’ “Caucasians” shirt had the opposite effect. Most white people weren’t offended at all, and it only reinforced the argument that the use of “Indians” as a mascot isn’t offensive either. It showed us all that we shouldn’t be offended at every little thing, and use some common sense. And that is a very conservative ideal. Thanks, Bomani Jones.