The Covington Teenagers’ ‘Tomahawk Chop’ Is The Product Of Native Mascotry

By now we’ve all seen the viral video of the scholars from Covington Catholic Excessive Faculty standing close to the Lincoln Memorial harassing a Native American man final Friday.

The scholars (most of whom are white and male and carrying these simply recognizable purple “Make America Nice Once more” hats) have been within the nation’s capital to take part within the annual anti-abortion March for Life. Nathan Phillips, a member of the Omaha Nation, was singing an American Indian Motion protest track and banging drums with a gaggle of fellow Natives. They have been in D.C. for their very own political rally, the primary Indigenous Peoples March.

Probably the most viral a part of the movies exhibits one scholar particularly, Nathan Sandmann, a white child in a single these purple hats, standing immediately in entrance of Phillips. Sandmann stays nonetheless and quiet, a smile on his face as he stares Phillips down, his classmates egging him on, as Phillips continues to play his drum and sing.

Sandmann, in a assertion he launched, stated that “as a result of we have been being loudly attacked and taunted in public [by Hebrew Israelites], a scholar in our group requested one in all our trainer chaperones for permission to start our college spirit chants to counter the hateful issues that have been being shouted at our group. The chants are generally used at sporting occasions.”

The scholars simply go from “chants” they usually do at “sporting occasions” to a mocking model of the track Phillips and others are singing. After all they did; sports activities fandom taught them to try this.

That they may slip so simply from their very own fandom experiences in school to the mockery of Native track is a condemnation on sport.

One scholar in a video does the “tomahawk chop,” an arm motion begun by the crowds at a Florida State Seminoles soccer recreation within the 1980s. It is sensible that this teenager in 2019 felt this was a very good second to do the chop as a result of it was created to accompany the “warfare chant” FSU followers do at video games, which, in keeping with FSU, was initially known as “Bloodbath” and “sounded extra like chants by American Indians in Western motion pictures.” (The historical past of depictions of Native peoples in Hollywood movies is problematic, to say the least.)

The mockery of the second on Friday was thrown into sharp reduction on Sunday night, when the New England Patriots performed the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas Metropolis. The crowds there way back adopted the chop and the warfare chant, and anybody watching the published noticed and heard them each repeatedly throughout the recreation.

What actually is the distinction between what occurred on Friday and what occurred on Sunday, besides that the scholars did it immediately within the face of a Native man? (Nonetheless, loads of sports activities followers have finished it to Native folks’s faces when Native protesters have stood exterior sporting occasions to attract consideration to using racist mascots.) 

When we normalize mockery of Native Americans, we make other forms of racism commonplace offenses. And sporting events become


Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photos

After we normalize mockery of Native Individuals, we make different types of racism commonplace offenses. And sporting occasions turn out to be the place the place all of it goes down.

Native mascotry (a time period coined by Jacqueline Keeler, a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux, co-founder of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, and co-creator of the hashtag #NotYourMascot) is flawed and wishes to finish.

Native mascotry is the most-repeated picture of Native folks on this nation. It’s the product of a protracted, horrific historical past during which the federal government of the US has dedicated genocide towards Native peoples, stolen their lands from them (typically by compelled elimination), compelled their kids into colleges with the intent to eradicate them of their Native tradition and entered into treaties with Native nations after which damaged these treaties every time they grew to become in any respect inconvenient.

The federal government of this nation has spent centuries making an attempt to erase Native folks, and Native mascotry solely continues this observe. Native mascots flatten Native folks into photographs of floating heads and the sound of a manufactured chant. It strips them of humanity and actually makes them caricatures. And it hurts Native folks.

In 2005, the American Psychological Affiliation “known as for the rapid retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, photographs and personalities by colleges, schools, universities, athletic groups and organizations.” The APA did so as a result of, 14 years in the past, there was “a rising physique of social science literature” that confirmed “the dangerous results of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, together with the significantly dangerous results of American Indian sports activities mascots on the social identification improvement and vanity of American Indian younger folks.”

Covington college students handled Native folks the way in which all of us do once we defend or take part in Native mascotry.

This additionally has a direct impression on Native athletes. Native youngsters are taunted on the sports activities subject and punished after they report it. Lower than every week earlier than the Covington boys mocked and intimidated Native folks close to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Lyle Thompson, a member of the Onondaga Nation and a lacrosse celebrity within the Nationwide Lacrosse League, reported that the announcer for the opposite staff repeatedly stated over the loudspeaker, “let’s snip the ponytail,” referring to Thompson’s hair. Some followers, Thompson stated, advised him they have been going to scalp him.

Is your mascot value that?

Considering again on Sandmann’s assertion, one wonders what the scholars of Covington think about after they take part in chants “generally used at sporting occasions.” That they may slip so simply from their very own fandom experiences at Covington to the mockery of Native track is a condemnation on sport, each their very own native model of it and the one so many people take part in on the collegiate ranges.

It issues, additionally, that this second between these college students and Phillips happened in Washington. Eleven miles from the Lincoln Memorial is FedExField, the place the Washington NFL staff performs. The staff identify is a slur towards Native American folks (and I gained’t repeat it right here). We’ve so normalized native mascotry that there are staunch defenders of a racist slur for a staff that performs mere miles from the place the place federal laws is debated and handed on this nation. That’s appalling.

Movies courting again to 2011 surfaced this week (and have since been deleted) that featured white Covington college students at basketball video games with their faces and our bodies painted black. Is that actually all that stunning? After we normalize mockery of Native Individuals, we make different types of racism commonplace offenses. And sporting occasions turn out to be the place the place all of it goes down.

Covington college students, close to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, handled Native folks, ones they have been wanting immediately within the face, the way in which all of us do once we defend or take part in Native mascotry. In the event you have been upset or embarrassed by what you noticed in these movies, think about how regular that habits is in a soccer or baseball stadium. For all of the condemnation directed at these youngsters (and rightly so), we’ve got to even be prepared to acknowledge how our tradition at massive, particularly our sporting tradition, contributes to what we noticed this weekend.

Jessica Luther is a contract journalist, an writer and a co-host of the feminist sports activities podcast “Burn It All Down.”