Friday, February 22, 2008

A Modest Proposal.

Today was "Wear Chief Day" and the 1 year anniversary of the Chief's last dance. Sadly, the campus is still a bit divided over this, as the comments thread on the DI article about the Chief shows.

I had a satirical column planned, wherein I suggested bringing back the Chief, but as a member of the Village People, listing all sorts of completely sincere reasons why this would be a good idea, but I just don't have it in me. The earliest versions of that post date back to last year, when my buddy Marcus and I started kicking around ideas after an Unofficial party, but after a year of sniping and whining and bitterness and both sides getting, if anything, more entrenched, it wasn't funny anymore.

You have, supposedly, the future leaders of our country and graduates of one of the finest public universities in the country arguing and casting all kinds of pig-ignorant, misleading slander at each other over...

I'm not sure what.

On the one had, yeah, it's an 80-odd year old tradition. Many U of I alumni do have very fond memories of their time here, and remember the feeling of pride they had here.

On the other, and possibly more persuasive hand, it's a white guy dressing in a costume. A costume that's not even of the tribe that the Chief is named after. That's like having Micky O'Irish as a mascot, dressing him up in a tartan kilt and a bowler hat, and making him do some square dancing. It doesn't make any sense to try and claim that that's honoring Micky's native culture.

So, why all the fighting? My working theory is that its because the Board of Trustees, nervous over NCAA sanctions, did away with the Chief pretty quickly, and a bit shadily. The pro-Chief people are mad because they feel stabbed in the back, the anti-Chief people are mad because they didn't win correctly - didn't win by changing attitudes, but by fiat.

Meanwhile, while we're bitching at each other about whether a fictitious Indian being played by a white college student is ok, there are still massive issues facing our campus. Paul Schmitt, who's been downplaying the Chief issue in his campaign for student trustee, has pointed out that our priorities are all messed up. I personally like to point to the shiny new alumni center on Lincoln Ave, which is of absolutely no use to students.

The continued squabbling over a complete non-issue is also keeping us from talking about actual racism on campus. I've talked about this before. There was the Tacos and Tequila party last year, the continued underrepresentation of most minorities on this campus, and, most recently, a Compton-themed party. There are two real money quotes from this article, one from the president of the frat hosting the party and one from the school functionary responsible for the tolerance program. I'll present them in that order.
Muccigrosso was quick to point out that despite the props used by some of the partygoers, no ethnic groups were specifically targeted through the use of makeup. The decision to model the floor after Compton came about as the result of many residents' affinity for hip-hop culture, he said.
"Many members of the community felt like this was a mockery of that city's culture," Abdullah-Span said. "For students who don't come from that type of situation, to portray themselves in such a way is stereotyping."
If you'll please note from the article, the frat has one black member, out of 33, and is an engineering frat. Surprisingly, there are no comments on the article yet, but I am just waiting for the first one to blame the Chief and thus start the flamewar. Which, you know, is a damn shame, since it'll just piss people off and do nothing to solve the problem.

So, to sum up my points, the Chief is gone, his departure was managed shittily, and somehow, racism still persists on campus. I-L-L...

No comments: