A confession: I did not realize that Chief Wahoo was actually meant to be a representation of a person, let alone an NA person, until I was 16 and the issue surfaced during our run to the ’07 ALCS.
This was a result of several confounding factors:
a) I grew up in a town that was 98.4% white and functionally 0% NA.
b) It never occurred to me that anybody’s skin could be described as “red”, and I’d never heard of it being done in my 98.4% bubble.
c) From an early age, I interpreted the traditional hairstyle as a baseball cap, and it did not occur to me that it might be a distorted representation of NA hairstyles.
d) The absurd triangular eyes convinced five-year-old me that this was some sort of fantastical mythical creation.
e) I interpreted “Chief Wahoo” to mean that he was the seniormost wahoo, rather than in its intended NA-implied sense, and just assumed, particularly with the context of having Slider as a secondary mascot, that “wahoo” was similar.
Do I think that any justifications for keeping the logo at this point are inherently ignorant of its racism? Yes.
Do I think that none of the people agitating to keep the logo are responsible for (or complicit in) the consequences of that racism? No, quite the opposite.
But if somebody who believes that their education occurred with eyes sufficiently open to the injustices of the world can have that big of a blind spot despite (or, perhaps more accurately, as a result of) growing up with the imagery, I cannot help but imagine that many of those agitators, in a metropolitan area that is 0.2% NA, are primarily pining for a time when they saw Chief Wahoo as nothing more than a fun picture, without the baggage that it actually does come with.
A lot of people I’ve talked to in the last 12 months have expressed that they wish that conversations could be had without people getting offended about X or Y based on a turn of phrase with no ill will meant behind it. I’d understood this logic in theory, but I don’t think I’d personally confronted its assumptions properly until now.
That childhood joy about Chief Wahoo may not be rooted in racism, sure. And this kind of revision to your internal narrative can feel like a personal attack. How much could we have chosen, as children, to not root for the team?
Of course, the conversation should point out that there is far less of a choice in ethnicity or race.
I’ll also note that from a different framing, this is also all the more reason to ditch the logo and the name altogether—this sort of institutionally sanctioned dehumanization spares absolutely no one. Not that I’m saying I, in my subsequent realization and growth, should be considered the paragon of racial awareness. I just don’t know how I could, with a straight face, tell a child of mine to be inclusive and loving, embrace diversity in all its forms, and root for this team in the year 2017.
I can’t not follow them. It is but one of several failings of mine. But I can publicly support further steps than Manfred’s current (and honestly fairly weak) stance and vote with my dollars.
And I can have these conversations.