Jewish World Review March 19, 2002 / 6 Nissan 5762

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

A slur? Where is thy sting? | Sometimes offense is the best defense.

That appears to be what some innovative Native American Indian students at the University of Northern Colorado had in mind. When local activists failed persuade Eaton High School in Greeley, Colo., to change the name and Indian mascot of its team, the Fightin' Reds, the Indian university students decided to make their point a different way.

They changed the name of their intramural basketball team from the Native Pride to The Fightin' Whities.

As Solomon Little Owl, a team member who also directs the university's Native American Student Services, explained to reporters, his teammates, who include some Hispanics and Caucasians, wanted to "do something that will let people see the other side of what it's like to be a mascot."

The result? A media frenzy, of course. Network television, major newspapers and radio talk shows have made the Fightin' Whities the best covered intramural squad in the nation. The Greeley Tribune says its Web site,, crashed last Tuesday when demand for the story soared from the usual 200 hits a day for a high-interest local story to 29,000.

Yet, Caucasians have proved to be remarkably resistant to offense. Quite the opposite, many agree with the e-mailer who saw the new team name as an "honor" to white Americans, who apparently don't get enough credit for their many contributions to history.

"Help me out here," asked one e-mail to the Greeley Tribune, "why am I supposed to be offended?"

Within days the newspaper, the college and Little Owl's office had received so many requests for team T-shirts that the Fightin' Whities now sell their own line of sportswear at their own Web site with all proceeds going to the Fighting Whites Scholarship Fund Inc.

The items do look pretty snazzy. Each features the team logo, a wholesome-looking '50s-style head-shot illustration of a smiling white guy in a jacket and necktie over the team's memorable slogan, "Every thang's gonna be all white!"

What next? Coffee mugs? Bumper stickers? Refrigerator magnets? Hey, it's all for a worthy cause.

Whether their experiment turned out the way they expected to or not, the Fightin' Whities deserve to go to the head of the class for giving us all at least one important lesson in crosscultural differences: It's not what you slur that counts, it is who is slurring it - and how.

After all, American teams have had Euro-ethnic mascots before, like the Fighting Irish, the Ragin' Cajuns or the Norsemen. And how about those Boston Celtics?

No, as an African American who has heard more than my share of slurs, I can tell you: To be truly offensive, it helps for a slur to carry at least a hint of a threat.

If some Caucasians in Greeley, Colo., find little reason to feel offended, maybe it is because they have little reason to feel threatened by the Fightin' Whities name. Caucasians in, say, Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has not made white farmers feel very welcome in recent years, might feel a bit more anxious about jokes at their expense.

Similarly, "Reds" may not sound very offensive to most, but to some Indian ears it might sound about as menacing as "Redskins," the name of the NFL football team in the nation's capital. Most Redskins fans undoubtedly mean no harm by their passivity about their team's name. If it reminds some Indians of the days when there were bounties on Indian scalps, that's just tough tomahawks, pal.

Besides, a recent Sports Illustrated poll found that, even on reservations, most Indians did not think school or professional sports teams should change their Indian names, despite the near-unanimity of activists and other busybodies - like me - who think a name like "Redskins" goes way over the top.

By contrast, the Cleveland Indians merely sounds weird. It makes me wonder how folks would feel about a team called, say, the "Cleveland Negroes."

But it is not always easy to get non-Indians to walk a few miles in the moccasins of Native Americans on this issue without feeling defensive, as if they are being blamed for all of history's atrocities against the original Americans.

So, I give the Fightin' Whities credit for keeping their wit about them. Humor often opens doors that battering rams fail to budge.

If nothing else, they've stumbled across an unusual way to raise scholarship money. It's like the old saying goes: If you can't beat 'em, make a few bucks off of 'em.

Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS