Monday, May 16, 2011

Atlanta Braves fans celebrate Civil Rights Weekend by mindlessly doing their racist chant


The Phillies and the Braves met this weekend in Atlanta for MLB's annual Civil Rights Extravaganza. It was certainly an interesting choice of two franchises and cities with less than sparkling racial pasts.

The Phillies notoriously heaped racial epithets on Jackie Robinson in just his fifth major league game and were painfully slow to integrate. It was ten years and seven days after Robinson broke the color line that the Phillies debuted their first black player. And then the city of Philadelphia was hardly a colorblind utopia.

Meanwhile, Atlanta is Atlanta. Much is made of the city's role as the hub of the Civil Rights Movement--this fact is supposed to absolve the city of its history of segregation, violence, and terrorism against blacks. After all, if Atlanta was such a beacon of racial progress, it wouldn't have needed to be the freaking hub of the Civil Rights Movement. Atlanta's centrality in the Civil Rights Movement speaks to just how backwards the city was--how deeply entrenched the racism was and how ferociously reactionary the white population was.

So back to baseball and Civil Rights Weekend. It was cool for the most part. The teams got to show off some snazzy Negro League throwback uniforms:

Joe Blanton: first white man in the Negro Leagues
Also, some famous non-white people got awards and, in the ultimate culmination of the Civil Rights Movement and the attainment of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream, rapper Ludacris provided post-game entertainment. It was a grand affair.

Except for the Braves fans and their godforsaken "tomahawk chop." Perhaps it was foolish of me to expect a reprieve from this grotesque ritual on CIVIL FUCKING RIGHTS WEEKEND, but alas.  I understand that the vast majority of people who partake in the chop do so without even thinking about it, much less with a full appreciation of how offensive it is. The fact is, when you get a stadium full of southern white people, put a few runners on base, and start beating a drum at the right cadence, they are helpless to resist the primal urge to do a mock Native American war chant.

Yes, I understand that the tomahawk chop was only adopted by the Braves upon the arrival of Deion Sanders in the early 90s, who brought the tradition with him from Florida State University where it originated. That doesn't make it less repugnant.

Some claim the chop is not intended to be offensive but rather an homage to Native American culture. But this is hard to accept coming from a state with a history of treating Native Americans as poorly as it treated black people. It is even harder to accept in a country that saw all but eradicating the native population as a matter of public policy. It seems a little bit like dancing on the grave.

And finally, there is the argument that the chop is a "tradition" for Braves fans, just like beer and hot dogs and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It would be wrong to disturb this tradition because baseball is at its core a game of traditions.

You know what else was a tradition? Slavery.

Personally, I am quite glad we got rid of that one.

3 comments:

  1. You do realize that the Seminole Tribe itself endorses the use of the Seminole name, mascot, chop, etc., right?

    http://www.pnj.com/article/20110422/SPORTS/104220335/North-Dakota-fight-gives-FSU-relief

    So if the people who have the most right to be offended by those things, aren't, why should anybody else be?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just because they aren't offended by it doesn't mean it's not racist or stereotypical.

    ReplyDelete
  3. They did the right thing because the chants were offensive and racist in nature.
    class action attorney

    ReplyDelete