Petitioners call "Big Indian" car dealer sign racist


#1

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#2

Sadly that sign is far from the most offensive caricature of an American Indian in Ohio.


#3

How is this still even a conversation we’re having in this day and age? How is 21st century society still permeated by offensive racial caricatures? How?!?!


#4

They could repaint the sign as that guy who had the sex toy superglued to his forehead. [Snopes?]


#5

This one is tough for me. I have a pretty good idea what it means, even to this day, to be African American, brown, Native American, female, gay, etc, when everyone thinks we’ve put all the “isms” to bed. Spend one day on the average American construction crew or factory floor and tell me isms aren’t well and alive.

I think, as someone of eastern european provenance, I won’t be so presumptuous as to have an opinion on this particular issue. It seems appropriate to let the Native American organizations speak on this, and for everyone else to listen to what they have to say about it.

On a random aside: Whenever an issue like this arrises, it always makes me think of Looney Tunes, which I grew up with and adored, and had a lot of pretty stereotypical depictions of everyone, including caucasian Americans, the Chinese, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Japanese, bunny rabbits, etc…


#6

Do these people know about this, then? I bet they’d really get their panties in a bunch!


#7

I dunno. I don’t find it as a racist caricature. I can see the case against the Cleveland Indians - that I think crosses a line and needs to be updated.

At any rate, even if you do find it offensive and can articulate why it is so, saying things like “It… is another form of genocide.” is rather over the top dramatic.


#8

I’ve seen a lot of big Indian signs and caricatures, and as things like that go, this is one of the less offensive ones, by far, at least. He isn’t bright red, waving a tomahawk, or dancing around in warpaint with a peace pipe in one hand. I guess the really racist thing about it is just that it’s using a caricature of a race of people to sell cars, and yeah, that’s not acceptable. (full disclosure: I’m 1/4 Shawnee, for what it’s worth)


#9

I have a black friend who prefers overt racism, he at least knows where he’s going to have problems that way. He spent a lot of time in the American south, and preferred knowing which areas were racist so he could avoid them. Back here in Oregon, he says he runs into more racism than in the south, because everyone pretends like it’s not a problem anymore and he doesn’t know where/who to avoid.


#10

That’s this, no?

Isn’t that a reaction to Mount Rushmore?


#11

I suspect you’re joking, but there are a few key differences between the two likenesses. One is a generic ethnic caricature built by white guys for the purpose of selling cars. The other is a respectful memorial created in the likeness of an actual human being commissioned by another American Indian of the same tribe.

Comparing the two is like comparing the MLK monument to a billboard featuring Little Black Sambo.


#12

How about replacing it with Christopher Columbus?


#13

Presuming you can’t have an opinion is pretty presumptuous, probably you’d rather not state it.

I don’t mind having or stating my opinion, being of the opinion that the Gods of Harms Past & Present all think Silence is Golden, and for good reason.

Given the number of Native Americans remaining, their relative social and economical marginalization & just how pervasive such problems as these sorts of things are?

Given that my not being Native American means little in relation to having the society I want to live & raise children in? One where cultural, systemic harms are neither apologized for, ignored or dismissed as the sovereign right of others to oppose exclusively? Hell naw, if you find it wrong, there is nothing wrong with saying so & a disservice done when you won’t.

You can do that without offending others. Your say does not preclude others their say so long as it respects them, doesn’t try to speak above them, for them or otherwise get in the way.

Why would changing for the better a culture of 330 million people be left to 5.2 million because they are the ones most hard done by it?

The sign is wrong, the justification for it is tired & has been destroyed in so many other instances that it is amazing anyone has trotted it out again & the tone-deaf derpers who did provide it ought to hear from anyone wiling to tell them.


#14

Yes, you’ve pegged it!

A “white” man (Korczak Ziolkowski) is destroying one of the Black Hills, which are sacred ground to Native Americans, in order to cash in on the tourist trade… by creating a huge three dimensional caricature of a cowboy-fighting Indian. I am sure cheap, chinese-made tchotckes depicting this racist monument will soon be readily available, if they aren’t already.

Or at least, that’s one way of looking at it. Myself, I tend to think it’s just a big statue.


#15

The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder. Ziolkowski is just the sculptor he hired to do the job.


#16

Excellent post my friend, well said. Thank you for that perspective. My reticence to state my opinion came from a general disdain for how these things seem to play out. They pop up on the internet, get picked up by cable news, and so rarely do we get an opportunity to hear from the leaders of the marginalized communities. But your argument is correct, and there is a greater obligation to speak up than to assume and trust that the marginalized will be granted a fair say.

As someone who is fully aware of the documented atrocities and injustices endured by the Native Americans, I think that in these matters we should respect their wishes without compromise.


#17

Fortunately for everyone, there’s a beautiful sign museum, right there in Cincinnati, where I bet this guy could be the focus of a fine educational display!


#18

I think its time to get rid of all this stuff that’s out there. I don’t see how you can ethically argue to keep it.

The book Neither Wolf nor Dog really gave me some perspective on how one Indian man feels about this. Written by a solid author that avoids all the usual noble savage or I want to be an Indian type of thing we see so often. http://www.amazon.com/Neither-Wolf-nor-Dog-Forgotten/dp/1577312333. When I finished it, I had it stick with me for weeks. One interesting thing in there is that “Indian” is used intentionally because its as good/bad as any word. Native American isn’t any better, essentially means, native to a place that has been named with a European word. America is not the name of the place where they come from.


#19

You know Little Black Sambo is not in any way racially connected to MLK, right? Sambo is an Asian Indian, not African at all. He’s specifically black Sambo to show he’s from a part of southern India where people have very dark skin. Like you might be a blonde Italian, from up around Lake Como, rather than a dark-haired southern Italian.

But I do get your point, and I do agree. And yes, I was snarking, perhaps unkindly. But maybe you’ve inadvertently illustrated another point, too? (I didn’t know Little Black Sambo wasn’t African until I was well over 40 years old.)

We all see the world from the prism of our own experiences and preconceptions, which are sometimes wrong. Caricatures are not inherently evil. I’d like to know more than just the bald fact of this statue’s existence before making a judgement of it’s owners’ intentions and beliefs.


#20

I don’t know if the people who built the sign decades ago intended to offend anyone, but leaving it in place is pretty disrespectful to the people it’s offending now. I like @daemonsquire’s idea of putting it in a museum where it can be remembered in its proper historical context.