Monday, March 04, 2013

Two free public lectures in Redlands & Pomona this week!

This week, I'll be giving two free public lectures in which I'll talk about misrepresentations of American Indians (dates/times/locations listed at bottom of this post). In both lectures, I'll draw connections between the stereotypes of American Indians in children's/young adult literature and mascots.

While I'm out there doing that, the University of Illinois student body will be voting 'yes' or 'no' on this question:

Do you support Chief Illiniwek as the official symbol of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

For those of you who are new to AICL, here's "Chief Illiniwek" (I use quotes around that phrase because I do not want to convey any idea whatsoever that I think the mascot ought to have that title):

See the words at the bottom of the photo? The organization "Save the Chief" was active in a campaign to stop the university from getting rid of the mascot. It was/is only one of many similar organizations that, in one way or another, keep up the idea that mascots like "Chief Illiniwek" honor American Indians. They do that in spite of the fact that Native organizations, associations, and tribes have called for an end to the use of Native imagery in this way. And, thank goodness, the university chancellor said that the university will not bring it back because the university wants to go forward in being inclusive, not backward.

It is hard to chip away at the embrace of this kind of stereotyping.

American's are taught to have an affinity for this stereotype. This starts when they're young. Do you remember Clifford the Big Red Dog? Dear, dear, Clifford... I like him, too, but not when Emily Elizabeth thought he could be an Indian for Halloween:

Are you a fan of the Berenstain Bears books? Do you remember the one where Brother Bear and Sister Bear go to camp and listen to Grizzly Bob tell stories dressed this way?

I plan to incorporate research on the harm of such stereotyping in my talk. Research studies show its detrimental impact on Native students, and, its impact on non-Native students, too.

The University of Illinois finally got rid of its mascot, but it wasn't due to any concerns about it as a stereotype. It was retired because if it continued, the university would not be able to hold NCAA championships on its campus. I'm certain that some of the people responsible for actually making the decision to get rid of it understood the harm of stereotyping, but too many people did not, and too many people do not understand it.

I believe that children's books play a role in maintaining the illusion that such stereotypes are honorable.

I hope you can attend one of the talks! Please let your child's teachers know about the talks, too. And the school librarian! Displacing stereotypes with factual information about who American Indians were--and are--is going to require that more people understand stereotyping and its harm.

Wednesday, March 6, 1:00 PM
Bronco Student Center - Centaurus
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Thursday, March 7, 6:30 PM
Hall of Letters, 100
University of Redlands


Anonymous said...

I wish I weren't 3000 miles away. Want to come to NY??

Debbie Reese said...

Sure, anonymous! NY would be great!

Sarah said...

We need to get you to the Twin Cities at some point too!!!