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The Chattanooga Times
Monday, January 8, 1996

Bill Casteel

Mascot attack Unjust

And the words for today, children, are (a) mascot and (b) racism.

We'll be studying those words because they have been widely used over the past few days and from reading what some of the good people involved in the discussion are saying, I fear they haven't bothered to consult with their friendly neighborhood lexicographer and ascertain exactly what the words mean. As those of you know who keep abreast of matters of intergalactic import, several American Indians are again on the warpath against UTC in general, Chief Moccanooga in particular.

You also know what it is that has the Indians threatening to apply the war paint -- figuratively speaking, of course. It's this business of having what I guess you'd call a non-Native American dressing out in what he perceives as the traditional Indian attire and acting as a mascot for the UTC athletic teams. Tom Kunesh, a spokesman for the Chattanooga InterTribal Association, doesn't care much for Chief Moccanooga, exactly why I don't know because the Chief has always appeared to me to be well mannered and totally inoffensive in his mascot role.

Still, Kunesh brands such activity as "racism, pure and simple," and he wants it stopped.

In my self-appointed role as would-be peacemaker in this dispute, I have gone to great.lengths to prove to Kunesh and his advocacy group that there is no racism -- pure and simple or impure and complex -- involved here.

To reach such a conclusion I went to my pocket-size Webster's New World Dictionary.

And here's what I found under the word racism: "a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races." What Moccanooga does in his attempts to amuse or arouse the crowd doesn't so much as even border on such claims or assertions. He does possibly suggest by his behavior that his basketball team, which incidentally is about as culturally diverse as you'll find, is superior to its opponents.

You see, Moccanooga is a mascot, thusly described by Webster's: "a person, animal or thing adopted by a group, especially a sports team, as a symbol or for good luck."

As such, Moccanooga isn't out there poking fun at or attempting to belittle any ethnic group.

And common sense tells us that if UTC made even an iota of an at tempt to suggest racial or ethnic superiority within the athletic program the nightly antics of the Moc Maniac would be forbidden.

Talk about the personification of the common, down-to-earth, good ole boy! I realized this ground has been covered previously, the same advocacy group having brought similar, baseless charges against the university about a year ago. And I know there have been efforts, albeit futile, within the university to appease the protesters by coming up with a different mascot or name.

Still, we're getting nowhere. So, I'll make one final suggestion: let Kunesh provide the university a Native American and costume of his choice.

I just hope he's more successful in this venture than was a group that years ago tried to give the Tennessee River back to the Indians. Unable to find an Indian, a member of the group donned a war bonnet and played the role of the recipient.

Bill Casteel's Byline column appears Monday, Wednesday and Fnday.

nothingness on a field of maroon    Linda Riddle's response

TO: Editor, Chattanooga Times
In Reference to:
Jan. 8, 1996 Metro Section

I would like to stand in support of Mr. Tom Kunesh saying that "the Chief Moccanooga issue is Racism, pure and simple." I feel that is true and would like to add that is extremely disrespectful and mocking.

The first thing that comes to mind when someone mention the word "Mascot" is that Chicken that flops around and acts ignorant, I realize it is just done in fun, but when these images come into peoples mind of Native American, I feel it should not be a Comical Image.

Some people can be very crude and cruel, snide comments can br hurtful and I have heard people openly make fun of a race, laugh and say, "oh don't be so touch, I was just kidding", well the victim did not think it was very funny. Children can be hurt the most. I feel this could be part of the drinking and drug problems on the Reservations today. Any Doctor can tell you that low self esteem can cause self abuse, over eating, drugs, drinking, etc.

The words in Casteels column were:
"What Moccanooga does in his attempts to AMUSE the crowd does not even border on Racism".
Get your Famous Pocket size Websters new world dictionary out for the word A-M-U-S-E children.

I don't feel that a race of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the beginnings of basketball, football, or baseball were put here for Casteels ENTERTAINMENT. If the game and cheerleaders are not enough, then you should go to a movie.

If Casteel feels that the majority of Chattanooga agrees with him, that it is NOT racist, a simple test would be: next Mocs game, dress a white person in African Chieftain attire, with black face and see what happens. I feel Casteel would not need his famous pocket size Webster for clarity. The meaning of the word racism would become crystal clear.

Linda Riddle - Chattanooga

cc: Bill Casteel, Chattanooga Times
Jeff Styles, WGOW
C.I.T.A., PO Box 1063, Chatt. 37401 PH-954-2376, Chatt.