In Cleveland on Opening Day, we were treated to a photo of a guy painted up in red-face confronting an actual Indian protesting Chief Wahoo outside of Progressive Field. The photo was taken by Cleveland Frowns’ Peter Pattakos, who is working with a documentary filmmaker about Chief Wahoo and the “Indians” name. Today he has the full story behind what led to that confrontation and some additional photos. Including a fantastic one of the red-faced fan apparently explaining to the actual Indian why it’s cool for him to dress up in redface.
I think the most interesting thing about it is that the fan does not, based on Peter’s description, seem to be motivated by racism. Which I think is the case with most people who are cool with Wahoo. It’s not about racism for them. It’s that they never put two-and-two together and appreciate that it actually bugs people. When they are forced to — as this fan was here — it’s amazing how soon they become reasonable about the matter. Or at least appear to on the surface.
That’s the thing about Wahoo that those who defend him don’t usually get: no one is saying people who wear it are inherently and necessarily racist. It’s that they’re insensitive and oblivious to the fact that the caricature itself is a clearly racist symbol. It’s the former assumption those who reflexively defend Wahoo are usually defending. The idea that they’re racists. It’s the latter part that they cannot seem to grok.