Smile Politely

Dance Into The Light: Tuscola cancels minstrel show, makes up reason

I love Tuscola. I have a roommate from Tuscola, some friends from Tuscola, and my favorite golf course is in Tuscola. I probably spent more time in the rough at Iron Horse this past summer than I did doing any other non-bar related activity. I want to go back there as soon as this horrifically cold weather breaks. Although I’d never really plan on attending a high school basketball game in Tuscola, this weekend I’d thought a lot about making my way to see the Warriors take on the Sullivan basketball team on Friday. If you haven’t heard, an event was planned there that is polarizing internet commenters from Central Illinois. It has since been cancelled (more on that later), but the original plan was to have Chief Illiniwek do a thing at halftime of the game for some reason.

It’s interesting to me that people still believe that Chief Illiniwek is an important part of the DNA in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding areas since its ban from the NCAA. I’m from the Chicago suburbs. I didn’t grow up here and I didn’t grow up seeing a guy come out at halftime and dance around in front of thousands of people. I didn’t have the fortune of growing up needing a halftime mascot (sorry, SYMBOL) to distract from winning zero national titles in revenue producing sports in my lifetime. So I’m not sure what it’s like to have memories of something that actually excited people happen to be in the form of a halftime show.

When I was a University of Illinois student, I went to the last dance at Assembly Hall. It was a hoops game against the Michigan Wolverines. You know what stood out to me more than a white guy in Plains Indian dress (truthfully it should be Woodlands dress) dancing around? Watching “Air Georgia” Brent Petway dunking in warm-ups and seeing Warren Carter snap and drop 18 in a rout (I loved Dub C). The thing is, is that I understood I had a tough ticket to get, and I understood that Chief Illiniwek was a thing that people liked here. But I just couldn’t abide this thing being celebrated as anything other than a white dude in the wrong gear dancing around while other (mostly) white people FELT SOMETHING.

I’m not sure what you were feeling, those of you. Camaraderie? Fellowship? Tranquility? I just don’t know. It seems ridiculous that you would need a faux-Native American performance to get you to feel those things at a sporting event. There’s literally 10,000 other people there for the same reason as you, the Camaraderie and Fellowship angles should be well-covered. High school sports, of all places, is ground zero for pomp and circumstance and sportsball camaraderie. These two schools, separated by half an hour, shouldn’t need halftime entertainment to make a conference basketball game mean something.

The closest example I have to this kind of performance is watching Jim Cornelison sing the National Anthem at United Center before Blackhawks games. The crowd is wild, cheering and erupting at just the right moments. It’s cool. But if it went away tomorrow, I wouldn’t boycott the United Center. I go to watch hockey, not to be overwhelmed by Patriotism and AMERICA. I couldn’t care less if there was no National Anthem, no music, no anything. I paid my money to see the best players in the world play in a game. The fans sitting next to me did to, and that’s where our bonds begin and end. There would be no reason to try and extend a fight for years that’s both losing AND wrong.

I wrote awhile back about how the University of Illinois and fans in general don’t need this. The symbol that is uniting and should deserve our respect is a goddamn W. A win. A championship. A title. It’s time to move on from this antiquated, ass-backwards misappropriation of a culture that is most definitely not ours and encourage our sports teams and fan bases to reach for wins. Who cares what your mascot is?

At the end of the day, the school district made the right call in canceling the event. However, the suggestion that it was for the safety of students and attendees is the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve read in 2015. Granted, it’s early in the year, but come on.

There have been zero violent incidents related to the protest of Native American mascots and nicknames in recent years (that I could find) but somebody thinks the first one is going to be in Tuscola, Illinois? Give me a break.

The organizers are using a made up threat to shield themselves from backlash from the pro-chief crowd instead of admitting that they came up with a stupid and terrible idea that would garner them nothing but horrible PR from everywhere but their own ignorant backyards. Instead of issuing an apology and saying it was a bad idea, the organizers have proven to be gutless and decided to blame others.

While we’re on the subject of Tuscola and Sullivan nearly hosting this minstrel show, we need to address Sullivan’s high school team’s nickname. It’s 2015, how in the hell are we cool with nicknaming people by their skin color?

Honest to goodness, this is something that I don’t understand at all. It’s a public school promoting racism. There have been government commissions to deal with Native American nicknames. The word “redskin” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as being “insulting” and yet, we don’t want to give up traditions?

The “tradition” of using a racist nickname and logo is something you should happily give up. Ask people in Pekin how they feel about no longer being the Chinks. Those that are upset at their sports teams no longer being represented by an overtly racist caricature should have to wear a sign that says “I am a racist person and I eat garbage.”

“Well what about the Fighting Irish?” One might say. Well, the thing about that is that they’re a private institution, “Irish” is no more racist than “American” or “Brazilian,” and Irish folks do actually have a voice in the decisions of their university.

It’s not that hard, friends. Redskins is racist. There’s no other way around it.

I urge you, Sullivan, to please put an end to this nonsense. Actually, I urge everyone reading this to shoot superintendent Brad Tuttle an email and let him know that a racist stereotype as a school mascot should not stand. His email is It says right on the Sullivan website that he’s more than happy to talk about Sullivan community district #300, so let’s start the conversation with him.

Let’s be positive and let’s be on the right side of this thing, okay?

If you’re still not sure about which side you’re on, or want to see some pro-redskins arguments, I’ve selected some of my favorite public posts and posted them below:

I’m with Sandy on this one. This hopefully is going to put a focus on a high school that still has the nickname “Redskins” in 2015. It’s obvious that some believe that we live in a post-racial America, but even in such a Shangri-La, nicknaming people by their skin color is not only distasteful, it’s racist. Don’t you think so, paleface?


Thankfully the blanket giveaway was also nixed by organizers…

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