30 January 2006

We are the Savage Storm

Goodbye, Spirit Pony. Goodbye, hatchet chop. Southeastern Oklahoma State University is savage no more. Or are we? We're having a bit of an identity crisis. At the basketball game against Texas A&M-Commerce the other night, the SOSU jazz band still played the hatchet chop, even though we officially became the Savage Storm two weeks ago. A group of middle-aged men in the stands, however, adapted the supposedly Indian gesture to our new mascot by moving their arm in a circle instead of in the chop motion. (Get it, like a tornado?) Even President Johnson and his elite crew did it a few times. (I noticed PJ was wearing that uneasy grin, like Am I being made fun of or are they accepting this well?)

Here's my soapbox on the issue: We sidestepped the entire issue with our new mascot. SOSU made a political move to remain in good standing with alumni who are stubbornly attached to Savage. The defense I've heard for Savage a hundred times is that it doesn't offend Indians in this area. I think that's beside the point. The fact is, savage has throughout history been a derogatory name for Native people, not just Native Americans. I'm reading Wide Sargasso Sea for World Lit right now, and Mr. Rochester (yes, of Jane Eyre) continually refers to the Caribbean people and ways as savage. Do you think Mr. Rochester valued these people he's calling savage? He allowed them to wait on him, but he did not trust them, and considered himself superior to them. That's always been the connotation to the word savage. In Southeastern Oklahoma, the word savage has been tied with our school pride, rather than its historical meaning. But in the rest of the country, they think we're perpetuating racism. To me, tradition in the rest of the world should trump tradition in our little corner of the world, so that we can continue to be a university for all people.

Okay, I'm stepping down now. That's what I think about the issue. However, it won't bother me too much either way, because I really think a mascot is more about athletics than it is about academics.

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