Saturday, June 3, 2017

Is the Marquette Golden Eagle an Endangered Species?

Much like the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, the Marquette Warriors were once the coolest name in their sport.  (And Marquette also had a history of being one of the most progressive teams in recruiting, in fashion, and in flat-out sticking it to the man.)  I was a Warrior in my graduate school days, before law school, back in the early 1990s.  But then in 1994, Marquette made the switch to probably the most common, generic nickname in college sports: the Golden Eagles.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to really like the Eagle, particularly after it evolved into its current form (pictured left).  It is probably the best bird logo in college sports: a cool, aggressive, and determined looking bird that is ready to get to business, stat.  And I still love my Marquette hoops—even post-Dwyane Wade, it is the bright spot during our long, cold Wisconsin winters.  But when Marquette changed its name from Warriors to Golden Eagles back in ‘94, I pointed out the absurdity of the thought process behind the move.  Now, that thought process has spread like a virus and no mascot (or person) is safe.

The official reason for Marquette’s nickname change was that it was offensive to Native Americans.  There was a movement afoot, spearheaded in part by the speech-suppressing folks about an hour west at UW-Madison.  UW was resolving not to play any teams with Indian-themed logs, but exceptions were made to worship the god of money.  UW would still be allowed to play Big Ten foe Fighting Illini and a handful of other Indian-themed schools during the regular season, and any Indian-themed school in the NCAA tournament.  Big Ten conference play and post-season tournament play are, of course, huge money-makers that trump political correctness. (See pp. 156-57, here.)

As for Marquette, there had been no complaints about its Warrior name, originally chosen because of the close ties between Native Americans and French explorer Pere Jacques Marquette who founded the university in 1881. (See pp. 153-55, here.)  Nonetheless, the obsession with achieving theoretical inoffensiveness was spreading like wildfire.  I pointed out the obvious: using inoffensiveness as the baseline, no mascot was safe.  What’s more offensive than a Sun Devil or Blue Devil?  Even Hurricanes would dredge up bad memories for many South Florida residents.  And what about the Fighting Irish?  And of course, Indian-themed names like Fighting Illini were far more offensive than the facially-ethnic-neutral Warrior, so that would have to go as well.  The only ones that would be safe, I thought, were dog, cat, and bird logos.

Well, I was right—and wrong.  Colleges have become obsessed with being inoffensive and it has spread way beyond college nicknames.  Even public institutions are using unconstitutional speech codes that suppress free speech in order to eliminate the risk of someone being offended.  Schools have also developed a new term, “micro-aggressions,” and are policing student and faculty speech with micro-aggression reporting systems.  Many at colleges across the country, including at the massive University of California system and other state university systems, are obsessed with invoking the school’s authority figures to prevent speech

Here are some examples.  It is a micro-aggression to ask a fellow student “Where are you from?”  But on the other hand, it is also a micro-aggression to say “I don’t see color.”  Students have been trained to be so hyper-sensitive that they are “triggered” by seeing the American flag.  There is even training in place that goes as follows: during classroom discussion the offended person says “ouch,” and the offender must say “oops.”  And if you avoid making eye contact with another person on campus, that, too, could be racist.  And if you are accused of being racist, any denial of the charge is, per se, evidence of your racism.  (More on that in the link below.)  And, my personal favorite, requiring classes to start at a fixed time is culturally insensitive.  

I am not making any of this up.  To see what’s happening with increasing frequency on college campuses, watch this video clip of how students reacted when a professor insisted on coming to campus to teach his classes on the public school’s inaugural anti-white day.  In the days that followed, things got so hostile that the campus police told the professor not to come to school because they could not physically protect him from the student mob.  How did his fellow professors react?  They demanded that the professor be punished for his racism.  And, even though this next video is long (and drifts a bit topically in the middle), it is an outstanding and thoughtful interview with the allegedly racist professor who explains the figurative and literal mob mentality on college campuses. (Hat tip to Atty. Eric Olson for the link.) 

Now let’s return to the college nickname issue.  Yes, I was right that inoffensiveness was an absolutely absurd goal.  But in many ways I was very, very wrong.  First, I had no idea that this movement would lead to the hyper-sensitivity-produced threat of violence that would make certain professors and their supporters physically unsafe on college campuses.  I couldn’t have even imagined that.  But second, I was also wrong when it came to which nicknames would be at risk.  For example, the University of Illinois exercised its muscle and the Fighting Illini are still playing (although not very well) in Big Ten sports.  Sun Devils (ASU) and Blue Devils (Duke) are still safe all across the land.  And the even Hurricanes are still rockin’ at the University of Miami.

And I was really wrong when it came to cats and dogs being among the safe mascots.  Today’s hypersensitive students have taken aim at the U-Conn Husky which “intimidate[s] women and empower[s] rape culture.”  If you look closely enough, I suppose, you’ll find aggression and rape culture even in a domesticated pet.  And most recently, students have put the LSU Tiger in their cross-hairs.  Why?  Because it represents “white privilege” and “racism.”  My money here is on the LSU alumni.  If the University of Illinois could strong-arm the NCAA into letting it keep Fighting Illini, even after the NCAA initially declared it hostile and offensive, then LSU will keep its Tiger.   

Apparently, no animal mascot is safe.  And now I’m starting to worry about my Marquette Golden Eagle—a noble, determined looking bird of which I have, admittedly, grown quite fond.  Is it too aggressive?  Is it too upsetting?  I hope not.  I’ve already lost my Warrior, and now I want to keep my Eagle.  But if the bird is forced to fly south, so to speak, to appease a future, yet-to-materialize, hyper-sensitive, and potentially-violent mob, I suggest we go back to one of our historic Marquette nicknames.

Obviously, Warrior is out.  Hill Toppers definitely invokes images of aggression, battle, and victory, so that won’t work.  Golden Avalanche dredges up violent (though natural rather than man-made) imagery, so we can forget that.  I suppose that leaves us with the Marquette Blue and Gold.  Colors (other than skin colors) will always be safe, right?

I’d better enjoy my Eagle while I still have him. 

Postscript:  How many micro-aggressions can you identify in my post?  (Other than the post itself, of course, which is one, long macro-aggression.)

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