URLs du Jour


  • Is today the happiest day of the year? Find out in this article, headlined "Today is happiest day of the year." (Via Club for Growth.)

    If you're not reading this today, that's just too damn bad, grumpo.

  • But putting a little frowny face on my day is the Official Notice from the Seattle Public Schools that I'm a racist. According to their page on "Definitions of Racism" anyway. Specifically a "cultural" racist, because I'm in major agreement with "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology".

    Also I suspect I may have an unfortunate "future time orientation." Comes from reading too much science fiction at an early age, I think. (Via Volokh. Radley Balko also comments, and has a suspect perp picked out.)

    Update: The CEI blog has a more serious analysis of the page.

  • New White House press secretary Tony Snow is getting denouced for his use of a "racially charged term." And—don't laugh, please—that term is "tar baby." For examples, see here and here and here and here. For extra credit, try to find the most idiotic overreaction among these examples, or any others you can pry out of the Google.

    Of course the controversy is entirely phony, manufactured by people who don't imagine for a moment that Snow was motivated by racial malice, but just love to stir the pot. Read Goldstein for an antidote to the claptrap.

    [It's probably worth pointing out that I almost started this item with "New White House press secretary Tony Snow is also being tarred with the racist brush …". But with the Seattle Public Schools after me, who needs that kind of additional trouble?]

  • Joe Malchow comments amusingly on an article on Princeton's efforts to "boost staff diversity."

  • We previously blogged about Dr. Diana, topless USC prof. Now Joanne Jacobs discusses the case of 10th grade world history teacher Erica Chevillar, who supplemented her $33K salary by joining the USA National Bikini Team.

    If you're diligent enough, you can follow the links to compare and contrast Dr. Diana's and Ms. Chevillar's, um, cases. They're both very interesting examples of free expression outside the classroom! Although, um, there are important … differences. I don't think I can comment further, however, without typing something that would get me in trouble either at home or work, and probably both.

Last Modified 2012-10-24 3:55 AM EDT

Hostile and Abusive

Inside Higher Ed reports that the NCAA has decided, after great deliberation, that William & Mary's "Tribe" athletic nickname is "hostile and abusive". You can read the NCAA press release here and the William & Mary comments here.

This is one episode in a long-running controversy, and it will strike many who haven't been paying attention to it as silly. In fact, it will strike many who have been paying attention to it as silly.

There's a website for everything. Adam Smargon maintains a long list of college nicknames here, and it's interesting to try to taxonomize.

By far the most common class of nicknames are Animals you Don't Want to Mess With: Lions, Tigers, Bears, as expected; But also Bobcats, Broncos, Bulldogs, Cobras, Cougars, Coyotes, Gators, Jaguars, Leopards, Rattlers, and Wildcats. And there are plenty of variations; in addition to just plain "Bears", there are Black Bears, Golden Bears, Polar Bears, Sugar Bears, and Grizzlies. And, of course, Bruins.

Then there are Not So Scary Animals, for colleges wanting a milder image: Anteaters, Armadillos, Badgers, Banana Slugs, Beavers (Go, Caltech Beavers!), Boll Weevils, Cardinals, Dolphins, Frogs, Gamecocks, Gophers, Great Danes, Greyhounds, Jackrabbits, Kangaroos, Larks, Owls, Penguins, Peacocks, and Roadrunners.

Once we move beyond animals, another popular theme is professions, both legitimate and il-: Anchormen, Buccaneers, Cornhuskers, Cowboys, Engineers, Explorers, Foresters, Governors, Loggers, Lumberjacks, Mariners, Miners, Monarchs, Mounties, Orediggers, Pirates, Raiders, Rangers, Senators, and Statesmen. Religion appears, too: Angels, Saints, Devils (including Blue, Red, Delta, Jersey, Sun, and Dust varieties), Demons, Missionaries, Bishops, and Deacons. And the Yeshiva Maccabees.

There's a strong whiff of militarism, both historical and current: Archers, Knights, Crusaders, Colonels, Commodores, Generals, Grenadiers, Lancers, Leathernecks, Majors, Midshipmen, Minutemen, Musketeers, and Cavaliers. Vikings, Spartans, and Trojans, of course, and just plain Warriors.

Some schools have chosen to skate right up to the edge of the ice by choosing actual ethnic group names: Celts/Celtics, Dutch/Dutchmen (Flying and not), Scots, Irish, Ragin' Cajuns, Scots, Norse.(And Oles, thanks much, St. Olaf!)

But none of those schools are in Official NCAA Trouble. It's hard to find any common theme in the above. However, what's obviously absent is (a) any sign of disrespect or malice toward the nickname referents; (b) any notable offense taken by any nicknamed group.

But all that changes for Native Americans; those nicknames are presumed "hostile and abusive"; because offense is at least pretended to be taken.

Names that will at least draw a sharp look from the NCAA include: Indians, Braves, Tribe (as William & Mary discovered), Redmen, and Savages. Specific tribes can also land you in jeopardy: Choctaws, Seminoles, Chippewas. Also, interestingly enough, the University of Utah "Utes" and the University of Illinois-Champaign "Illini" found themselves on the shitlist. (It's not clear whether the states will have to change their names too.)

A number of teams with "Warriors" and "Braves" were excused by the NCAA; as were the San Diego State Aztecs.

I doubt whether anyone is actually offended by a college team's nickname; it's hard to imagine that anyone will be helped even if every last nickname that referred directly or indirectly to Native Americans were wiped out. I guess concentrating on empty, symbolic gestures saves people from actually dealing with tough problems.