U. of Illinois Offers ‘Buyback’ on ‘Racist’ Merchandise of Indian Chief Mascot

AP Photo Seth Pearlman
AP Photo/Seth Perlman

The University of Illinois student government is offering a “buyback” of “racist” merchandise featuring the school’s former mascot, Chief Illiniwek. The students hope to do its part in removing the so-called “outdated and racist imagery from campus.”

“Help remove outdated and racist imagery from campus!” reads a recent Facebook post by the Illinois Student Government. “Exchange your former mascot clothing for brand new, official Illinois merchandise at any of the locations listed above, while supplies last!”

The post goes on to inform students harboring old “racist” merchandise that they can also reach out to student employees known as “multicultural advocates” to make the exchange if they live in university housing.

“The Illinois Student Government is proud to partner with the Native American and Indigenous Students Organization for this Buyback Event,” concludes the Facebook post.

Moreover, the University of Illinois student government will be spending $5,250 on the buyback, according to a report by Campus Reform, which obtained the student government resolution to carry out the initiative.

“[T]he Illinois Student Government takes a firm stance against representations of ‘Chief Illiniwek’ because of the disrespect the symbol conveys upon the Native American community,” reads the resolution, according to Campus Reform.

The University of Illinois removed the Chief Illiniwek mascot in 2007 after some had deemed the mascot offensive. In 2017, the school decided to do away with its fan-favorite “War Chant” song at university games.

“I find it deeply disturbing that the University of Illinois has seen fit to label any representation of Native culture, authentic or not, as inherently offensive and worthy of censorship,” said president of the Honor the Chief Society Ivan Dozier — who is of Native American descent — to Campus Reform.

“Other schools like Utah and Florida State work closely with local tribes and honor their imagery and history with pride,” he added. “Why has Illinois not made any effort towards a similar partnership?”

“The University of Illinois certainly sends the message that Native Americans are not wanted nor welcome,” affirmed Dozier. “Perhaps that’s why the school posts a paltry 0.0601% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, and 0.0539% American Indian or Alaska Native student enrollment.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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