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through the winter issue of The North Texan, usually a very
pleasant experience, I was shocked and truly offended by your picture
on page 18 of the cover of Professor Diane Negra's new book. Cher's
dressing in a tacky knock-off of traditional Native American ceremonial
dress, composed largely of faux eagle feathers, is comparable to
her dressing scantily in a DayGlo loincloth and neon crown of thorns
striking a crucifix pose. While I wouldn't put that past Cher, I'm
sure it would be offensive to many readers of The North Texan.
The traditional Plains Indian headdress is a sacred object. As Yale
Professor Jace Weaver wrote in a 1999 report to the U.S. Justice
Department concerning a similar display at a public high school,
"Eagle feathers are sacred not only to many different tribal
traditions, but also to the Native American Church, which uses them
as part of prayer. Representations of eagle feathers [are] religious
in nature and [this] manner of display would be offensive to many
In an article titled "Racism and Stereotyping: The Effects
On Our Children, On Our Future," a Native American woman writes,
"Eagle feathers are sacred to Indian people and they are earned
and worn in special ceremonies to feed the spirit of the feather,
to communicate with the Creator and to keep the wearer safe."
Although I would be surprised if she meant it to be, Professor Negra's
book cover could be considered sacrilegious and even racist.
Native Americans have been called "the forgotten minority,"
and with good reason. People who would never consider themselves
racist or even disrespectful to other Americans often think nothing
of displays like this one, or of using Native American caricatures
as school mascots or in corporate logos, all of which feed the idea
that America's first peoples are some entertainment oddity from
the past rather than a proud people who are struggling to this day
The good news is that many of those who have listened to the objections
of Native Americans about these insensitivities, and who have given
it sincere reflection, are beginning to speak out and help the rest
of us become more aware and respectful of these wonderful Americans.
('79, '90 Ph.D.)
Editors note: Author Diane Negra, assistant professor
of radio, television and film, responded: "I'm sorry to hear
that you were offended by the cover of my book Off-White Hollywood:
American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom. Since the book uses
feminist and critical ethnic studies methodologies to interrogate
distortions of ethnic and gender identity, I suspect we are in sympathy
regarding the negative effects of such depictions in popular culture.
The cover imagery adheres to a common practice in critical humanities
scholarship of using such images 'against themselves' to inspire
reflection and hopefully provoke cultural change.
"In the chapter on Cher, I draw from recent scholarship such
as that by Philip Deloria on the misuses of Native American imagery
in American popular culture and look at the ways in which Cher has
sustained her career through ethnic chameleonism, claiming and disclaiming
a variety of ethnicities, and trivializing them by reducing them
to a performative mode. The book's cover seeks to highlight these
practices, not participate in them."
James Lott puts an electrode in place to take an EKG reading
from North Texas freshman miler Roger Rodriguez of San Antonio.
Lotts biotelemetry research was featured in a 1968 issue
of The North Texan.
"déjà vu all over again," as someone once
said, but it warmed the cockles of an old flack's heart (as opposed
to a flack's old heart).
I was idly thumbing through the winter North Texan, as I
often do with magazines
just retrieved from the mailbox when I don't have time to sit down
and read 'em immediately. Then it caught my eye the almost
thumbnail-sized picture on page 5 of the cover of an issue of The
North Texan from days gone by.
It looked familiar. Then I read Madge Hunt's accompanying note and
realized why. I have never been known for the efficiency of my personal
filing system, yet it required only about five minutes to come up
with a copy of that 1968 issue. And the memories came back.
That was my second and last year as director of publicity and student
publications at NT, which is why I was listed as co-editor of the
publication, along with the late Bobby Veteto, an exceedingly talented
young man who actually did most of the design and editing of that
Also, I wrote the story and took the pictures for the piece on biotelemetry
research, mentioned in Ms. Hunt's letter. The central figure in
the story was the late Dr. James R. "Tad" Lott, whom I
still consider one of the most interesting individuals I have ever
interviewed, and probably one of the smartest. And one of the most
down-to-earth. Just to chat with him you'd think he would be more
at home officiating a high school football game than up to his neck
in electronic doodads in a science lab. But, in fact, he was equally
competent in either of those settings.
As I recall, we rewrote that story and gave it fairly wide distribution
as a news release, and it was picked up by the Associated Press
and distributed even more. Keith Shelton of the journalism faculty,
editor of the Denton Record-Chronicle at the time, was kind
enough to send me the AP TTS (most people won't have any idea what
that means) printout of the story, which I still have in some darker,
danker reach of my personal filing system.
In another phase of that same research, Dr. Lott was studying effects
of exercise on children. I recall that he "wired up" his
son during a youth football game, and I took my son, then about
8 or 9, over to Dr. Lott's house to have an EKG done while he rode
a stationary bicycle.
I confess my memory gets very shaky here, but I have a faint recollection
that Dr. Lott packed up his equipment in a Volkswagen and drove
to the Summer Olympics in Mexico City in hopes of getting permission
to "wire up" some of the distance runners there during
actual competition. He was not too successful, as I recall.
OK, enough of this yesteryear stuff, but as Bob Hope used to say,
thanks for the memories.
me to weigh in with my opinion regarding the UNT mascot question.
A letter in the spring issue expressed concern that the eagle was
being pushed aside in favor of the Mean Green. Noting that traditional
school mascots are being reconsidered across the country, I submit
that neither of these mascots is appropriate for our university
in these more enlightened times.
The eagle is a near-endangered species, and its exploitation as
a mascot is, I'm sure, offensive to animal rights advocates everywhere.
And the "mean" in Mean Green is certainly an affront to
the sensibilities of those perceiving an excess of mean-spiritedness
in today's society. Therefore, I suggest these mascots be abandoned
and we opt for one more amenable to political correctness: the soybean.
Many institutions of higher learning already have mascots representing
food sources: UT has the longhorn, Arkansas has the razorback hog,
etc. Why then should we not be proud to identify ourselves with
the basis for tofu?
the "Green Bean" is adopted as our new mascot, and competing
teams take the field or court to face our mighty UNT soybeans, they
cannot help but be struck with stunned pause. Then, assailing the
Epimethean breach, we shall wobble through to ultimate victory.