Society in the United States often supplies amazing contradictions. A practice hailed in one industry as social progress may receive castigation as the height of political incorrectness and hypocrisy in another context. Perhaps few topics illustrate this paradox more effectively than the treatment of Native American culture (and other racial and ethnic minorities) by Madison Avenue.

Even as the news media and millions of Americans hail the decision to retire Chief Wahoo as the logo of the Cleveland Indians, the press has applauded Hollywood’s dream factory for creating Black Panther as an innovative new superhero. The Huffington Post website carried a front page news story wondering “Are Black Americans Allowed in Wakanda?”

Will the motion picture industry, so well known for exploiting successful box office strategies over and over, soon develop a new Native American superhero, too? And does that concept smack a wee bit of racial stereotyping? (Probably not if more people choose to buy tickets to the film than desired to expend dollars on baseball games in Cleveland.)

While indeed some logos and racial depictions do deserve retirement, today even some images of traditional Native American activities have come under fire. In White River Junction, Vermont, Mascoma Bank recently opted to drop its logo. The image derived from a painting by artist Bernard Chapman. It depicts Chief Mascommah of the Abenaki Nation as he hunted for fish from a canoe. The Bank will search for a new logo during the next three years.

Categories: Native American, Native American Culture, Red Panther

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