A Houston Astros fan caught everyone’s attention during Game 1 of the World Series when he held a sign in the air at Minute Maid Park in Houston that read “The Chop Is Racist.”
But what is ‘the chop’ and why are fans calling it racist?
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) October 27, 2021
The Atlanta Braves have a unique fan celebration called the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ that has been a part of the city’s tradition for decades. It was made popular by Florida State university football fans in the 1980s.
When Braves fans want to celebrate or help rally their team, they stick their arm out in front of them and simulate the chopping from an ax or a tomahawk while chanting rhythmic Native American sounds associated with their culture.
The problem with the celebration is that it’s extremely racist and an absolute misrepresentation of Native Americans.
But the chop isn’t new to controversy. In 2019, Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley, an indigenous Cherokee American, called out the Braves organization and its fans for using ‘The Chop.’
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” he said during an interview with the Atlantic. “It depicts them us in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual.”
Helsley isn’t the only Native American who has expressed concern towards the Braves and the ‘Tomahawk Chop.’
According to a CNN article published in 2019, Chiefs from the Cherokee and Creek Indians believe ‘the chop’ is insensitive and inappropriate.
“Although the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ may be a game-day tradition, it is not an appropriate acknowledgment of tribal tradition or culture,” said Creek Nation Principal Chief James R. Floyd during an interview with CNN. “It reduces Native Americans to a caricature and minimizes the contributions of Native peoples as equal citizens and human beings.”
But Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred defended the chop before the start of the World Series saying that Native Americans in Georgia are wholly supportive of the Braves program, including ‘The Chop.’
During an interview with the Atlantic, Manfred said, “The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves program, including ‘The Chop.’ For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, we’re taking into account the Native American community.”
Statements like these are problematic.
Finding Native Americans to justify your beliefs about the chop in order to drown out the voices of opposition is not only counterproductive but also makes people of color believe their voices aren’t being heard. If one Native American is offended by the chop, that is all it should take for changes to be made.
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team recently announced the team will change their name from the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians after Native Americans expressed that the team’s logos and names were racist. Change is also happening in other sports. The NFL’s Washington Football Team also dropped all associations with the word Redskins and the team looks to pick a new name before the start of next season.
But the Braves seem to be sticking to their racist and insensitive tropes by keeping their name and keeping the chop, but let’s face facts baseball fans.
The “Tomahawk Chop” is racist and if you cannot acknowledge this, it means you are drowning in white privilege.
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