Offensive imagery is a big problem on our campus. That is, the entrenched white supremacy that formed and birthed my institution of higher learning resists erasure in powerful ways. Each year we see a familiar slew of problems – in residence halls, some students hang Confederate flags and declare their southern pride; others, like the skinhead and ROTC student on the first floor of my friend’s apartment building (on campus) not only proudly displays a large Swastika flag and Nazi paraphernalia to all outside his window, but also blasts Third Reich-era music during weekend ragers (it’s okay, the apartment is “world war two themed.”)
Actions like these are rarely addressed, but they are at least generally frowned upon by administrators and students alike. Yet an exception is made when it comes to the racist fake Native imagery around town, surrounding our school’s former mascot. We in the Champaign-Urbana community constantly see the casual pardoning of blatantly racist bullshit when it comes to the Chief, whether we’re in class, out socializing, or just walking around campustown.
This trope plays out in particular around Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day every Spring. What sets this holiday apart from the vast majority of banal student-coined drinking holidays across American universities – aside from Unofficial being invented by local bar owners instead of students themselves – is that many fiscally-minded students and community members take this opportunity each year to further a number of racist images revolving around the fictional Chief Illiniwek, our school’s former mascot. T-shirts are sold and kitschy memorabilia distributed, all celebrating our school’s extremely racist and not-so-distant past icon.
Binge drinking isn’t healthy, but it’s honestly a personal choice, and it’s college, so you might not be surrounded by those who use alcohol responsibly, particularly if you’re a member of the Greek system. But drinking aside, I stand with my fellow embarrassed university alumni and students who have had our inboxes flooded each year with unsolicited advertisements for Chief-themed paraphernalia. We are embarrassed that while our university and various departments send us students emails year after year asking us not to participate in glorifying alcohol abuse for this “dying holiday,” never have the racist images that reemerge each March been publicly addressed.
My friend Ross recently asked his Facebook friends to give him the names of businesses in the Champaign-Urbana community who support fake Native American imagery so he can withhold his patronage from them. Based off comments on that thread, I’ve created what I hope will become a running list of businesses, administrators, and organizations in the UIUC community who actively support white supremacy, settler colonialism, and anti-Native sentiment in the name of “protecting tradition” and propagating irresponsible and racist depictions of indigenous peoples.
In short, if you’re going to sanction and hallow white supremacy in the name of making a buck, we are not going to support your business. Below are some of the places (and people) to avoid in Champaign-Urbana, listed along with their specific transgressions, if possible. Without further ado, here are your neighborhood establishments to boycott for their endorsement of racism:
Legends – their website displays the photo of a man in a Chief costume and reads: “The Chief Lives On at Legends: Come see the life-sized statue commemorating Chief Illiniwek and other Illini legends.” If being assailed by a polyester, life-sized racist costume behind a glass case is your thing, stop by Legends honor these Legendary acts of white supremacy and more with daily drink specials.
KAMS: Home of the Drinking Illini – so that’s the actual full name of the bar? Not surprising. If the place’s vomit-imbued atmosphere and dank fraternity vibe wasn’t enough reason to skip out, the large murals of the Chief displayed on the floor and wall inside and outside might be another reason.
Dos Reales – Chief paraphernalia on display
Evergreen Tobacco – among other Chief products, they apparently sell this travesty of a shirt. If you’re really set on purchasing expensive smoking products on campus, make sure to buy your cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and weed-rolling shit elsewhere.
Te Shurt – a slew of fake Native imagery is mostly how this clothing business makes a profit. Our school’s former mascot stands as a statue in the display of their store, half a block from the heart of campus.
T.I.S Bookstore – an entire department of racist paraphernalia and merchandise is featured on their website and in the store. A large picture of white men dressed as Native Americans is emblazoned on a far wall and a life-sized cardboard cutout (of white dude dressed as the Chief) is placed near the exit.
Village at Colbert Park – they handed out Chief-themed shirts to advertise for their rental apartment properties last year.
Office of the University President – has a Chief mascot displayed in a painting on his wall.
Our current Student Trustee – purportedly has a Chief flag displayed in his office.
The UIUC Hockey team – they have Chief insignia on each of their team/sweater polos
Football Games – do not. Do not. Do not go if you are triggered or upset by anti-Native racism.
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Blacklisting these businesses is a good start. Emailing the owners (especially if they’re corporate branches?) might be a good idea as well, in addition to informing them directly why they are no longer going to receive your patronage.
I know I’m missing quite a few. What did I forget? I’ll also keep this list as a running resource on my website. Fill me in by sending me an email at arealrattlesnake.com and I will update the list as necessary; if the above information is inaccurate, let me know as well and I’ll update it with apologies. If an establishment removes their racist image, I will remove them from the list.