“Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU”

From the Detroit News comes “Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU.” Here’s the opening paragraphs:

U.S. Justice Department officials came to Eastern Michigan University this week to meet with president Susan Martin and a Native American campus group to discuss concerns over the continued use of the school’s Hurons logo after students allegedly harassed a Native American elder in April.

At the meeting Tuesday, Martin refused to remove the logo after being asked to by the EMU Native American Student Organization, according to Mark Fancher, a staff attorney for racial justice for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Fancher attended the meeting at the request of the student group.

Martin returned the Hurons logo, which depicts a Native American face with paint and feathers, to the EMU Marching Band uniform in 2012 to promote what she calls the university’s history and pride. It is hidden under a front flap.

“She takes the position the logo was retired. Its presence under the flap does not equate its return,” Fancher said. “Martin says it’s a part of the university’s history. My response to that is yes — it’s a disgraceful part of the history. It is causing harm to the students. It needs to go.”

The article goes on to recount the recent incident where students were dressed up as mock Indians and they yelled at and threw a beer at Ypsi local Nathaniel Phillips, who is Native American and who is always described in these articles as a “Elder.”

I don’t think it was a good idea to put EMU’s past logos– including this one– under a hidden flap on the band uniforms, and I also am pretty certain that there is no cause and effect relationship between these uniforms and these drunken college kids yelling “We’re fucking Hurons!” at this Native American man who happened to be walking around Ypsilanti one night. Rather, I think the cause of that unfortunate incident was the combination of the fact that EMU once was “The Hurons,” Phillips is himself Native American, and those dumb kids had too much beer.

And I suspect that the powers that be at EMU were attempting a PR move that would have satisfied the “once a Huron, always a Huron” alumni, and now it’s coming back to bite them. I am almost certain my colleagues in the EMU communications office are wishing they had a “do-over” on that one.

But on a slightly different note: I have to say that as a professor who studies and teaches about rhetoric, I am pretty fascinated about the power of this hidden symbol. Remember: this logo is on the uniform but out of sight. Members of the band would know it’s there of course because they’re putting on the uniforms, but if the fact that it was there had not be publicized, we would never know that it was there.

So symbols– even the idea of a symbol, not even its actual manifestation of its presence to an audience– are incredibly powerful, and not merely as a metaphor. They are powerful enough to cause a meeting between the DOJ, the ACLU, EMU officials and lawyers, and student groups. That group of people certainly spent some time debating the removal of an image that few people can actually see. That’s pretty fascinating to me.



10 thoughts on ““Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU”

  1. You guys are missing the point. It isn’t that this is the only adversity they face; it is that this is a rather blatant symbol of lots of other kinds of adversity. Similarly, the confederate flag is not a direct cause of contemporary racism in America, but it is a symbol thereof, and not that hard to understand why many people find it abhorrent. Removing the confederate flag from government buildings won’t end racism and removing the “Huron” logo from the band uniforms won’t either, but it does reflect a shift in the degree to which government entities provide public cover to those individuals and groups who want to continue holding and acting on racist beliefs.

    As for being a “waste of time, resources and energy,” that’s a matter of perspective and priorities. Grady, these may not be your priorities, but they clearly do matter to a whole group of other people who cared enough to make these demands, attend these meetings, and mount these protests. Why presume to tell them that they and their concerns do not matter? That is pretty marginalizing in and of itself and hardly invites serious dialogue about complex issues.


  2. I’m pretty sure that the pro-Huron-logoites are the ones who have been marginalized. The antis have not demonstrated interest in “serious dialogue” — their strategy was, and is, to throw around ‘racist’ (v.s.) in order to quash discussion.


    • Well, what would be the “serious dialogue?” What are the pro-Huron-logoites’ arguments for being okay with re-introducing this logo, and do those arguments outweigh the reasons for getting rid of it?

      These aren’t rhetorical questions because I for one do not understand pro-Huron logo argument. As far as I can tell, the only argument is sort of similar to the motto of “Once a Huron, always a Huron,” which isn’t really a logical argument. So, what is it?


  3. Oh, really? Tell me more about how the pro-Huron-logoites are facing systematic discrimination on the basis of an immutable characteristic.

    This is not something that lends itself well to negotiation. It truly is all or nothing. I believe the goal of the dialogue and discussion that you insist failed to happen was to persuade the pro-Huron-logoites to see it the antis’ way; not to battle out competing interests to see who is more “right.” And that is okay. It defies logic to expect a group who takes offense to something insensitive to justify their offense to the group that offended them in the first place. Clearly the pro-Huron-logoites don’t care, and will not be convinced to care, about the inappropriateness of the logo, because if they did, they wouldn’t have supported it way back when or be steadfastly defending it now.


  4. Hello children. My point, if you were to re-read my comment, was that there was there was no ‘serious dialog’. The last almost dialog was at a Faculty Senate meeting when the antis argued the logo was as bad as Jews in Nazi countries having to wear yellow triangles. A comparison that is intellectually bankrupt as well as offensive in the extreme to descendants of genocided people.

    The statements just made above implying that there is *no* acceptable argument in support of the pros, seems to me to indicate marginalization of the pros. How is it not?

    BTW I myself do not care for logos much. I do have a fondness for the Normalites. However, the Hurons logo is so obviously NOT racist, it astonishes me that otherwise intelligent people think it is.


    • I don’t know if the yellow Star of David the Nazis made the Jews wear is a good comparison for a whole bunch of different reasons, I’d agree with that. I do think the Confederate Battle flag is a good comparison though.

      Not so long ago, the “Stars and Bars” was indeed not seen by lots of people as offensive. Heck, The Dukes of Hazzard had it on top of the star of the show, the car. It always has represented slavery and it came back into use largely because of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s/early 1960s, but it was mainstream enough.

      But over the last 20 or so years, more and more groups have realized that yes, it is actually an insult to African Americans and it ought to go. I heard Jimmy Carter tell a story on NPR the other day about the battle of taking it down at the state capitol in (I think?) the early 90s and how Democrat governor was thrown out of office for supporting it. And of course, the recent shootings in South Carolina have quickened the pace where the Confederate flag has stopped being a symbol of “Southern heritage” and become singularly a symbol of racism.

      Same thing with the Huron logo, Susan. I don’t think the folks who crafted that logo way back when intended it for it to be racist and I suspect they are as miffed about it being called racist now as folks who want to cling to the Stars and Bars as being about heritage and history and tradition. But that’s what happens with symbols: their meanings change with history, culture, re-evaluation, etc.


    • As they say, when your opponent resorts to name-calling and putting down the other side of a discussion, you’ve already won. No further argument is necessary.


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