Yale Football Program Cover Illustrates How Many are Still Blind to Racist Images

Image of historic Dartmouth-Yale Football program reprinted for this year's game.
Image of historic Dartmouth-Yale Football program reprinted for this year’s game.

This is a story about racist images of Native Americans in historic art — and how in many cases the dominant culture sees them as quaintly historic but fails to see that they are still painfully racist.

This current story comes out of Yale University. It points out how even our institutions of higher learning can be blind to the racist messages embedded in artwork.

This past Saturday, the Yale-Dartmouth football game marked the 100th anniversary of the rivalry. To commemorate the event, the Yale Athletic Department printed a special program. I can imagine a group of designers thinking it would be fun to run a collage of historic program covers on the front.

Since Dartmouth’s unofficial mascot used to be the Indian, many of the covers featured images of Indians. (Dartmouth was founded to educate Native American youth, according to an article in the Yale News headlined: Football programs criticized for racist imagery, While that mission was abandoned, Dartmouth kept its Indian mascot until 1974.)

Yale’s commemorative program featured eight historic program covers, of which half were “racially insensitive,” according to the Yale News account. (Click on the link above to see the cover.) The cover included “a bulldog chasing the Native American figure up a tree, while another featured a Yale football player lighting the [Indian] figure‚Äôs clothing on fire.” Continue reading