Last night I was watching the Mets and was so taken aback after one of Atlanta's players hit a home run. Not because I was displeased about the home run (though I certainly was), what left me feeling uncomfortable was the way the team and fans celebrated the home run in their ballpark.
The lights went off, the fans lit up individual lights (or maybe the flashlights on their cell phones), they began moving their arms in unison and chanting.
Yes, my dear readers, in 2022 the Atlanta Braves "Tomahawk Chop" remains a "thing." We know for certain that the organization and the fans have gotten the memo that this is racist, yet, it persists. Why?
Per this Sports Illustrated article from last year, it doesn’t seem that the powers that be within the Atlanta organization have any plans to change this. In fact, there is a quote within the article from a member of the Atlanta organization who states that it's a fan initiative anyway, even if the organization issued a statement to stop celebrating this way, the fans wouldn't stop, so why discourage it. Yikes.
What kind of message is this sending? If you ask me, it's sending a message that Native American culture is fun and and trivial, not meaningful or sacred. It posits a game, a job, as more important than respect for other humans. There are many ways to enjoy a baseball game, to celebrate team and player success without doing so at the expense of culture, of people.
When we exploit, mock, or degrade others, we create a world that is lacking in connection and compassion. Look around, isn't that exactly the world we're living in? So, while it may seem “silly” to some to focus on what racist happenings are ongoing in sports (this is not the only one, by the way), it is vital and we need teams like Atlanta to change.
Traditions can be difficult to change, even those that are very clearly harmful, but, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't put in the work. This is the work that matters, making ourselves better people, in turn making the world a better place, one change at a time. I encourage you to keep an open mind, be open to realizing you've participated in something harmful and then stop doing it. This realization, that I was participating in something that caused real and significant harm, was what ultimately brought me to veganism. Who knows how your life can change for the better when you stay open, ready to learn, and change.