If Bomani Jones’ ‘Caucasians’ shirt offends you, you’re missing the point
ESPN’s Bomani Jones was a stand-in on Mike & Mike Thursday morning, and wore a Cleveland "Caucasians" shirt, which is a tongue-in-cheek play on the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo. After saying that he just chose to wear the shirt because "it was clean"– which stops being an actual answer once you no longer have to find quarters in order to do laundry– Jones opened up about the idea behind it:
"The statement is obvious. This [shirt] is the same thing. What we have here, this is the same thing that goes on with the logo for the Cleveland Indians, right? So, to have a problem with the logo of this, would be to have a problem with the Indians, but if you’re quiet about the Indians, and you got something to say about my shirt, I think it’s time for introspection. I think that’s a fair thing to ask."
The shirts have been around since Shelf Life Clothing first started printing them in 2007, highlighting the moral bankruptcy of using a racist caricature of Native Americans as a mascot. They were designed by Trey Kirby, a self-proclaimed lifelong Indians fan, who told Cleveland.com back in 2014 that he even wears the shirt to games.
"I came up with the shirt to raise a point, but in a disarming way," Kirby said. "I didn’t mean any spite by it."
Regardless, you can always count on the Internet to miss the point. Soon after Jones appeared on ESPN, his mentions filled up with people crying race bait and reverse racism. What if a white journalist wore a shirt that said ‘African-Americans’? What then? I’M the reasonable one here. YOU’RE the racist.
If you’ll look out of the passenger side window, you’ll see that we’ve arrived at a teachable moment.
No one likes having a mirror held up to their imperfections, but it’s, you know, a necessary part of growing. If you’re using the term "race bait," chances are you don’t like change and bruise too easily. Also, stop calling it a "race card." It’s not a game.
Moving past the special brand of delusion it takes to call the person wearing the shirt critiquing racism "racist," the concept of "reverse racism" is stupid because the reverse of racism would just be fairness. Also, people of color can undeniably be prejudiced, but racism is the sum of prejudice and power, which people of color generally don’t have.
So, maybe instead of getting upset about the $22 Jones spent on that shirt, worry about the millions (billions?) the Cleveland Indians, Florida State Seminoles, and the Washington Redskins have all made off of appropriating Native American iconography and perpetuating harmful tropes.
Or don’t. It’s your life.