If you’re a fan of the San Diego State Aztecs, you probably don’t want to read this post.
As a fan of the San Diego State Aztecs, I don’t look forward to writing this post.
But after watching the first two games of the World Series in Cleveland – all against the wrenching backdrop of news coverage of indigenous people taking part in protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline – the mascot issue is staring us in the face right now.
(takes deep breath)
I’ll proceed with caution here, I promise.
Let me start by laying my cards on the table:
- I’m not speaking for anyone else on this blog, only myself.
- I don’t find the name Aztecs to be offensive and, as an SDSU alumnus, I have no small amount of personal sentiment attached to the nickname (my dang pseudonym is AztecsKillingHim, after all).
- The Aztec Warrior mascot is … um … yeah. That’s admittedly a tougher sell for me.
- I am a white male (shocking reveal from a sports blogger, right??). As such, I am not necessarily in a position to declare or understand what is and isn’t offensive to historically marginalized ethnic groups. IDK just a thought.
As we learned in the early 2000s with the anti-Monty activism on campus on the part of campus groups like MeChA and NASA, there has long been controversy about the school’s use of the Aztecs nickname and at least some of that sentiment remains. I try to be respectful of that opinion even though I don’t share it, because I understand where this sensitivity comes from.
Being respectful is key in a civilized society, and I will say that – at least in recent years – SDSU fans have been overwhelmingly respectful in their comportment as “Aztecs.” I am proud of the fact that we, as fans, generally do not dabble in the kind of Native American dress-up you see from the sorry, confused white folk of Cleveland.
In 17 years of attending SDSU athletic events I’ve only seen feather headdresses worn once or twice – so infrequently that I’ve found it noteworthy and disturbing the couple of times I’ve witnessed people do it. Fact is, you are about a 1000x more likely to see a white kid in a war bonnet at Coachella than you are at Viejas Arena or the Q. I’m heartened by the fact that our students would much rather cheer on the Aztecs dressed as bananas or luchadores or Teletubbies or fictitious meth cookers.
We’re pretty good fans in that regard, I think.
One of the things we have going for us – and likely keeps a lot of problematic shit in check – is the fact that SDSU is a diverse, majority-minority campus. Nearly a third of SDSU students are Hispanic/Latino and I think – I hope? – most feel equally invested in being “Aztecs.”
I could be absolutely wrong about this belief (again, white dude myopia alert!). If you’re a Latino SDSU fan, student or alum who feels otherwise, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. Please don’t hesitate to comment below or to @ me on the Twitter.
My milquetoast take on the matter is this: There is a legitimate question as to the appropriateness of using the Aztecs nickname. But for the moment, let’s agree to focus on the stuff that’s not in doubt – or at least shouldn’t be in a goddamn civilized society. A few not incredibly deep thoughts:
- Be mindful of how we present ourselves and how it might look to our fellow humans of all races.
- Remain respectful and listen to all points of view on this subject – even if you don’t agree. Especially if you don’t agree.
- Don’t be these fans:
Primarily because racism is gross and bad.
But also because if we ever become these fans, it’s game over for the San Diego State Aztecs.
The kind of shameful shit happening in the stands of Progressive Field, and the absurd continued existence of the Chief Wahoo logo, puts more pressure on any sportsball team that still appropriates an indigenous name or image. You can already see the wheels in motion at MLB, rightfully so given the embarrassment the league is enduring nightly in Cleveland. If some idiot or idiots dresses up in redface or Aztec regalia, we’ll absolutely fucking deserve our re-brand as the San Diego State Surf Warriors or whatever.
Want to remain the San Diego State Aztecs? Be respectful. Don’t be an idiot.
To earn the right to keep using the name, we must continue to police our own.
2 thoughts on “We don’t want to talk about this, but we should probably talk about this”
Latino Aztec chiming in here, and speaking only from my own personal perspective.
I feel the use of Aztecs fits within the context of historical civilizations, such as Spartans, Trojans, Vikings, etc. I personally do not have a problem with it, mainly because of the school’s efforts to stick with historical accuracy rather than cartoonish stereotypes. As much as adding Zuma and gold was hated on by the olds, it showed an effort by the school to not just say we’re honoring the legacy of the Aztec civilization but to actually do so by not playing to the tired and lazy caricatures. Cleveland, Washington and Atlanta fans say they are honoring American Indian culture and then throw out Chief Wahoo, a racial epithet, and the Tomahawk Chop like its no big deal.
SDSU has incorporated and respected the Aztec language, calendar and culture into its entire campus identity. It is recognized as a leader in providing higher education opportunities for Latin@ students. I don’t think it is fair to categorize the use of Aztecs the same way as other sports teams that have true problems with how they stereotype and mischaracterize native cultures.
Now, the Disgruntled Monty logo so beloved by the mouth breathers over at AztecMesa? That shit is racist AF.
Interesting points. Thanks for chiming in.