The words “Caucasians” with the image of a grinning caricature (reminiscent of the Indians’ Chief Wahoo) across the front hints at how offensive Native mascots on professional sports teams can be. The Toronto Star reported that it is a “hot fashion item” in the Ontario First Nations community.
“People’s reaction has been all positive and they see the humour in it both on and off the reserve,” Tracy Bomberry, Six Nations of the the Grand River, told the Star.
Campeau from A Tribe Called Red wears the “Caucasians” T-shirt.
According to MetroNews.Ca, an email was sent anonymously to Westfest, a popular music festival in Ottawa, Canada, where Tribe Called Red was scheduled to perform. The individual who sent the email threatened to boycott the concert because Campeau was spotted wearing the T-shirt.
“I thought how hypocritical that he would be accused of racism for wearing a shirt that turns the tables in a satirical way of how our image as native people has been misappropriated by the Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins and the like,” Bomberry said.
Campeau, his band, and staff members of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), including First Nations Chief, Shawn Atleo, filed a lawsuit to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claiming that the Amateaur football team, the Nepean Redskins, use of the R-word was racially discriminatory, and sought to quell its use. The tribunal dismissed the complaint in March, but the team changed its name to the Nepean Eagles.
Brian Kirby of Shelf Life Clothing in Cleveland said that the interest in the T-shirt “skyrocketed” after the Campeau controversy. "We have been selling a modest amount of shirts to Canada for years … but nothing like the volume of the last month," Kirby told QMI Agency in an email interview Tuesday. "We are a mom and pop business, working day and night to make sure everyone who wants a shirt gets one."
Kirby noticed the cultural effect of the Chief Wahoo logo in the Native community after moving to Cleveland from New York. He said that the overall interpretation of the shirt shifts. “Interpretation of the shirt ranges from a ‘reverse racism,’ ‘see how YOU like it’ intent, to a ‘see, I’m white and it doesn't bother me to be caricatured!’ attitude,” Kirby told the Star.