Fourth Edition, November 2011

ENL 260: Best Essays in Intermediate Composition

3rd Place Winner

Appealing to Logos: Supporting the Claims of an Emotional Issue
with Rationality and Logic

Lynnette Nolan

Barbara Munson’s article “Common Themes and Questions about the Use of ‘Indian’ Logos” was written with the intent of informing and persuading her audience to see that “’Indian’ logos and nicknames create, support, and maintain stereotypes of a race of people” (624). A member of the Oneida Nation and an advocate for Native Americans and their causes, Munson is emotionally and culturally attached to the main point of her argument; however, she does not let her emotions dictate the direction of her appeal to the reader to understand why allowing Native American mascots is a form of racism, rather, Munson structures a logical and fact based argument. Appealing to reason with evidence and discrediting opposing viewpoints with supportive analogies, Munson writes a powerful and persuasive piece conveying her beliefs.

The author begins her argument by boldly asserting the point of view that “it is not conscionable that public schools be the vehicle of institutional racism” (624). Munson gives credibility to her argument by informing the reader that the subsequent “questions and comments” she will refute in support of her initial assertion are ones she has frequently “encountered in trying to provide education about the ‘Indian’ logo issue” (624). Before delving in to the substance of her view point, Munson gives the reader insight in to her authority on, and experience about, the topic she is presenting; informing the reader that she is an educator on the subject establishes a “persuasive ethos” and gives Munson’s argument credibility. “Audiences pay attention to the ethos,”  and Munson gives the reader sufficient information to, at the very least, “acknowledge what” she stands for (55-56).

Munson’s introductory paragraph successfully establishes the thesis of her work. The reader is clear that she will be trying to persuade her audience to understand her disagreement with public schools perpetrating “cultural abuse” and “institutional racism” by allowing Indian mascots and logos (624). Munson also utilizes her introduction to make points she will further develop in the context of her argument; she presents the idea that mascots are detrimental to children, “both Native American and non-Indian,” teaching them that it is acceptable to “participate in culturally abusive behavior” (624). Again, Munson makes a point that not only informs the reader of an issue she will confront in her work, but also reinforces the authority she, as an educator and advocate, has on the subject.

Using to her advantage the position she holds as a credible source to argue the issue, Munson continues her case stating claims made by those in favor of, or those who see nothing wrong with, Indian mascots as representatives of public schools. The utilization of this argumentative tactic is beneficial to Munson two-fold: she is showing that she understands and has given thought to sentiments of the opposing viewpoint, and she is able to attack the counterclaims made by her adversaries with support for her beliefs on the issues she presents. Because the reader trusts Munson’s knowledge of the subject, and of the people affected by the “institutional racism”, using the “testimonies” of Native Americans in support of her claims against Indian mascots and logos is a productive way of making her points clear (82). When Munson relays that Native Americans, contrary to the popular perception that mascots “are honoring Indians,” feel the symbolism is “a mockery” of their heritage, the audience, seeing Munson as a well-informed insider of the culture, is inclined to see the issue from the angle of the offended (625). Munson supports her claim by using “human experiences” to describe how offensive it is to see the scared objects of your culture used “in another culture’s game” (625).

Munson counters the claims in support of Native American logos and mascots by addressing “cultural assumptions and values” and using “analogies” to relate her points to readers (89-90). “Because fairness is so deeply endorsed in American culture,” Munson highlights the fact that racially insensitive symbols or terms would not be tolerated if the people offended were not Native Americans. Many Americans “believe all people should be treated the same way,” and Munson appeals to this mentality by comparing the offensiveness of using Native American symbols and mascots to the offensiveness of using terms like “Pollacks, Niggers, Gooks, Spics, Honkies, or Krauts” (625). Using terms predominantly accepted as crude and racially insensitive relays to people the severity of how offensive Native Americans find the mascots and logos used to represent sports teams. “People habitually think in comparative terms” and Munson’s comparison illustrates, by using terms commonly regarded as racist, how racially
insensitive it is to accept, “for the sake of school athletics” team names that are insulting to a race of people (625).

“Common Themes and Questions about the Use of ‘Indian’ Logos” makes an argument by “analyzing” an argument; in taking claims made by her opponents and deconstructing them, Munson illuminates the fallacies their arguments are often based on (107). She “challenges the logic and evidence of those who believe that these logos are not troubling or insulting” (110). The article presents an argument that is structured by stating an opposing viewpoint, then making a statement to discredit the viewpoint, and finally by using supporting facts to further maintain the inaccuracy of her opponents’ rational. Munson uses the opponents’ “chain of claims” in support of the mascots as evidence to prove her claim contesting them; initially stating “common rebuttals to arguments made against Native American mascots” gives Munson the opportunity to prove she is well-versed in all aspects of the issue and negate her opponents claims while simultaneously affirm her thesis (625).

“Factual arguments come in many variations”; Munson includes statistical evidence and hard facts to support her argument, but she also makes specific claims that “correct what’s narrowly or mistakenly reported” (212). Confronting the misconception that “the need to change” is merely “a simple matter of respect,” Munson explains that the necessity extends further; people don’t understand the need to disaffiliate themselves with Native American mascots and logos not because they are disrespectful, but because they haven’t immersed themselves in the issue (625). Munson is advocating “insight and understanding,”  which she argues requires not only a superficial respect for a culture, but also “a willingness to learn” about why things are deemed offensive (629).

Concepts presented in Joe Lapointe’s article “Bonding over a Mascot” bolster the ideas Munson offers to sustain her argument. Lapointe illustrates the interactions between Native American tribes and the schools that consult these tribes in decisions related to their “Indian” mascots. Despite the input of the tribes, issues still subsist in the “complex relationship” that exists between the culture of a race and the sports teams of a nation. Reinforcing Munson’s claim that Native American symbolism integrated in to school teams is irreverent and not incorporated with the sole intent of “honoring Indians,” Lapointe raises the issue that tribal leaders agree to the utilization because they are “great politicians,”  “smart enough to manipulate” an American system for their own culture’s benefit (625-633). “Bonding over a Mascot” portrays college sports teams as businesses, where the involved tribal leaders are more like stakeholders than guardians of tradition.

Regardless of Munson’s ability to accomplish persuading her readers to accept her position that Indian mascots and logos perpetuate racism in schools, her argument is successful; if she is unable to gain supporters it is because people are not willing to give up their point of view, not because she made claims based on fallacy, as some of the claims she countered had been based on. Munson channeled her passion for the topic by factually supporting her claims. Allowing evidence to carry what could have been presented as an emotional appeal set the tone and atmosphere of her argument. Providing facts and remaining on topic without taking emotion driven tangents sets a structurally sound foundation for Munson to present and support her position.

 

Work Cited
Lunsford, Andrea A., John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. Everything’s an             Argument with Readings. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

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