In several posts, we have problematized past and present school mascots. In this post, I discuss the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
Originally, UL Lafayette’s mascot was a Bulldog. Then, according to the mascot history page,
…in the early 1960’s as an effort to “fire up” the football team, Coach Russ Faulkinberry called his team the Raging Cajuns since 95 percent of the football team was from the Acadiana area [i.e., ethnically Cajun]. It was then decided by the Sports Information Director, Bob Henderson, to honor the team and the Cajun heritage by calling them the Raging Cajuns.
The first Ragin’ Cajun mascot was Cajun Man:
This was protested by African American activists who resented the association of the multi-racial and -ethnic University with a white ethnicity. From another perspective, the mascot was questioned on the grounds that “Cajun” had once been a nasty racial slur.
Apparently the University lost Cajun Man when he graduated, so he was replaced by Cajun Chicken:
Cajun Chicken as Elvis (what, your mascot didn’t dress up like Elvis?):
Cajun Chicken was later replaced by Cayenne, a chili pepper, the University’s current mascot:
Still, the disappearance of the Cajun Man has not led to the disappearance of the controversy over the mascot, kept alive with the term “Ragin’ Cajuns.” In Blue Collar Bayou, Jaques Henry and Carl Bankston III report that in 1997 Louis Farrakhan protested that the state funding of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette amounted to the state using “African American and Creole tax dollars… to promote a white culture.”Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.