When Jeep introduced the new-for-2014 Cherokee, the cute-ute’s polarizing styling, Eurotrash underpinnings, and front-wheel-drive base configuration immediately sent the autoblogosphere into a violent tizzy. Much of the criticism seemed to be engendered by the use of the name “Cherokee”, which is associated in the name of the average Jeep fan with the time-tested, AMC-era XJ Cherokee. (It should be noted, however, that Jalopnik has already decided the new Cherokee is superior to the old one.) Had Chrysler used the name “Liberty”, which is primarily associated with dorky-looking uranium-dense crapwagons leaking oil in traffic, or “Patriot”, which is primarily associated with the Dodge Caliber, much of the initial agitation might not have happened.
That’s all car-geek inside baseball, however. In the real world, meaning Manhattan, what really matters isn’t crawl ratio or wind noise or durability — it’s identity-based politics. It’s a surprise, then, that the New York Times has taken this long to uncover the critical feature of the new small Jeep: it’s all racist and whatnot.
Those of us who have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attend university in the past twenty or so years know that some large part of the modern post-secondary educational apparatus is devoted to old white men earnestly bleating on about black people and womyn and transgenders and whatnot. Without the intervention of these wise old Caucasians (are we allowed to say enlightened, or is that a skin-color value-judgement trigger event?) the average black person or womon or transgender individual would probably be too busy watching “Mad Men” or playing Candy Crush Saga to realize when his/her/their rights, identities, feelings, or heritage is being disrespected. It’s therefore critical that the SWPL spiritual leaders of the minority communities stay vigilant at all times. Without their intervention, Paula Deen would still be on television. The fact that you can turn on the Food Network and see more of Giada De Laurentitis or that sexy little Cat Cora and not have to look at some ugly old expired bag means that a true blow has been struck for diversity and against ageism. I think. I’m still a little fuzzy on that part.
Where was I? Oh yes, the Jeep Cherokee. Someone apparently told white guy Glenn Collins that Jeep’s been naming an SUV of some sort after a Native American tribe for the last forty years. Presumably there are no Jeep Cherokees in Manhattan. I know I’ve never seen one. Mr. Collins immediately leapt into SWPL action, contacting the Cherokee tribe to see what they think about this racist act.
The company says it respects changed attitudes toward stereotyping. “We want to be politically correct, and we don’t want to offend anybody,” Mr. Morrison said. Regarding the Cherokee name, he added: “We just haven’t gotten any feedback that was disparaging.”
Well, here’s some: “We are really opposed to stereotypes,” said Amanda Clinton, a spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. “It would have been nice for them to have consulted us in the very least.”
But, she added, the Cherokee name is not copyrighted, and the tribe has been offered no royalties for the use of the name. “We have encouraged and applauded schools and universities for dropping offensive mascots,” she said, but stopped short of condemning the revived Jeep Cherokee because, “institutionally, the tribe does not have a stance on this.”
In other words: We don’t care about it, you old white man, and we think your time would be better spent agonizing about truffles or font choice. The Cherokee Nation itself is busy participating in disaster relief and improving tribal access to healthcare.
Mr. Collins must have been absolutely shocked that the people he calls “American Indians” are unwilling to drop everything and march on Toledo (a name that, I must add, was stolen from the Spaniards) to protest Jeep’s newest trucklet. I wonder if he saw himself as a potential leader of the movement, standing hand-in-hand with the American Indian girl from “Banshee” (who is really a Cuban-American) and the Crying Indian (who was just a regular white guy in real life). I’ve written a brief script for this scenario.
The scene is the TOLEDO PLANT. A mass of Native Americans a hundred people wide and ten thousand people long marches towards the ancient Jeep plant. Blocking their way is a ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR, a ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER, and JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS. The people come to a halt. NOLA LONGSHADOW turns to GLENN COLLINS.
NOLA: It’s up to you, Great White Father.
GLENN COLLINS: I shall return honor to your ancestors with my actions. (Shouting) UNTIL YOU REMOVE THE SCOURGE UPON MY ADOPTED PEOPLE, THE EARTH SHALL WEEP!
ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR: Turn the hoses on that race traitor!
ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER: Who was supposed to bring the hoses?
JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS: Why am I even here? I said one stupid thing. ONE STUPID THING! And I was trying to make a point about race relations!
ZOMBIE BULL CONNOR: It’s too late for that. You’re part of our team now, although it personally offends me to make common cause with an Israelite.
JEWISH COMEDIAN MICHAEL RICHARDS: Okay, then, I’ll get the hoses.
SERGIO MARCHIONNE: (Appearing out of nowhere) Native people of America, I have heard your plea and I have been persuaded by the eloquence of the white man you have chosen to lead you. Never again shall we call this cute-ute the Jeep Cherokee. Instead, we will use a name that reflects this Jeep’s ability to endure all sorts of conditions.
ZOMBIE ADOLF HITLER: Mein Gott, the Italians always fold.
NOLA LONGSHADOW: Great White Father, you did it!
GLENN COLLINS: Without me, you would not have known you were being disrespected, because you were too busy off-roading in Jeep Grand Cherokees.
SERGIO MARCHIONNE: Ladies and Gentlemen, and Zombies, I give you: THE RENAMED JEEP… FIREWATER!
(A monstrous banner flutters down from the side of the Jeep plant, showing a new Jeep Firewater with tribal beads painted on the doors.)
CRYING INDIAN GUY: That’s awesome.
GLENN COLLINS: (sputtering) Noooooo! You’ve made it worse!
SERGIO MARCHIONNE: Say “How” to the Brave-st little Jeep to ever dance in the rain!
NOLA LONGSHADOW: I like it.
GLENN COLLINS: You’re not supposed to like it! Don’t you people know…
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: What do you mean, “you people”?
Mr. Collins does make a valid point in the second page of his click-friendly article, however: it’s likely that the proliferation of alphabet soup nomenclature is due at least in part to the fact that a name like “MKZ” or “MKS” or “MDX” or “ML350” is completely identity-politics compatible, and therefore completely inoffensive to white university professors, and therefore totally cool to use.
Until, of course, the day comes that we meet the aliens, and it turns out that they’re all named “S63 AMG”.