Much has been made of the Tomahawk Chop, and its alleged insensitive racial stereotyping, but recent scholarly studies have shown that the Atlanta Tomahawk Chop has no racial component, and in fact is long ingrained in Atlanta history and culture. We believe it safe to say that the chop predated the arrival of the Braves in Atlanta, and carries none of the derogatory connotations some critics wish to assign it.
The first reference to the chop appears in a journal kept by a Confederate soldier, Virgil Cain, during the 1864 Siege of Atlanta by Union forces led by William Tecumseh Sherman. Cain was among the troops retreating under Joseph Johnston, until Johnston was replaced by the more aggressive John Bell Hood. As Confederate casualties rose, the troops would take increasingly desperate measures to maintain morale. Cain writes:
“Some of the boys took to climbing up on the barricades during business hours and made like they was choppin cotton, up and down like they was swingin a hoe. They’d holler over at the yankees ‘we got slaves to chop our cotton, but we’ll be doin this choppin our own selves.’ Course I thought it was pretty dumb, cause they almost always got shot down off the bankment.”
So the chop predates the arrival of the Braves in Atlanta by more than 100 years, with no derogatory reference to Native Americans. Again, following the War Between the States, the chop appears as a means of self-identification within the Ku klux Klan, though its precise meaning is unclear. Because Native Americans were largely a remnant population in Georgia by the rise of the Klan, there is no reason to believe that the chop related to Native Americans. Scholars have speculated on the meaning of the motion (perhaps pulling a bell rope as a warning?), but the meaning remains unexplained.
As a major rail crossroads, and as center for many Southern military installations, during the two World Wars the chop was used by servicemen and adopted by young Atlantan males to harass local women. Sometimes the motion would be more of a push pull, indicating sexual congress, but often it was up and down indicating what was known throughout the Atlanta area as the Alkie stroke, or the chop off. It is recorded that if the women harassed were Asian, the motion might be accompanied by hollers of “chop chop.” But there is no indication that other ethnic or racial groups, particularly Native Americans, were singled out for harassment, or that the motion was derived from Native American culture.
It is believed that this last use, this so-called Alkie stroke, is the usage adopted by Atlantans as the current Tomahawk Chop, or Tomahawk Chop Off. There is no indication that the Alkie chop is identified with Native American stereotypes, but instead is tied to male sexual preening. So little is known about this so-called Alkie stroke that it is certain that the academic literature concerning the chop and it’s surprising results will continue to enlarge, and we will watch with great interest as more precise explanations arise.
I watched some of tonight’s game, enough to make me want to add a new feature to this recap: the Chop Off Player of the Game. It’s the Astros player who, at some moment in the game, makes such a creatively boneheaded (get it, get it, boneheaded?) play that you know the game is lost. Tonight’s Chop Off Player of the Game is Marwin Gonzalez. Outstanding effort, Marwin.
Other than that not much to be said. Gallaraga walked 7 but only struck out 4. We left 7 on base. I bet Bourn is pretty happy in an Atlanta uniform. Kimbrel is pretty amazing.
They’ll show up again tomorrow.