Those Colonial Legacies

Epithets, Mascots, White Supremacy

Native American children who were forced into U.S. boarding schools

The high school my daughter attends has a Native American name. The name of the school and the school mascot. In fact, most of the schools in the school district have such names.

The names come from the local history. The established, long standing native population that had been living here for thousands of years was forced off their land at gunpoint, and then forced to sign a bogus treaty that said they agreed to deed land to the European settlers.

One by product of that — those who settled here named the region and many things after the people they violently forced off the land, including the schools. It is a familiar story.

Now, at last, after decades, there is a move to change the name of the mascot of that high school and the other schools in the district. Finally, it is happening. The summer of 2020 is responsible for this development.

George Floyd was murdered. Jacob Blake was shot. Breonna Taylor had been killed and no one had to answer for it. Protestors hit the streets daily and called into question the entire history of their country. They demanded better. They demanded justice.

Christopher Columbus statue after being vandalized — Smithsonian Magazine

Confederate memorials and statues were torn down. Names were taken off of buildings. All of the evil reminders and celebrations of white supremacy were challenged. Native American history was laid out at last in many places as a terrible, depraved time in America. It was nothing to celebrate.

So it was that members of my daughters’ high school — former students, current students, parents, and others said, the name should and must change. That was in the summer. The anger was loud and clear. Change the name of the mascot.

Right now, an online group is meeting monthly debating the issue. Most thought the group was formed to choose a new mascot name. Yet, here it is March, and no change has occurred yet.

It is pretty pathetic. Truth is, it is hard for the conquerors (and those who benefited from that) to admit the wrongful acts of the history of the country. Many of the white parents and some white teachers are still today asserting the name is a celebration of heritage. They even say they are proud of the name, and how it makes them feel when they (the students) represent the school in sports.

This is beyond sad.

The school system should be embarrassed that it cannot effectively educate their students of the ugly history and the dead they stand on when they celebrate the name of their school and the mascot. But, the school is doubling down, at least some of them.

The main argument being made goes like this:

Yet, it is. It is an insulting, racist slur.

‘Redskins,’ once the name of the NFL’s (formerly) Washington Redskins football team, is (and was) a racial slur. The Native American face on the cap of the Cleveland Indians is (and was) hopelessly racist (they are planning to change it), and there are countless others.

These mascots and other representations of a genocidal act in history misleads the world on world history.

Here is what Angelina Newsom, of the Cheyenne Nation, in Montana wrote about all of this:

“My tribe doesn’t identify as ‘redskins’ — this is a derogatory term coined by colonialists often historically used interchangeably with ‘savages.’”

We can only assume that most if not all of the other names are likewise, slurs as well. Newsom, which I agree with, calls the name “racist on its face.” Yes, that is the point. Stop looking for an excuse to remain a bigot and promote bigtory.

So many institutions have stepped up and ditched their racist names. Far too many haven’t.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 issued a statement on this issue that made things extraordinarily clear:

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools. The Commission deeply respects the rights of all Americans to freedom of expression under the First Amendment and in no way would attempt to prescribe how people can express themselves. However, the Commission believes that the use of Native American images and nicknames in school is insensitive and should be avoided. In addition, some Native American and civil rights advocates maintain that these mascots may violate anti-discrimination laws. These references, whether mascots and their performances, logos, or names, are disrespectful and offensive to American Indians and others who are offended by such stereotyping. They are particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country.

This should be the guide for the future and at my daughter’s high school. The debate should end at the school and a new non-Native American name selected.

As many who have attended the meetings have noted, the only reason the white parents and their children are arguing to keep the names is because of white supremacy. We decide what happens here is the thinking — not you people. You are the subjugated, the conquered. You do what we tell you to do.

The American Psychological Association issued a resolution in 2005 on the issue and they made it plain as well — end all of it. Here is an excerpt of their statement:

WHEREAS the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities undermines the educational experiences of members of all communities-especially those who have had little or no contact with Indigenous peoples

WHEREAS the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities has a negative impact on other communities by allowing for the perpetuation of stereotypes and stigmatization of another cultural group…

In New York a few years ago, the Village of Whitesboro could not bring itself to agree to change an overt symbol of genocide on the town seal. Eventually, the old seal was jettisoned. Just one example of a small victory on this issue.

Previous town seal — Village of Whitesboro, New York

Here is a comment that sums up the debate currently ongoing at the school:

“It’s so simple and Istill can’t believe how I’m talking in circles with people…this committee doesn’t serve native people it serves white people…who have racist feelings…”

Check out these two minutes to understand the absurdity of all of this —

Numbers runner. Cigar smoker.

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