I was thrilled to get my second Op-Ed published in the New Bedford Standard Times.
Football season: the time of year when racism gets blindly supported throughout the country. Two weeks ago, I noticed a picture of the Dartmouth High School mascot in the 99 Restaurant. I posted on Facebook “How did I not know the Dartmouth High School mascot was the “Indians”? A former student responded that the Seekonk High School mascot, the “Warriors,” was also represented as an Indian head in traditional garb. I couldn’t believe it.
In Massachusetts, according to the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, 43 schools have an Indian as their mascot, nickname or logo. This link provides a list of all New England schools with Indian mascots, approximately 91. (http://sanfacon.com/mascots/schools_NE.html). The names of these mascots include Rangers, Tomahawks, Aztecs, Red Raiders, Warriors, Wamps, Chieftains, Sachems, Braves and Tewksbury Memorial High Schools offensive “Redmen and Lady Redmen.”
This is a timely conversation on the national stage. Announcers who work for CBS are boycotting the Washington Redskins name by refusing to use it during games. “Change the Mascot” is a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C. Launched by the Oneida Indian Nation, the campaign calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end to the use of the racial epithet. A longtime NFL referee has been boycotting the Redskins, silently, for years, by asking not to be put on their games. “I think sometimes evolution is slow for some people,” he said. “But where else in America do you see that, though, the refusal to change? From Stanford on down, most everybody has changed from a derogatory name to one that is acceptable.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/mike-carey-longtime-nfl-referee-avoided-washingtons-games-because-of-the-name/2014/08/20/d6dae602-27b2-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html).
We know the slogan “think locally, act globally.” This boycott with the NFL may not be a “global” action but it is a long overdue action. And if we can get behind these announcers, can we look in our own backyard at the institutional racism playing out in front of our children?
The word “Massachusetts” is an Algonquian Indian word from the Wampanoag word Massachuset, which means “by the range of hills.” The original inhabitants of Massachusetts were encompassed in three tribes, the Wampanoag (including the Massachusett, Nauset, Nantucket, Pennacook, Pokanoket, and Pocasset), the Mohegans (including the Nipmuc and Pequot) and the Mohican’s (including the Pocumtuc). What kind of respect do Massachusetts citizens give to their foremothers and forefathers, who lived here first, by using racist representations from the past? I shudder to imagine this same imagery being acceptable if it represented African-Americans. It wouldn’t be tolerated.
As a board member of the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, our mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. One of the ways we work to eliminate racism is to talk about its harmful effects, to call it out where we see it, and to offer programs to help educate our community, like our racial justice and economic justice workshops. I struggle to see how an organization, like the YWCA, exists in a community that is using a traditional Indian headdress.
Please write to your local school boards, in Dartmouth and Seekonk, and ask them to find another mascot, one that does not offend and misrepresent a culture and a community of people who have endured enough misrepresentation.