Indigenous People Are Humans, Not Mascots
In the year 2021, we as a society are still dealing with a simple concept of insensitivity and racism that is so blatantly and obviously wrong, yet still goes unnoticed. Despite the progress we have made, we continue to see human beings and cultures being misrepresented by major and minor institutions. Indigenous people are not mascots. Yet, you see famous players and thousands of fans wearing Atlanta Braves or Kansas City Chiefs jerseys. How can this be socially acceptable? This issue lies within the continuous lack of education, concern and sensitivity of our society towards minorities. We as a human race must take it upon ourselves to do better.
I, along with many others, spent four years of my high school experience being represented by a Chieftain, and I was proud. The cheerleaders would lead the traditional chant of theoretical school spirit called the “Redskin Rumble”, where every student would passionately stand and clap, while simultaneously screaming a racist slur. Unfortunately, at the time I saw no issue with it. I ignorantly believed that having the Redskin mascot wasn’t an example of ignorance, but rather a representation of pride. I, too, was a part of the problem. It wasn’t until the advocacy for the Indigenous mascot usage became more popular during my senior year, that I was finally educated on the damage it does and is capable of doing.
Unfortunately, not all people have the same reactions of outcry for racial justice.
The fact that many students, staff, and families were outraged at the thought of changing a racist and offensive name is honestly despicable. Even after recent attempts to convert the mascot in the last two years, nothing has been done. My school district was willing to pay anything, including large monetary payments, all to protect a slur. According to Levittown Now, the school board president, Steve Pirritano, allowed the district to spend $331,000 over a six- year period, and an additional $104,000 in insurance, all in defense of the Redskin’s name.
Do note that this is the same school that threatened to cut arts programs, but at least we could afford a racist mascot! Yes, to some there can be a sense of tradition found in the continuation of the name, but that notion doesn’t trump the fact that it is offensive. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter to the majority of the residents in the Neshaminy area. They are so hell-bent on resisting change that they are often blind to the insensitivity they are radiating.
My hometown high school isn’t the only entity guilty of using of racist terminology; there are many major influencers, such as sports teams, who continue to have Indigenous people incorrectly represented. The 2021 World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves, have made progress with changing their mascot from “Chief Noca-Homa” to “Blooper”. Despite their progress, they still have the same team name, a fan wide used battle cry, and “the chop” motion during the tomahawk song. The Braves’ name, the chop and battle cries are found to be extremely demeaning to Indigenous people because it depicts them as savage warriors, and doesn’t tend to the rest of their amazing and intelligent culture. Unlike the Cleveland Indians or Washington Redskins, the Braves’ name doesn’t seem politically incorrect on the surface level. It takes actually digging deeper into the history behind these “traditions” to see their full damage potential, which most people don’t care to do.
The Braves are especially important to bring up, as they recently won the World Series. Imagine a team and entire fanbase demeaning you and your culture, while being celebrated by the whole country as champions. These feelings of oppression are unfathomable to most, but common for indigenous people. Every game, every headline or simply the mention of the team is a possible reminder of the historical pain that our country has put their people, our fellow Americans, through, since the founding of our country. Yet, we still sit idly by and cheer for teams like the Braves, or any team with indigenous mascotting. We have normalized being insensitive and offensive towards cultures, and then continued to turn it around on those being oppressed. It has turned into a “how dare you accuse me of offending your culture”, when the actual issue is in bold print in that simple accusation. It isn’t our culture, yet people take it upon themselves to have pride and represent it how they see fit.
Seeing as many teams have been progressive and had name changes, we must hold those delaying societal progress accountable. There are no excuses at this point in time, and it is our job as fans and simply American people, to hold these companies to higher standards. That being said, think carefully when choosing the fan bases that you want to be a part of, because they ultimately reflect you as a person. Do you want to be found giving money and advertising to racist and insensitive franchises by wearing that jersey?