Why Indian Mascots Send the Wrong Message to Kids
Should schools and sports teams promote American Indian mascots? The dominant group says they’re a symbol of “honor,” but many indigenous people, myself included, say they’re offensive and damaging; you’d think that would be enough, but it’s not.
Colorado is trying to change our perception of these mascots, by proposing a bill (House Bill 1165 to be exact) that would prohibit the mascots unless a tribe approves. Unfortunately, the bill is expected to be shot down by the Senate next week.
Both Sides of HB 1165
Under the bill, without the tribe’s approval, schools would have to phase out the mascots within two years or face a hefty fine of $25,000 a month, reports Ivan Moreno from the Associated Press. The Democrats seem on board, while all of the Republicans oppose it.
As a sponsor of the bill, Aurora Rep. Jovan Melton expressed empathy for Colorado’s large American Indian population, particularly the children’s psychological well-being. ”…having to go to a school where your mascot is named after a derogatory name. I can’t even imagine trying to be able to focus under those pressures,” he expressed.
Opponents of the bill don’t seem to care as much about the psychological welfare of American Indians. They argue the bill would waste precious state tax dollars on new signage and negate local autonomy (schools don’t have to be “bossed around”). And with the Senate’s GOP-stronghold, the bill isn’t expected to survive.
Stereotypical, Misleading and Insulting Images
Removing inappropriate American Indian mascots isn’t an abstract, philosophical debate in political correctness. The American Psychological Association (APA) even recommends their retirement. Former APA President, Ronald F. Levant, EdD describes the mascots as devices that teach “stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians. These negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.”
Mascots featuring American Indians is the continued open and accepted discrimination against American Indians that create hostile and unwelcoming environments. How would you feel if you attended a heated sports event where spectators deride your ancestors? Children are especially affected with lower self-esteems in the inaccurate representations of their culture.
3 Better Ways to Honor American Indians
And if we really want to honor American Indians, here are three much better ways that don’t involve derogatory mascots:
1. Let’s do a better job protecting American Indian youth, so they don’t experience PTSD like war veterans.
2. Let’s stop trying to sell sacred American Indian burial grounds to big business.
3. Let’s remove the mascots, and let’s include American Indians as strong threads in the fabric of America’s past and present history in our school curricula.
The Senate is in a unique position to send a strong legal message that could trickle down to society: American Indian mascots are damaging, and they will not be tolerated in spaces designated for learning. Sign and share this petition urging the Senate to support HB 1165 and empower American Indians to reclaim their representation, culture and identity.
Photo Credit: soundfromwayout