Target: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
Goal: Forbid schools to use Native Americans as school mascots because of ethnic stereotyping issues
Since the 1960s, there has been an ongoing debate in the United States about whether or not using Native American mascots and images in sports is ethical. Many civil rights, educational, athletic, and academic organizations want to eliminate the use of native names or symbols by non-native teams because they believe that such use is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping.
This year, Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) filed a complaint, arguing that the use of Native American mascots, imagery and names in 35 K-12 schools was discriminatory to students of American Indian origin. “Students in an American school who call themselves ‘Redskins,’ dress up like Indians, cheer using war chants, or wear uniforms emblazoned with cartoon Indians may not intend to disavow history, but it certainly suggests they don’t know much about the Dawes Act, or the Indian Removal Act, or the Trail of Tears, or Wounded Knee, or Indian boarding schools,” the complaint read.
The MCDR substantiated the claims made in the complaint by citing research regarding the negative academic impact of Native American mascots on Native American students. Despite the research to back up the claims, the Regional Director of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Catherine D. Criswell stated that the MDCR failed to provide evidence that “any students or individuals … have suffered specific harm because of the alleged discrimination at any of the named school districts.” Therefore, the U.S. Department of Education dismissed the MCDR complaint.
The use of Native Americans as mascots is offensive, demeaning, and racist. Many institutions have recognized this harmful effect and changed their mascots. For example, Stanford University’s mascot used to be the “Stanford Indian.” But in 1972, the “Stanford Indian” was replaced by their mascot today, the “Stanford Cardinal.” In 1994, Marquette University changed its team name from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles. The school’s president stated: “We live in a different era than when the Warriors nickname was selected in 1954. The perspective of time has shown us that our actions, intended or not, can offend others. We must not knowingly act in a way that others will believe, based on their experience, to be an attack on their dignity as fellow human beings.”
Yes, indeed we live in a different era. Do not knowingly act in a way to discriminate others. Ban the use of Native Americans as school mascots. Sign the petition to demand the U.S. Department of Educations’ Office of Civil Rights to rethink dismissing the complaint, and force these 35 schools to replace their mascots.
Dear the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,
You recently dismissed a complaint filed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). The complaint asked you to ban the use of Native Americans as school mascots because research shows that there is a negative impact of Native American mascots on students of American Indian origin. You dismissed the complaint, claiming that there was not enough evidence to show that the use of these mascots has had direct harm on any students in those 35 schools.
However, since the 1960s, people have argued that the use of native symbols and images in sports by non-natives is offensive, racist, and discriminatory. In fact, in 1994, Marquette University changed its team name from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles because the school’s president stated: “We live in a different era than when the Warriors nickname was selected in 1954. The perspective of time has shown us that our actions, intended or not, can offend others. We must not knowingly act in a way that others will believe, based on their experience, to be an attack on their dignity as fellow human beings.”
We do live in a different era today than in the 1950s. Do not dismiss the complaint. Do not continue to encourage ethnic stereotyping in K-12 schools. Ban the continued use of Native American mascots in your schools.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Yomastahl via Wikimedia Commons