Regarding "In someone else's moccasins" (May 6, Editorial): Your questioning of whether or not a state should end the use of Indian names as mascots notes a Sports Illustrated poll that found that 300 native Americans didn't think the use of these team names and mascots was offensive or contributed to discrimination. Just because the general population of native Americans doesn't find it offensive doesn't mean it's correct. Native-American activists, much like the civil rights leaders who fought for respect of African-Americans, combat a culture of discrimination from the outside and a culture of self-deprecation from within.
The question isn't: "Can the biggest state in the union take on the bureaucratic task of defining what's ethnically offensive?" But rather: "Should the state support the devaluation of a culture?"
Your editorial asks if this is an issue of "political correctness." It is not. However, without examples of the problems often faced where Indian mascots are in place, how could anyone know otherwise? In Massachusetts, a scarecrow version of an Indian mascot gets burned in effigy the night before a game. In Minnesota, after pep rallies, teachers and students dress up as cowboys and Indians, the cowboys yelling, "Get back to the reservation!" After one game, native Americans were beat up by students. In general, these mascot names encourage cheers like "Kill the Indian," "Scalp the Sioux," etc.
Unfortunately, the Sports Illustrated poll is the only widely publicized poll on the subject. No one mentions the poll in Indian Country Today, the leading Indian newspaper, which found that more than 80 percent of native people object to mascots. More than 500 native organizations have issued resolutions against mascots as well as the signing of petitions by tens of thousands of native people. This may not be a majority, but was the abolition of slavery done by a majority? Or women's rights? The majority rarely seeks change, it's usually the minority.
Fairfield, Conn.Students and Teachers Against Racism
Both "California may ban tribal team mascots" (May 7) and " 'Right to hunt' vs. animal rights: What's fair game?" (April 3) used the argument of "tradition" to support the use of native American mascots and guns, respectively. Some other examples of things which could have, at one time, fallen under the category of American "traditions" come to mind: segregation, slavery, and child labor. In all of these, the need to move beyond tradition was realized. Tradition is not a defense for any activity, it is simply a statement of a history of past behavior. We should judge our actions not on the basis of their history but on their morality.
Regarding "California tests racial boundaries" (May 6): As an adoptive mother of two "hyphenated American" children, I applaud the resolution put forth to eliminate racial designation from official government documents. It's a step in the right direction. National, historical, geographical, cultural, and racial heritages are certainly terrific things to celebrate, but are unnecessary for government documents.
This would actually aid affirmative-action measures, since having no racial or color-of-skin description available would keep prejudicial decisions from being made. Eliminating racial description will take some adjusting to. But it's important to remove a major way our nation focuses on race. I applaud the initiative of this amendment, and I hope it is ratified and becomes a precedent for other states.
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