“Prefer the world I grew up in,” Lorraine Rominger, “Logo is not racist,” Karen Christie, Aug. 3; and others
As a white person myself, I continue to be amazed by how many of my fellow white people think they get to go around saying what people of color should or should not find offensive. Something’s not right about how many of us insist that it somehow demonstrates respect for Native cultures to use them as mascots for our sports teams, when the overwhelming majority of Native voices says it’s not respectful at all.
If we want to demonstrate respect for Native people, we could try actually listening to what Native people have to say.
We could also examine the ways in which growing up in a culture that devalues Native cultures and peoples has taught us to do the same. It’s impossible to grow up in a racist society without absorbing some racist ideas or behaviors, even if we don’t mean to — even if we try not to! — and it’s the job of any one of us who wants to live in a better world to be aware of the harm we might cause.
As for the Winters Warriors mascot — our neighbors at the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation have made it clear they do not consider Winters Warriors’ use of the headdress to be respectful and would like it to be changed. A survey by Indian Country Today found that 81 percent of Native respondents found “American Indian names, symbols and mascots (to be) predominantly offensive and deeply disparaging to Native Americans.”
How respectful is it to Native people to insist on “honoring” them by doing something that mostly just hurts and offends? Even the American Psychological Association has spoken out against the negative mental health effects of such mascots on Native youth. (“Summary of the APA Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots,” apa.org.)
It’s always hard to hear that something you’re fond of is hurtful to others. But you know what’s harder? Having to live with that hurt yourself. If we’re going to build a better society, we’re going to need to listen when people tell us about the impacts of our actions, especially the ones we’re not aware of. And when they do so, we should thank them for doing so.