Opinions

The Oppressed vs. The Oppressors: The Timeless Racist Mascot Debate

By Ben Mulick

There is a certain discernible and powerful mindset spreading across our country today–one of progressiveness and reason. A mindset that does not ignorantly shy away from issues that are insurmountably poignant and alter how we think everyday. Gender, sexuality, politics, and undeniably race and creed are met with new ideologies and thought processes that are more profound and educated in this day in age than ever before. Racism

and discrimination are being dealt with precision and accuracy, not glossing over the subtly significant tensions and inequalities that have always existed. In colleges and universities across America, students are protesting the prevalent racist school mascots that are obsolete and insensitive. You see it with Amherst College and their mascot “Lord Jeff” who supported Native American genocide. You see it with UNLV and their “Hey Reb!” Confederate mascot. More and more people are pursuing this beneficially knowledgeable mindset when it comes to how their schools conduct themselves. It is also not only colleges and universities that are participating in these protests; the NFL team the Washington Redskins has gone under fire for their defence of their horrifically racist mascot and logo. It has sparked many people’s interest in just how “racist” a mascot and logo can be; it has also simultaneously created a plethora of ignorance and misconception with the notion of the perception of a racially mocking logo.

It can be traced back, the tension that is, to the start of our country, the colonization era. When the white man saw it fit to come over to the western hemisphere to take the land. As the vast majority of people know, the Europeans rarely got along with the natives, whether it be in the Caribbean or on mainland America. But the latter’s dispute carried out much longer than the former, since the former’s native population quickly was decimated by disease and such, the latter faced centuries of war and strife. In the 19th century, we had president Andrew Jackson pass the Indian Removal Act, as blunt as the title suggests. It seemed after the massacres ceased, we became obsessed with the relocation of the Native Americans to the West on reservations, far from where Christian southern people could reap the gain of their land. The tension was created then and has never subsided as much as the common people would like it to subside.

The mere fact that the name of mascots for teams like the Washington “Redskins” or the Cleveland “Indians” were created in the 1900’s and onward up until the 1930’s, is not a surprising attribute. The extreme lack of progressiveness in those times is known by every person who lives in the country, people had to riot consistently to have their voices heard if not white, straight, cisgender, male, wealthy, etc. Time progresses however, with time progressing, thoughts and ideas progress. The Native Americans have always been restless, there is no surprise at the hurtful sentiments felt by them for their mocking in a sports mascot. It is of no surprise that the people and establishers have felt against changing their offensive mascots. There is the timeless debate of one in denial that any mascot deemed offensive is not actually offensive. Usually made by the ones not afflicted by the ridicule, made by the ones not fighting every day in their lives to preserve their culture, made by the ones whose ancestors were the oppressors, whose ancestors deemed it fit because of the historically false superiority complex it is suitable to deny that these mascots could ever offend anyone in the first place. The oppressors, quite frankly, will never have the experiences of the oppressed, a simple realization that it hardly ever realized in the mascot debate. Of course schools made up of Caucasian and maybe a minority of Hispanic or African American feel like they have the right to put these logos in place, they aren’t being harassed, why should they care how others feel? Another popular debate regarding mascots is one that asserts that these logos are “honoring, not hurting.” Not surprisingly, the same people in the previous argument making these claims feel like they are honoring the people they have killed and removed with their mascots; unfortunately, they don’t seem to comprehend that these stereotypical depictions perpetuate hate and misconceptions of the people they have hurt.

The oppressors vs. the oppressed in life is exemplified in sports; the argument may be closer to home than one perceives. The arguments are rooted deep in history and have been tested and challenged with student and parent alike. In 2005, a ban on “war chants and tomahawk chants” at our very own high school’s games evoked so much ignorant anger and backlash, that the parents, note not the students, “threatened to wear war paint and Indian headdress” to an upcoming Montville game unless the ban was lifted, but it remained. The idea of having their offense rituals being abolished created so much response because these racial mascots had been implemented into the sports community for such a long duration of time. Misconceptions and denial that plague the mind need to understand the urgency of the situation. The age we live in can only move forward if every link of it moves together, there is no room for excuses and for white supremacy ideology to continue to control our thought. The parsimonious viewpoints that coexist with each other are vital to changing the hurtful and the insensitive thoughts. We can only collectively progress with intelligent thinking that resolves disputes much too old to be disputed anymore.

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