The debate over whether or not the Washington Redskins should change their name has garnered headlines and caused other sports organizations with derogatory mascots to do some much-needed soul searching.
While some continue to maintain the name honors Native Americans, many others argue the name was nothing more than a derogatory and offensive slur. The debate is still ongoing, and what’s more, similar debates have been occurring in U.S. schools.
Over 2,100 schools in America continue to use Indian nicknames and mascots such as “Savages,” “Squaws,” and “Redskins.” Many feel that these names should not be changed at all. “I love the word Redskins because I play for the Lancaster Redskin football team,” stated a football player for Lancaster High School in Buffalo, NY. “It’s a term of pride, honor and respect; not just toward football but for everyone else, like the marching band.”
For many others, these nicknames are not a source of honor at all. A recent study conducted by the University of Buffalo shows that Indian mascots in fact activate negative stereotypes.
“Studies show that regardless of their intention, these mascots do not honor American Indians, but instead bring to mind negative thoughts associated with them as a group of people,” says Wendy Quinton, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at UB. “Furthermore, other studies with mostly white samples have found that people exposed to American Indian mascots are more likely to negatively stereotype other ethnic groups as well.”
Time and time again this has been proven true. In 2013, students of McAdory High School in McAlla, AL made a 20-foot sign for their football game that read, “Hey Indians, Get Ready to Leave in a Trail of Tears, Round 2” in reference to their opponent’s mascot, the Pinson Valley High School Indians.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker issued this response:
“The Trail of Tears was arguably the most horrific period in the Cherokee Nation’s history and among the worst atrocities ever sanctioned by the United States government… This unfortunate display shows how much improvement is still needed in the understanding of Native peoples, our triumphs and our challenges, both historical and modern.”
More and more people are beginning to realize how harmful these Indian mascots really are. Earlier this month, Akron High School, which has a high Native American student ratio, cancelled their lacrosse games against Lancaster because they felt Lancaster’s mascot, the Redskins, was offensive. Lake Shore High School likewise cancelled their lacrosse games against Lancaster.
Although these mascots have represented different schools and teams for years, it does not mean that these schools and team should continue using them. These mascots only enforce the negative stereotypes that Native Americans fight against each and every day. It is high time to stop using these offensive nicknames and to show respect to the Indian people and their culture.