On Monday, the California Assembly passed a bill (AB30 57-9) that would ban public schools from using “Redskins” as their mascot.
AB30, otherwise known as the California Racial Mascots Act, is now on its way to the senate for consideration. It then must go to the governor’s desk in order to become a law.
Currently, there are four schools in California which use “Redskins” as their mascot: Gustine High School in Merced County, Calaveras High School in Calaveras County, Chowchilla Union High School in Madera County and Tulare Union High School in Tulare County.
Although many claim that mascots like the “Redskins” honor Native Americans, a new study showed that mascots based on Native Americans in fact only enforce negative stereotypes. Wendy Quinton, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, states,
“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. 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.”
The author of the bill, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), also feels that derogatory terms such as “Redskins” should not be allowed to serve as a team name. “There is obviously a lack of respect when we allow teams to brand themselves with racial slurs,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “The R-word was once used to describe Native American scalps sold for bounty, and in today’s society it has become widely recognized as a racial slur.”
If this bill is made a law, schools would have until 2017 to stop using “Redskins” as their mascot. The state would provide financial help to replace school uniforms and signs once a new and more appropriate mascot was chosen.
Not everyone is pleased with this idea; for example the Times obtained a letter from town officials in Merced County stating, “At no time in the 80 years that Gustine High School has proudly displayed the Redskins mascot has any disparaging or derogatory use … taken place.”
Whether or not Gustine High meant any offense still does not change the fact the term is offensive. As leaders of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a tribe in northern California, said in a letter to lawmakers, “There doesn’t have to be a racist intent to produce a racist outcome.”
Many others feel that the time has come to stop using these disrespectful team names; in fact, some schools throughout America have even ceased using these mascots on their own, without needing a bill to prompt them to do so.
Seeing as California holds the country’s largest Native American population, it only seems right that California’s schools should likewise pay proper respect to the Native people and Native culture.
“It’s a small thing we can do in California that is part of a national movement to phase out the use of racial slurs as mascots,” Alejo said.
We at the Lakota People’s Law Project support the California Racial Mascots Act, and hope that this bill is indeed approved by the senate and governor.