Opinion: Racism under the guise of tradition
Ohio used to be home to many Native American tribes, most of which were murdered or displaced. But this information is not news to any of the folks at the June 12 meeting at Anderson High School, where the debate over whether to keep the name and logo “Redskins” ended on the affirmative.
I graduated from Anderson High School in 2001. I donned team uniforms and spirit wear bearing the name and visage of a racial stereotype. My friends and I naively painted our faces with war paint and put feathers in our hair before attending football games. I didn’t think twice about it, because I didn’t know anyone who was Native American. I barely knew anyone who wasn’t white. It never dawned on me that we were co-opting a culture for our own purpose while perpetuating racial slurs and stereotypes. I didn’t even realize they were stereotypes – until I moved away and grew up.
Full disclosure: I was not at the meeting on June 12. I am no longer an Anderson resident, nor did I ever intend to send my own children to Anderson High School. The reported behavior of some of the members of the Branding Committee and the audience members is largely why. The Native American community has already expended significant energy and resources informing the public about the harm of using the phrase “redskins,” and Anderson High School leadership continues to ignore it.
I’m embarrassed that adults argue on behalf of the majority at the expense of an intentionally disenfranchised minority. It’s horrific to cite finances as a reason to maintain racist institutions when we got rich and comfortable off the backs of the aforementioned minority. It’s misleading to cherry pick polls supporting your position, and it’s socially irresponsible to default to the impossibility of making everyone happy.
Doing the work of reconciliation is hard. It is expensive. It is uncomfortable. It is bound to generate some social casualties. But, it is also critical and must be championed by the resourced majority. If you actually want to honor the heritage and dignity of Native Americans, defend their lands. Reject Columbus Day. Advocate for programs that prioritize resources for impoverished Native Americans. Don’t continue the legacy of passing stereotypes down to our future generations, your children and the students in your district in the name of tradition.
In the words of Lewis Carroll, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”