Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Privilege and ignorance in one prejudiced package

This headline "Pro-Redmen group issues legal opinion" came across my Google alerts this morning and I thought, "please don't let this be what I think it is." But it was. A group called Redmen Forever Committee in Natick, MA has sought legal counsel because they are fighting the district's recent decision to stop using the nickname at Natick High School.
Disappointed, to put it mildly, the Redmen Forever (I just can't get over that name--it so clearly indicates the the ignorance of this group) sought out a lawyer--an NHS graduate--to write an opinion assessing the legal consequences the district might face if it continued using the name.
And said lawyer concluded that there isn't much risk, especially because at least 60 other high schools in Massachusetts use Native American imagery or nicknames. What was that your parents always said about everyone jumping off the bridge and how many wrongs equal a right?? So basically, Natick should not be worried about being singled out.
And actually, the school district's own lawyers came to a similar conclusion, that federal laws are unlikely to effectively challenge the use of the nickname. Their own report suggested the the biggest threat comes from Titles IX and VI. [That made me think maybe the school needs some new lawyers. Because while I don't know the ins and outs of Title VI, I know that Title IX does not address racial discrimination.]
So no worries, people of Natick, you won't be subject to a lawsuit because, you know, everyone else is doing it. Never mind your own anti-discrimination policy whose spirit--if not actual meaning--you're violating. If you all spent so much time looking into the possibility of legal action then you mus be aware that there is something at least a little bit wrong about using the term Redmen.
Oh, but wait, the Redmen Forever lawyer has suggested that the nickname can be used for good:
"Further, it is within the powers of the School Committee to proclaim that the use of the Redmen name and logo should be used in such a manner as to pay tribute to Native Americans."
'Cause if the school committee declares this is an honor that just wipes out all the history of genocide and discrimination (which is clearly ongoing as well) and all the voices of Native Americans who oppose seeing their traditions and images derogated in the name of school spirit.
Says Native American activist Barbara Munson:
“We see objects sacred to us — such as the drum, eagle feathers, face painting and traditional dress — being used not in sacred ceremony, or in any cultural setting, but in another culture’s game."
It's not an honor.
For more information about Native American mascots check out these Youtube clips: I am not a mascot and Native American Mascots and this PSA out of Wisconsin.

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