Monday, February 3, 2014

#NotYourMascot

{NOTE: I know it's a bit link intensive, but it's worth it to take the time to go through them.}

Growing up, I was conditioned to take racist mascots & other negative racial images that appear in popular culture for granted. When I asked my parents if people really thought that Natives are like those mascots, they dismissed it by telling me that "Indians have more important things to worry about" and that "they'll never change those anyway". I suppose their attempt at redirection was the only way they knew to answer a child, when trying to explain a practice that has no legitimate justification.

Fast forward to 2000-2001, when I was a university student, carrying my first child. I took my role as a mother seriously &, like many expectant parents, I started looking at the ways I wanted to raise my child. It was clear to me that I would do some things differently than the way I was raised, but that didn't feel like enough. What I really wanted was a better world for my children to live in.

See original tweet HERE
So, I became more politically aware, educating myself on issues that affect humanity as a whole, not only in our nation. I began looking for opportunities to get involved whenever possible & began using the Internet to network with others. When my son was an infant, I had been looking into issues that impact Native children specifically and ran across research about the negative consequences that racist imagery & stereotypes has on them. So, I joined the fight.

At that time, the only really convenient way that we had to connect people from all over the nation was through an email group (I'm still part of that group, actually), but I also got mailed information for sources like the National Coalition on Racism in Sport & Media. I remember writing a lot of letters to legislators, school districts & newspaper editors but mostly people just dismissed us as overly sensitive and labeled our efforts as "political correctness", just as they often did the ones who had been working on this for decades before. At least I was never threatened with violence, as many others were.
See original tweet HERE


In more recent years, though, I've started to see some change. We are starting to see some acknowledgement that there is no real debate here. Names like R*dskin are inherently racist & only serve further marginalize, objectify & commodify an entire ethnic group. The demeaning behavior that mascotry produces are simply microagressions that desensitize people to racism and ongoing genocide.


The call for an end to racist mascots has been getting louder. The American Psychological Association passed a resolution, in 2005, that all such mascots be banned. Many media outlets have ceased using the R word, because it is patently disrespectful & demeaning. The National Congress of the American Indian recently produced and released this incredible video which, while it does have it's own issues, definitely makes a statement.

I also want to refer folks to this video, because I think it's powerful and, it's my blog, so I can:

 
Even with some progress, though, here we are in 2014 & we are still having to see racist imagery, as if it doesn't matter. Those who speak out are often censored. So, what does one have to do to make a statement? 

Well...this is the age of social media...
So, a Twitter Storm, it is...

Participants tagged their posts with #NotYourMascot & it gained quite a bit of momentum. The tag even started to trend. At one point, my photo was showing in the top tweets for the #NotYourMascot tag, which felt a little odd for someone who likes to stay somewhat anonymous.

The caption of the photo read:


Educated.
Professional.
Single mother.
Foster parent.
Creative.
Human.
Not a stereotype.

EngageLife Radio even did a segment about the negative ramifications of racist mascots & the #NotYourMascot trend.

So...what does this all mean?

Well, I don't think any of us have any delusions that things are going to change overnight. However, it shows that we can work together to make a statement.
See original tweet HERE

It also removes the argument that Natives don't care about, or even like the mascots. Yes, there are some individuals that have no issue with it. However, just as was retweeted countless times over that last couple days, "don't even tell me about your one Native friend who likes it because tokenism is racism too."
See original tweet HERE

The reality is that race based mascots, no matter the group they target, are harmful. There's no real
See original tweet HERE
debate to be made. Those who feel there is remind me of the "young earth" crowd who find creative ways to explain away every dinosaur excavation because the fossils aren't compatible with their religiously based theory of how the earth came to be. The level of absurdity is both arguments is pretty comparable.

And, to the Natives that say that we have more important issues to worry about, here's your reality check. We can never hope to be taken seriously on the other, very serious issues that we face, if we are still seen as caricatures to the larger society around us.

So, the real question is whether those who support these mascots are willing to change or not. I understand the "tradition" argument. There are many who have an emotional attachment to the teams they grew up with & don't want to see them change. However, is such a high societal price really worth the comfort of a familiar name? If you have children, don't you want to leave them with a better tradition than racism?

I know I believe that my children deserve better.

See original tweet HERE
See Jen's original tweet HERE
My children are routinely faced with racism from peers, who's only knowledge of Native people is the stereotypes that these mascots perpetuate. Even worse, they are faced with inaccurate representations of Native and downright false teaching in history, while in school. This will NEVER be acceptable to me & it shouldn't be to you, either.




Additional note: I really wanted to post a photo that I retweeted, but I don't have the rights to it & didn't want to cause any issues. It's called "Natives in Time Square", taken by Levi Blackwolf. It shows two Native men, dressed in shirts by Native Evolution & was just so perfectly relevant to the #NotYourMascot trend. Go check it out HERE & don't forget to follow & support the talented artist.

Click HERE to see some more of my favorite tweets from #NotYourMascot.



4 comments:

  1. Excellent post! This country has a long and storied history of dehumanizing its minority populations. We are culturally conditioned to believe that white is superior and and non-white is inferior, and the effect of that cultural conditioning is that non-white populations are consistently underestimated, undervalued, and marginalized. I find it appalling that with all of the history of negative stereotypes that have been perpetrated against African-Americans, that there are a sizeable number who have no problem whatsoever with the name Red****, or that horrific mascot Chief Wahoo. I read the entire article ("Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots") and identified all too well with the challenges of reversing negative stereotypes, especially among young people, who are learning to develop their self identity, and then they have to deal with images that denigrate their self-worth. I commend you for your courage to speak out on this, raise awareness, and your willingness not to "accept things as they are". I shared the video "Proud to Be" with family and friends, and asked them to give that some serious thought. I wonder how many of those African American Red**** fans would love seeing themselves portrayed as an caricature? As we often were since arriving in North America - in shackles. I told them to think about it. Every human being is deserving of the dignity that God has granted them, and that dignity should not be defined by someone who has no interest in seeing that person as a fellow human being, deserving of equality, respect, and to be accurately portrayed in a historical context. We need more awareness brought to these issues and you have elevated the dialog tremendously!

    In solidarity,
    Rachman Walker

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    1. Thank you for your response & your support. May more people choose to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

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  2. Great blog! I missed some of these really great tweets even by friends like Dani. Wow. Thanks for all your support. When I came up with the hashtag a week ago I didn't really think it would take off so well! Whew!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. I think it was a brilliant idea & it was incredible to see such high participation. I'm so glad that you thought of it & that you guys got the momentum going.

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