In re Mascot Names

A number of years ago, I gave a pair of speeches to the City Council and the School Board on the topic of ending offensive names at centers of public education. Originally, this complaint was limited to schools named after Confederates. However, after a suggestion from then-City Councilmember Sue Lovell, I began campaigning for HISD to rename offensive mascot names. The most infamous of these names is the athletic mascot of Lamar High School, the “redskins.”

The tremendously offensive slur for Native Americans has added insult since the namesake of the school, Mirabeau Lamar (a former President of the Republic of Texas), who made a point of working towards the “extinction” of Indians during his tenure as President. It is like having a disparaging term for African-Americans be the mascot name of Jefferson Davis High School.

Anyways, the School Board ultimately took no action on the subject, and sent me back one of the most patronizing letters I think I have ever read. Among the many unsubstantiated claims in the letter was that the term “Redskin” was chosen with “honor and respect.” The allegation is so preposterous that it does not deserve a response.

That is why it gladdened me to see Houston Chronicle columnist Randy Harvey come out in favor of changing the name to something –anything– less offensive.

Harvey noted that the push began about 15 years ago by a senior named Kenyon Weaver, who eventually garnered a full-length article in the Houston Press (in 1999). Shortly thereafter, a student vote was taken on the matter. After being duped by administrators, and told that they would have to foot the bill of the changed mascot, students voted against changing the name. But an issue like this shouldn’t be left up to the populous. Discrimination against minorities usually occurs because of the majority is complicit or oblivious.

After noting the many similarities between this issue and that heating up regarding the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Harvey explains that Lamar has, in recent years, distanced itself from the offensive name. Accordingly, dropping it alltogether would not be as big of an event as some would lead you to believe.

There are a lot of offensive things vis-a-vis Native Americans in sports. Personally, I think whether you are the “Braves,” the “Blackhawks,” the “Indians” or the “Redskins,” you should change your name, but the latter name is far and away the most offensive. There is nothing on-its-face derogatory about Indians or Braves, but there are questions of impropriety when you assign the word to a sports team (e.g., there would be something off about the “New York Jews”). “Redskins” is, all by itself, an ethnic slur that is not appropriate in conversation or in our culture.

Off the Kuff has more.

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