“I’m a human being . . . I am not a mascot!”
The Native American woman stood before the TV cameras, angry, insulted and ready to make a difference. The look on her face and the tone of her voice reflected a deep hurt that appeared to resonate from her heart. The issue at hand: “Indian” mascots used to represent schools in Hillsborough County. Just another way in which America has dehumanized and marginalized an entire group of people.
I must admit, I had not given this issue a thought prior to hearing her words. My school mascot was the Roosevelt Indians. We were New York suburban kids brought up in a culture and time in which marginalized and politically correct were not part of the national vocabulary. Our school mascot was a reality of our everyday life, having no significance to us other than supporting a winning football team.
During my adult life, there has been a growing national sensitivity to no longer use the term Indian. After all, the early inhabitants of North America were mistakenly named when the European explorers thought they had arrived in India. Native American became part of my enlightened vocabulary.
The woman on TV went on to say that the definition of a mascot is good luck charm. Is there any good luck in being herded onto reservations while your captors grab up the prime real estate for themselves?
Hillsborough School District, has subsequently voted to eliminate the controversial mascots from six of their schools. This prompted me to Google my own high school. I was disappointed to learn that Roosevelt H.S. still retains the Indian label. Thank you, Hillsborough residents, for raising my awareness. When this blog is posted, I will forward it to my alma mater.