By Joycena Wharton-MillerSpecial to CSMS NEWSIn a country so diverse as ours, we are often described as a melting pot of cultures where people commingle across racial and ethnic lines. Tolerance has become the new word of the day. Because of this, a greater understanding of each others’ values, lifestyles and cultures is important for us to have an everlasting belief that all people are equal members of our great society. Included in this need for a greater understanding and tolerance is the need for us to realize how certain symbols in each culture can be construed and used by others in a derogative manner; even if unintended.The American Indians have been fighting this issue with schools and professional teams for many years. They have won change in some circles, but have met resistance and outright indifference in others. I think it is time for all institutions and teams to discontinue the practice of using Indian mascots as part of their sporting events and other celebrations.The Indians have long suffered at the hands of this country beginning in the early stages of its development. The white population actively sought them for eradication. The Indians often fought back fiercely for their right to freely exist in a country that they felt belonged to them. Because of this, the Indians become stereotyped as being fierce warriors whose traditions represent a natural vicious people who kill at first provocation.This stereotype has found its way into sporting events and the naming of school mascots. In order to associate their team with this fierceness, these schools have adopted some of these stereotypes, much to the chagrin of the Indian population. Many American Indians remain furious over the actions by these institutions. They see it as racist and outright bigotry.Today more descent practice has also come from the non-Indian population. Many people now have developed a tolerance and sensitivity toward others and their culture. They have found this issue quite disturbing and offensive. Some have rallied to the defense and support of the Indians. It is very offensive to negatively stereotype a culture. For the most part, many of these institutions are state controlled institutions where people should not have negative stereotypes reinforced. The Tomahawk Chop, Indians in warrior dress costumes, and face painting all reinforce the idea that Indians are a fierce people. This does not represent today’s Native American population. They are a very loving and ambitious people who have been quite passive in the many years since their appalling treatment by this country.Some pro sporting teams however, have not perpetuated this idea. As a team, the Washington Redskins have long resisted any change to their name. This has angered many and has often drawn protests to some of their football games. The Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians too have not changed their names in the face of so much protest. I think these team owners have no respect for the Indian population and their contribution to this country. Never would a team named the Chicago Niggers, Phoenix Skin Heads, or New York Jew Skins ever have their named approved, much less make it onto any playing field anywhere in this country.So then why are the Indians seen as an easy target? Why do many Americans have little or no desire to change the status quo with regard to the naming of these teams? To me it shows that, as a country, we still have very far to go in understanding and respecting the many sectors of our multicultural population. I also believe it shows that we are not equally sensitive, tolerant, or even politically correct in the face of such outright bigotry as we like to believe we are.Joycena Wharton-Miller is a native of Saint Kitts and a NSU student. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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