Americans are starting to come to terms with the insidious nature of racism — in the way we act, how we speak about others different than us, and yes, even our team mascots. It’s a hard thing to realize that many of the things people took for granted or were seemingly “normal,” probably weren’t normal for every American.
Take, for instance, Native American mascots.
Native American mascots are fairly commonplace throughout the country, especially at the middle and high school level. Colleges have them, too. Even some professional sports teams — the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Braves, and the Cleveland Indians — embrace Native American team mascots.
First, let’s be clear what a mascot is. Merriam-Webster defines a mascot as “a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck.” It’s no wonder many can’t see the harm in having a particular racial group represent their school’s team — in their eyes, it’s seemingly meant as a compliment. Pro-mascot advocates suggest that such symbols are meant as an honor and should actually make indigenous peoples of the Americas feel good about themselves.
Is It an Honor to Be a Mascot?
Given that practically anything can be used as a team’s mascot — for instance, Ohio State University uses a poisonous nut, the buckeye, as its mascot — it’s hard to imagine that mascots as symbols are honorable in and of themselves. Being chosen to represent a school or team’s pride or spirit needs to take into consideration how the person being so “honored” feels about it.
For instance, if a small town in Indiana wanted to honor a local industrialist from the 1920s who helped make their town into what it is today, it’s unlikely the town would proceed making her