In a recent debate in central Florida, a Tampa area school board is wrestling with removing all native American mascots from its schools in response to the Native American Parent Advisory Council asked the district last year to change all of the mascots.
What is Offensive?
It seems that everyone is offended by something these days. And we all try hard to accommodate each one of them by removing artwork, monuments, revising history, etc…. But what is exactly offensive?
Noah Webster defines the term in several ways. However, the most benign definition is, “causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.” Wow! I wish I could remove EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD that makes me upset or angry! Today alone, I would have banished two drivers, Bank of America, a coworker, and a family member! Is this even reasonable?
When I was in college, I had a chance encounter with a Miccosukee Indian named, Bill. He was named Bill because when he went to get his government ID, they did not understand his Indian name and therefore, just gave him a simple name that was easy for him to spell. In our few hours together we fished and talked about life, history, and his heritage. He was a proud Native American. After that encounter, I became much more aware of the plight of the Native Americans, the horrible injustice they were served by our government, the exploitation of Indians, and the hard life they must lead here on their own native land.
In 1992, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper was made into a glorious film. In the book, the last members of a dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans, lived in peace alongside British colonists but find themselves in the crossfire of military conflict when two girls are kidnapped. The movie is EPIC! The final scene is AWESOME! I remember watching the movie and remembering my day with Bill. Not knowing much of my own heritage at the time, I so wanted to identify with Native Americans–so much so that in 1990, I sold all of my possessions and moved into the forests of Pennsylvania to live freely and off the land.
ANYONE who has sat through an American history course should immediately recognize the contribution, influence, and legacy of the Native American people. They were diplomats, negotiators, traders, innovators, survivors, and, if they were ANYTHING, they were great warriors. One does not need to search hard to find the grand exploits of these noble folk.
Maybe we are getting this all wrong. Maybe it should be viewed as a great honor to have a sports team named after your people? Maybe, instead of erasing our history, sordid and problematic as it may seem, we recognize what is memorialized in our towns as a way of educating our children to not commit the atrocities of our ancestors.