Carpinteria: Call to Unity: Please Don't Honor Me
(Finally! This article was well written) Please Don't Honor Me
By Brenda Golden - March 20, 2009
On March 17th, 2009 a showdown was held in Carpenteria, California between Native Americans and the School board with related supporters on both sides. By all accounts there were hundreds of people that attended this meeting to hear the decision from the School Board as to if they were to stand by the decision made over a year ago to remove all images of a plains Indian that depicted their mascot the "Warrior".
Almost a year ago the Carpinteria School Board voted to remove the image of a plains Indian in a headdress from their property, materials, t-shirts, athletic jerseys and all other materials used at the school to depict their mascot the Warrior. The Carpenteria School District heard from a 15 year old student who is a member of the Chumash Nation that respectfully called upon them to remove the offensive imagery from the school property. What happened next may astound you.
Since that time the School Board did not follow through on the removal of the "mascot" images instead they appointed a Native American Advisory Council to come up with acceptable alternatives to the use of the plains Indian that was supposed to be the epitome of a "warrior". Which the Council did, still the image has not been replaced. In addition, the community and Carpenteria Alumni got involved making such a noise that the School Board held a re-election and replaced members of the Board.
In the meantime the family that initiated the removal of the mascot imagery has been subjected to hostility, intimidation and the 15 year old who first complained to the Board has received 5 death threats. Death threats over removing a mascot to a 15 year old! What makes this particularly disturbing is that the family reports that the school and police department have not taken those death threats seriously. Even though there is a zero tolerance policy for threats of violence.
Add to the fact that American Indians are victims of a violent crime at a much higher rate than any other ethnic group in the United States. For anyone to brush off a death threat to a teenager as a harmless prank is in my opinion callous and irresponsible.
Twice the state of California has passed laws restricting the use of American Indians as mascots only to have their governor veto them both. Study after study has shown that mascots depicting Native Americans in a derogatory manner is psychologically damaging. Names such as "Redskins" and "Savages" are particularly demeaning and are as close to hate speech as it gets. People dressing up in colored feathers and war paint are not honoring American Indians, nor are the opposition who yell "scalp the Redskins" and "Kill the Savages" while burning effigies of Indians at pep rallies.
The analogy has been made over and over that one does not see mascots based on any other ethnic group except American Indians. There is a long list of organizations who have come out with public statements and resolutions against the use of American Indians as sports mascots. Yet in Oklahoma there are 167 public schools using some image an American Indian as a mascot.
Last September 2008, a group of us went to a football game of the "Redskins" and held a silent protest outside the stadium. Members of the community yelled things, beeped their horns, flipped us off and made obscene gestures to those of us opposing the mascot. We heard many non-Indians comment "We love our Redskins".
For the last five years the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism (TICAR) has approached the School Board of Tulsa Union Public School to change their mascot with no success.
In a not so surprising move, the School Board at Carpenteria voted to retain most of the images of the "Warrior" and only remove two from the school grounds. That is not an honor that is a disgrace. A disgrace that people do not see the harm in continuing to promote an illogical image of the Native American population and also that they chose not to stand by their word to remove the mascot from a year go. The ridiculous proprietary nature of the community seeking to protect an image that is based on hate and racism continues the cycle of distorting history surrounding American Indians. Further doing so does not serve any purpose other than to promote a bias toward a group of people who overwhelmingly reject the use of their images as mascots.
So, listen up America, please don't honor me this way anymore. Mvto (Thank you)
To listen to past interviews on Red Town Radio with the family of Eli Cordero and members of AIM about the Violence and Harassment in Carpenteria go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/RedTownRadio.
Please email, phone &/or fax Carpinteria High School along with the Unified School District Board Board members:
Principal Gerardo Cornejo: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Principal Gary Elkins: email@example.com.
Carpinteria Unified School District Board members:
Terry Hickey Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lou Panizzon: email@example.com.
Leslie Deardorff: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beverly Grant: email@example.com.
Alex Pulido: firstname.lastname@example.org.