Opinion

Erik Stegman: Racist mascots continue to hurt our Native youth






New report from The Center for American Progress: Missing the Point

Erik Stegman of the Center for American Progress discusses how racist mascots hurt Native youth:
“Our cheerleaders dressed up one of our own [students] in a Halloween ‘Pokehottie’ costume and tied her to a stake after dragging her out on the field in shackles against her will. They proceeded to dance around her, acting as if they were beating her and treating her like a slave. This is the most sickening halftime show I’ve ever witnessed.” That’s how Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown described one of his experiences playing his rival team, the Calaveras Redskins, in high school in California. Stories like this are not only common for too many Native youth in our schools across the country—they’re part of a much larger problem for American Indian and Alaska Native people, especially youth.

Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown On Harmful Effects of Racist Mascots:
While the issue has been brought into the spotlight again and again, most notoriously with Washington D.C.’s football team’s legal battles over their name, much of the debate around racist mascots and team names has been missing the point by ignoring the real impacts on Native youth. As detailed in a new report by the Center for American Progress, the mental health research is clear: the presence of these mascots and team names harm Native youth self-esteem and self-worth, undermine the understanding of Native people by non-Native people, and too often contribute to unwelcome and often hostile learning environments. This is all in the context of a suicide rate 2.5 times the overall national rate, poverty double the national rate, some of the worse education outcomes in the country, and severe substance abuse and depression. This is why major professional organizations like the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all racist representations—nearly a decade ago.

The debate raging in our nation’s capital over its professional football team has largely ignored these saddening realities. Instead, we find ourselves listening to radio conversations between non-Native people talking about fan sentimentality, merchandising economics, and whether this person or that person has the wrong intent in using the name. Again, this is all beside the point.

Get the Story:
Erik Stegman: Put Native Youth Back in Mascots Debate (Indian Country Today 7/31)

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