Why This Mascot Figure Needs to Be Ended
Hello classmates! This subject may not be aimed toward a focus of African Americans but is focused around the discrimination and treatment of different ethnic group by the American people, Indigenous Americans.
I am from Mechanicsburg, Ohio. I went to Mechanicsburg High School, a public high school, and the high school mascot has been the Indians for a very long time, I tried to find out when the school adopted the Indians mascot, but I have been unable to find adequate records. I would assume that the mascot has been the Indians since the 1940’s because of pictures in the high school that depict “The Mechanicsburg Indians Football Team.”
Recently, individuals in the Mechanicsburg community have been arguing about the school mascot. Some argue that the term Indian is offensive to the indigenous people of the Americas and that the depictions that are used to represent ‘Indians’ as mascots are also racially intolerant and stereotypical. Let me ask you, do you think the Indian mascot is racially intolerant?
Well first off, the fact of the atrocities that have been inflicted on the indigenous peoples of this land is unfathomably large. Since the discovery of this nation, native groups in the Americas have been subjected to foreign diseases, theft by foreigners, rape of culture, rape of bodies, expelled from their homes, and murder toll that expands to the thousands. By the time Christopher Columbus reached the Caribbean in 1492, historians estimate that there were 10 million indigenous peoples living in U.S. territory. But by 1900, the number had reduced to less than 300,000.1 The death toll of Indigenous individuals from the United States alone are genocidal.
Using indigenous figures as mascots lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes. In a study done by Justin Angle, University of Montana, when a sports team uses an image of an indigenous figure as a mascot, individuals begin to associate “warlike” qualities with indigenous people because that is a stereotype that is leveraged by sports teams, accordingly, a high school that uses an indigenous figure as their mascot, for sports, would result in the same effects.2 When an ethnic group is perceived “warlike” for reasons like attempting to have the appearance of being fearsome and menacing, then the indigenous people that the mascot is modeled after are then perceived as being more not only fearsome and menacing. If the mascot is associated with a violent sport, The Washington Redskins, and football, for example, them the indigenous people that are modeled for that mascot are perceived as more violent. This perpetuation of stereotypes leads to a bias towards indigenous people in areas such as job applications and housing. In a study done by NPR, they asked “Native American citizens” if they had felt discrimination when applying for jobs, 31% had reported that they, “have been personally discriminated against.” The survey then asked the participants if they felt like they had ever been personally discriminated against by police, 29% reported that “they did feel personally discriminated when interacting with police.”3
In 2005, the APA called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations. Research done by the APA found that images, symbols, and personalities of indigenous people have a negative effect on all kinds of students in a learning environment. The APA states that “The symbols, images, and mascots teach non-Indian children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about American Indian culture.” This statement is evidence that the portrayal of indigenous people in educational facilities undermines the educational experiences of all community’s members, distinctly those who have little or no contact with indigenous peoples. On that note, Mechanicsburg High School is predominately Caucasian, the Mechanicsburg Community is predominantly Caucasian, and neither the school or community has a public outreach program to any organization that affiliates to any indigenous groups. Mascots that portray Indigenous figures can also establish a learning environment that is, “unwelcome and often times hostile,” for students of Indigenous heritage. Mascots that present stereotypical images of indigenous people are examples of prejudice by dominant culture against racial and ethnic minority groups and this form of discrimination can lead to negative relations to indigenous groups that are being discriminated against. 4
When do we say that enough is enough when it comes to racially intolerant mascots like Chiefs, Chieftains, Braves, Redskins, and Indians? I say the line gets drawn when these images, names, and portrayals create toxic learning environments and perpetuate racism and intolerance in our schools.
People in the Mechanicsburg community will argue that the mascot name isn’t about disrespecting indigenous groups but is to refer back to our rich history. I will not go into the history between the indigenous groups around Mechanicsburg and the individuals that created my town because I do not know the full truth of the events, but I can give suggestions for new mascots that aren’t racially insensitive and that are equally representative of Mechanicsburgian history than Indians.
Suggestions for alternative Mechanicsburg High School Mascots5:
1) It is said, from the history of our town, that one of the men that founded Mechanicsburg, Captain Culver, was a mechanic, that is where Mechanicsburg gets its name from. So, a possible change of the mascot could be to the mechanics or a term that is synonymous with the title mechanic is Engineer. Being the Mechanicsburg Engineers would be a triumphant change because the term isn’t offensive to ethnic groups and an engineer can be a fierce mascot. Engineer as a mascot is also fairly rare which add originality to the mascot while incorporating historic significance.
2) In the 1850’s, Mechanicsburg became a hub for railroad commerce. Farmers from Mechanicsburg were shipping their toil all over the United States. We could change the mascot to the Mechanicsburg Locomotives. Mechanicsburg also assisted runaway slaves to freedom during the times of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad had no literal trains but being the Mechanicsburg Locomotives could be a reference to the towns history of assisting an enslaved people to freedom. Instead of our mascot refer to an ethnic group, it refers to a shining moment in our town’s history.
3) James Roy Hopkins was a famous painter that graduated from the Mechanicsburg High School back in 1895. James Hopkins excelled in artistry and his main focus of work featured individuals from the Midwest United States. In 2017, The Springfield Ohio Museum of Art did an exhibition on the artwork that was created by Mr. Hopkins, the exhibition was titled “Faces of the Heartland” because all the individuals that Hopkins painted were from the heartland (Midwest US). A possible change of mascot could be from the Mechanicsburg Indians to the Mechanicsburg Heartlanders, a tip of the hat to an exceptional Mechanicsburg citizen that related his life to the arts. Wouldn’t it be great for a school to show that it not only cares about advancing the physical and intellectual prowess of its students but that the school also incorporates an appreciation for the arts?6 7
Once again, these are only suggestions that I could create after looking into the history of my town. Naming the mascot for Mechanicsburg High School the Indian might have been socially acceptable a long time ago, but it is far from acceptable today. It is and will forever be racist and it is time to retire the Indian mascot from Mechanicsburg.