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Monday, May 2, 2016

Ross Rambles: Holding the line against PC tyranny

Monday, April 10, 2006

The recent unanimous decision by the Spirit Lake School Board to retain the Indian logo for its school was not a final victory in the fight against encroaching political correctness.

The battle will never end in that district or in others that use a symbol relating to indigenous American culture, such as the Cherokee Braves.

Both the Spirit Lake logo, an American Indian in full headdress, and the Cherokee logo, an American Indian who appears to be an Iroquois, are dignified images that are not intended to give offense. But some American Indians take offense about any use of an image depicting their ancestry as a mascot.

Even deciding what to call the people represented is problematic. The term 'Indian' used for indigenous Americans is a historic mistake based on geographic ignorance. Columbus thought he had reached India when he first landed in America.

The term 'native American' is self-defining as someone born in America, which is true for a majority of people living in America. The term 'Native American' with a capital 'N' has been used to indicate the racial category of people whose ancestors were present on the two American continents prior to the arrival of people from Europe. But both forms of 'Native American' are capitalized at the start of a sentence and they are pronounced exactly the same whether or not the N is capitalized, so it just doesn't work as a racial designation.

This newspaper uses the term American Indian, avoiding the confusion of either simply using the term Indian for someone not from India or the term Native American when referring a specific race of native American.

I have suggested changing the name of the Cherokee logo to "The Indigenous Hunter Gatherers" but nobody else seems to care much for that name. Perhaps it would be less war like, which seemed to be a primary concern of the Equity Review Team that made a site visit to Cherokee in the spring of 2002. The report from the team stated that, "The district uses a Native American (a warrior) as their school mascot at the secondary level. The equity team did not find that those interviewed knew of the history or contributions of native peoples, but rather interviewees focused on the fierceness, aggressiveness and strength of the warrior as fighter, thus contributing to the stereotypes given to native peoples."

Most schools naturally choose mascots with a bellicose image, even if based on European cultures, such as the Vikings or Spartans. Do we think of Viking or ancient Spartan culture in stereotypes? Yes, we do. The study of history, at its most superficial level, is a study of wars and conquest. Those with a deeper interest in history, have opportunities to learn more about historical cultures than is available in low budget movies.

I doubt that school logos, by necessity simplistic images, cause cultural ignorance beyond what already exists and I certainly don't see how the image used by either Spirit Lake or Cherokee would promote racial hatred.

So why not simply avoid using a symbol that offends a group, whether or not there was any intent to cause offense?

Because, once we start caving in to the demands of the perpetually offended, we put ourselves onto a path that will lead us to a time when teams such as the Butterflies and the Tulips come together, not in competition, but in some activity of mutual cooperation after a tailgate meal of tofu burgers and spinach salad.

We must resist such a dismal future with all of our abilities.