In the original French, the word “mascot” usually refers to an animal meant to be a good luck charm or companion for human beings. A team mascot is meant to be an animal chosen for its unique strength. When a school picks a Native American name as a mascot — whether it be Redskins, Braves or Indians — it dehumanizes a group of people whose traditions and history are as rich as the land we share with them. Native Americans are not mascots. They are not animals to be paraded before a game. They are human beings. Human beings who do not deserved to be stereotyped with an offensive high-school mascot. In Brevard County, one school has a Native American mascot. If Edgewood Jr./Sr. High has any common decency, any respect for the great people who suffered countless atrocities at the hands of our government and forefathers, it should consider changing its offensive mascot name.
Edgewood’s insensitive school logo features an insidious, brooding Native American who looks as if he is ready to go on the “warpath.” His face is awash in a blood-red background that only reminds us of the blood spilled and the lives lost in the genocide perpetrated against Native Americans. The National Congress of American Indians, a national Native American advocacy group that represents thousands of tribes in Washington D.C. argues that Native American mascots “perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.” Edgewood’s mascot creates a caricature of Florida’s Native Americans that draws attention away from the myriad problems they face. Between 38 and 68 percent of Native Americans living on reservations live below the federal poverty line. American Indians have a life expectancy five years shorter than the national average, and a staggering 90,000 American Indians are homeless.
But Edgewood apparently has made no effort to discuss and consider the psychological and social consequences its mascot has on Native American students and the community at large. Instead, Edgewood turns the American Indian population into “winners” and “losers” every time its teams take the field. Edgewood perpetuates the stereotype that native Americans are an inherently violent and warlike people, which justifies centuries of discriminatory and racist government policies.
Using data reported to the federal government, the most recent “U.S. News & World Report” on Edgewood showed that 77 percent of its student body is white. How many are Native American or Alaskan Native? Zero. In one Edgewood student’s instagram post, two white female students are seen wearing Native American costumes in front of a wall on the Edgewood campus that says “BOW.” Did these two white students realize how racist their “funny’ picture came out to be? Edgewood’s SGA instagram, @tribaltimes, is littered with offensive hashtags like #IndianAttack and pictures of students in Native American headdresses. For a short time, Edgewood pep rallies were called “pow-wows.” Its homerooms are called “tribes.”
These insensitive displays of cultural appropriation are indicative of a culture at Edgewood that commercializes Native American traditions and makes it “cool” for its white student body.
From now on, “The Roar” will refer to Edgewood sports teams without mentioning its mascot until it changes its name. We urge Edgewood students, West Shore students and all students in Brevard County to take to social media and begin a respectful campaign to change the mascot to something Edgewood can be proud of. Edgewood’s student body and Brevard Public Schools have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history. Do they have the integrity to do it?