Letters to the Editor

    Editor:

    I am writing in response to your editorial, “”Team mascots should not stir offense,”” from the May 6 issue of The UCSD Guardian.

    For a non-native to tell me that I should not be offended by a cartoonish depiction of an American Indian “”warrior”” mascot who runs around threatening the opposing teams is like a man telling me (as a woman) what it feels like to be pregnant.

    How in the world could you know how it feels? If people of European descent were offended, I would not support mascots based on European cultures any more than I would mascots depicting native cultures. However, I don’t think they are entirely comparable due to issues such as power, societal representation, history of colonization and oppression and education.

    One of the ugliest things about American Indian mascots is that they seem to bring to the surface many negative stereotypes and misinformed ideas about American Indian people and their cultures. Most schools claim to use their mascot as a token of respect, to honor American Indian people and their cultures. Few do.

    If I were to parade down a football field dressed as a muscular, sequined version of the Pope, would that be honoring Catholics?

    If you want to value and show respect for American Indians, you do it according to their definitions of value and respect and following their cultural protocols. Otherwise, you are not showing respect or “”honoring”” American Indians at all.

    I am not opposed to mascots if they are done in a positive way. For example, the Irish Catholic founders of the University of Notre Dame chose the “”Fighting Irish”” as their mascot. However, the people who decide whether it is positive has to be the group that is depicted — not someone else. If the Irish are not offended by their mascots, then you don’t have a problem. But if American Indian people are offended by their mascots — and yes, we are — then you have a problem.

    I can drive through a city where the average citizen thinks that there aren’t any American Indians in Southern California (outside of the Sycuan and Viejas casinos), where the only things “”Indian”” are Jeep Cherokees.

    Native people are largely invisible to people outside of our communities, yet our images, words and cultures are taken by the dominant society and used for profit and entertainment. When we voice our opposition, we are almost unilaterally dismissed. American Indian mascots don’t “”seem”” wrong to most people because it has been socially acceptable for so long to use our names and images that most people don’t think twice about it.

    Caricatures of “”Little Sambo”” and the “”Frito Bandito”” have not been socially acceptable for some time now. How many people need to say mascots are offensive before people listen to us?

    Freedom of speech and statement are tempered only by civil rights protections. Racial mascots are a civil rights issue, and just as with slavery, the “”majority”” is not always in agreement about what is morally and legally right.

    — Cori Roberts

    Native American Student Alliance

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