As a human resource professional, my job is to listen to my clients and consult with them on issues that are occurring within their business. When issues arise, our first question is always: What does your policy state? HR professionals are known to the outside world as the policy pushers. We work with our clients to strengthen the policy and consult on how to enforce the rules within their organization. Defunct policies can cost corporations millions. It’s best practice to have an employee handbook as this gives the employee a guideline to follow and reiterate the company’s values.
Many schools adhere to these same standards; their handbooks include attendance policies, clothing, grade point averages and rules against plagiarism. Because of teen suicide and bullying, schools across the country have adopted anti-discrimination/anti-bullying policies to hold perpetrators accountable for inflicting harm on another student. But what happens when the anti-bullying policy is negated by your racially based mascot?
Bullying is when a person uses their superiority or strength to intimidate someone. An article states bullying is often based on perceived differences, such as ethnicity, sex or disability. When your school has a racial mascot, you are committing the same injustice you use to protect your students. We have people in power, using their superiority to affect someone based on their perceived differences.
Students are asked not to wear t-shirts with political messages or provocative clothing, but you allow your entire student body to wear stereotypical images of Native Americans? When it gets to this caliber, and an entire student body is partaking in these types of bullying, it’s called mobbing. It should be common knowledge that thousands of students, Indigenous and ally, speak out against these mascots. Across the country, schools are changing their mascots because of the harm they cause. No child should have to bear the brunt of stereotyping because the people in power (i.e., the administration) cannot see what they are doing to their students.
Native American mascots fall under the category of passive racism, which is considered “socially acceptable.” This depends on who is asked, but it’s even worse when it’s sanctioned by adults on the school board, the administration and the parents. Racial mascots are not just a school issue; it’s an entire community that is broadcasting these stereotypical behaviors. This mob mentality affects more than just the students they stereotype; it also affects the students who come to school to learn.
Dr. Michael Friedman published a piece in Psychology Today tying disparaging Native American mascots to the practice of bullying. “By using the R-word despite the repeated public protests by the Native American community,” Friedman writes, “the Washington team and NFL are bullying Native Americans and getting away with it.” This also incorporates colleges, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools that have stereotypical Native American mascots.
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