Back in September or so of last year, I was asked if I'd like to be part of a very small meeting that was to take place on Langley Air Force Base ( http://www.langley.af.mil/public.html ) with a few representatives of the "Chief Master Sergeants Group". http://earnestman.tripod.com/cmsgts/cmsgts.htm In November, I was part of the meeting.
Mr. Chuck Dineh (he was beside me, on the left) led the talks with the "Chief Master Sergeants Group" reps. He was elloquent in telling how the mascot affected and offended him and was the main speaker during the meeting (which lasted about 2 hours or so). A native woman sat to my right (don't know her Nation) and also spoke about how it affected her. The man who arranged the meeting (the Cherokee man I stayed with while there - and his family, I should add) sat at the other end of the table and didn't say much. Across the table from me was a man who claimed to be Cherokee and who, previous to the meeting, was in support of the mascot but at the meeting, spoke out against it.
Across the table and at the other end were two reps (black men) who listened quietly. Against the wall - behind them and the Cherokee man - was a white-looking man who is married to a Creek. At the end of the table where I was - between the woman beside me and the Cherokee man - was another "Chief Master Sergeants Group" rep who was a black woman.
(BTW: Racial descriptions are to give a mental picture of the racial diversiveness of the participants and for no other reason)
I never said a word during the meeting except to introduce myself at the beginning (when everyone else was introducing themselves). Mr. Dineh led the talk and did a good job of describing his experiences but I was heartened by what the black woman had to say.
She started out by acknowledging that she didn't understand the hoopla about the mascot........and I thought hope was lost at that point in at least being heard. lol But then she said (not in so many words) that she'd had an "awakening" to what we were saying while she'd been watching TV one evening. She described watching a commercial with white folk in it but had been drawn to watch the commercial because of the music that accompanied it. In her opinion, the music represented the black community but it was now being appropriated for use in advertising for some white-culture item. She said she didn't think it was proper that something that came from and was indicative of the black community should be taken and used another way - effectively stripping the black community of something it identified as its own - and something that the American society identified as belonging and/or being part of the black community. (I hope I did her explanation justice!!)
The point is - she "got it"!! I would have hugged the heck out of her on the spot if it had been appropriate! After everyone had their say, the two reps at the other end of the table repeated back what they had heard - making sure the words, intent and reasonings would be taken to the Group as they were intended.
Mr. Dineh is disappointed with the results of the meeting and I must admit my
disappointment as well..........although I'd figured it wouldn't change. I live by the addage
of "Hoping for the best but expecting the worst". Because I wasn't leading the meeting
and didn't know the others involved in the meeting, it was said that news of the meeting
should be kept quiet - until we knew the final results of the meeting. Since that meeting,
Mr. Dineh was told that the mascot and name would not be changed unless a command
to change it came from "higher up".
Obviously, nothing has changed - YET. The possibility of more dialog always exists.
In my opinion, the lack of visible, active support on a large level keeps these mascots where they are. Those few who DO dare to speak up against the harm of racially biased mascots have their voices drownd out by those who don't see the harm. Of course, there are the "reports" that many of those leading the fight against mascots aren't even indian!! At best, some are mixed breed......but because of stereotyping, unless they have dark skin, hair and eyes, they're not considered "real indians" by most people - both indian and non-indian. If even one person is offended and harmed by a mascot that's alleged to represent their race, then it would be honorable and moral to discontinue the use of racial mascots.
Plain and simple though, government-sponsored, racially biased, indian mascots are illegal!! Indian mascots of schools and government branches are funded by federal and/or State dollars - tax payer monies. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs. The existence of civil rights and liberties are recognized internationally by numerous agreements and declarations. Often these rights are included in agreements in which nations pledge themselves to the general protection of Human Rights. The United States has recently adhered to the most notable international agreement on civil rights: The International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights. Even the United States Commission on Civil Rights has issued its own statement regarding the use of Native American images and nicknames as sports symbols and in it, calls for an end to the use of racial mascots of American Indians.
I look forward to the day when all races of Peoples are treated with dignity and respect which can only come from an understanding of different cultures and traditions.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter. Thank you also for any considerations given to the important issue of illegal discrimination and for looking into the sensitive issue of the race-based "Chief" mascot.with respect,