Letters to the Editor

Native American mascots just wrong

To the Journal editor:

When Beau LaFave was first elected, Lt. Gov. Calley said that given Lafave’s disability, “he has an opportunity to be a real inspiration to people out there living their lives in a world that was designed when they weren’t at the table.”

LaFave himself said that if he “inspired one young person to follow their dreams” he would consider himself successful. Apparently LaFave’s efforts to inspire young people doesn’t include Native American youth.

LaFave recently stated his opposition to Senate Bill 646, which he sees as “just another weak attempt at forcing political correctness onto us.” The bill submitted by Sen. Conyers would do away with racist mascots, logos and nicknames in Michigan.

In 2005, the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations.

APA’s position is based on the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.

“We know from the literature that oppression, covert and overt racism, and perceived racism can have serious negative consequences for the mental health of American Indian and Alaska native people.”

Research has shown that the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities has a negative effect on all students by:

– Undermining the educational experiences of members of all communities-especially those who have had little or no contact with Indigenous peoples. The symbols, images and mascots teach non-Indian children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about American Indian culture.

– Establishes an unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment for American Indians students that affirms negative images/stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society.

– Undermines the ability of American Indian Nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality, and traditions.

– Presents stereotypical images of American Indians. Such mascots are a contemporary example of prejudice by the dominant culture against racial and ethnic minority groups.

– Is a form of discrimination against American Indian Nations that can lead to negative relations between groups.

If LaFave truly has the best interest of our youth in mind, perhaps he should reassess his perspective on Senate Bill 646 instead of passing it off as merely political correctness.

Martin Reinhardt, Ph.D.

Chairman/Associate Professor

Northern Michigan University

Center for Native American Studies