As North Side High School approaches its 90th anniversary (it opened in 1927), it is time to retire Chief Mac and the Redskins.
As a learning institution with a multiracial student body, what does it say to that student body when the athletic teams are the Redskins and the marching band is the Marching Redskins? What are we teaching them? That it’s OK to use racial slurs sometimes but not others?
I am pretty sure Fort Wayne Community Schools wants to make sure its schools are safe places for students to learn. In fact, I know from my student-teaching experience back in the early 2000s, the school system wants students to be safe. Yet, North Side is allowed to use a racial slur for its athletic teams.
Students would not be allowed to use a slur to insult fellow students. Imagine what North Side’s Asian or black or Hispanic students would feel if suddenly the school started calling its teams the Yellowskins or the Brownskins.
During my days at North Side (Class of 1976), I spent many a Friday night either at Chambers Field or the old gym rooting for the Redskins. I proudly wore red and white and somewhere had a “Redskins Rampage” T-shirt and bumper sticker complete with a tomahawk-wielding Indian. But times have changed. I hope we’re more enlightened in 2015 than we were in 1975 when I entered my senior year at North Side. The time has come for my alma mater to move on.
Although North Side may have adopted Redskins as a way to honor the Fort Wayne area’s American Indian heritage, it’s now seen by many as a racial slur. North Side can still honor that heritage by adopting something like the RedHawks as Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, did. Or RedEagles.
Some readers, I’m sure, will accuse me of being politically correct. That no harm is meant by using Redskins. And that the National Football League allows the Washington team to use Redskins. That’s all true. No harm is meant. But it is harmful. It depicts American Indians in a stereotypical way. And just because the NFL owners won’t stand up to Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington team, doesn’t make Redskins right. The NFL should retire Redskins from its roster of team names, too. But it won’t until the use of Redskins hurts the NFL where it matters most – in the pocketbook.
North Side should retire Redskins not because the school might take a financial hit but because it’s the right thing to do.
Mike Roeger is a senior copy editor for The Journal Gazette.