By Maia Johnson
“It’s definitely racially motivated,” said junior Michael Ray of Whetstone High School’s mascot. “I’d be interested to see what a Native American would think of it, because that’s what really matters.”
For years, Whetstone High students have represented their school by wearing blue and/or white shirts and sweatshirts sporting the school’s mascot- the so-called “Brave”. But what is a “Brave”? Merriam-Webster defines the dated term as “a Native American warrior”.
“I actually like our mascot. I think that because our school mascot is [a Native American] that we’re kind of honoring them,” said sophomore Whitney Staggs. “I think we should keep it.”
There has been controversy regarding other mascots such as the Washington Redskins, a professional football team. Even schools like Goshen High in Indiana are revoking aged mascots, but not without debate. Long-time community members appear to have enough school pride that it seems to surpass the prejudice many Native Americans feel at the use of their culture as a mascot. Hashtags like #NotYourMascot and #ProudToBe have been used by Native Americans on social media to clarify their disapproval of certain mascots.
“I think it goes back to having the approval of the people that you’re [potentially] offending,” said history teacher Mrs. Marchetti. “If you have permission, like the Florida State Seminoles do, from the actual tribe themselves, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. However, any sort of generalization, any sort of stereotypical generalization [is]. There are so many other options out there for people to choose. Braves, in my opinion, isn’t as offensive as something like the Redskins, but when you take something like this and you associate it with a group of people that are still around, it’s offensive.”
Marchetti argues a fair point, that as long as no Native Americans are offended by the use of the Braves mascot, then there’s no problem. However, senior Lydia Green, whose family is of Native American descent, made several comments regarding the way she and her family are affected by the mascot.
“I hate it. There are no words to describe the anger and the dishonor I feel. Nobody I know looks like that,” she said. “So disrespectful and dishonorable. Sometimes I don’t even look at it. I am honestly ashamed to say that I go to Whetstone High School because of the mascot.”
Valid arguments are commonly made by non-Natives that they mean no harm by the use of certain mascots, that they are, in fact, trying to honor Native Americans by it. While this may be true of most people, that offense is not intentional, it is still there. “If you want to honor us, take it down,” Lydia says in response to this defense.
Lydia shared several stories explaining ways the Braves mascot has negatively affected not just her, but her family as well.
“My uncle, when he graduated from here in 2012, [several students] asked him to be the mascot, and he looked them right in the face and said, ‘What do I look like, do I look like a cartoon? Is that what I look like to you?’”
“That’s a stereotypical representation of a Native American,” said Marchetti of the Braves mascot. Lydia added, “If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, she’s an Indian, because she looks like a mascot.’ No!” However, knowing of his heritage, students felt it was okay to humiliate Lydia’s uncle by asking him to represent their school as THE “Brave”.
Even aside from this racist remark, Lydia feels so offended by the mascot that she said, “I didn’t play sports for that reason (the mascot). I was going to play volleyball, but I was so ashamed of the mascot that I was like, ‘I’m not going to make my parents wear that, I’m not going to make me wear that, I’m not going to support it, regardless. Volleyball is my sport, but I can’t.’”
“Growing up, I was always hearing ‘Oh, we’re too soft,’ or whatever. Since then, I’m very liberal now, but last year in humanities, we looked at all the mascots and what the tribes think about them and how they’re really offensive, and that really opened my eyes and I put myself in their shoes, like I said, and it completely flipped my opinion on it,” Michael said. “If it is, in fact, offensive to a lot of people, which it sounds like it is, then we should probably have it changed. People just need to put themselves in other people’s shoes.”
Marchetti also reported her opinion on whether the mascot should be changed. “[Whetstone] is one of the older, more established, connected Columbus City Schools. We’re a community school, and a lot of people are probably going to resist [changing the mascot]. Whenever you try to change something, it’s going to be difficult. You would need to talk to alumni, because they do still have a say, this is still their school. You would need to research why they call us the Braves in the first place. If enough people are offended by it, if enough people are hurt by it, then, yeah, change it.”
And finally, Lydia wrapped things up in just four words. “We should change it.”
What do you think? Should the Braves mascot be replaced?