State has role in ending use of race-based nicknames
By Carol and Harvey Gunderson
This involves athletic policies set by a government entity, a public school board. Any governmental entity that establishes a policy based on race targeting a specific minority should guarantee that the race-based policy doesn't promote discrimination, harassment or stereotyping. That's what this bill does.
A half-century ago, it took federal intervention to force all-white school boards to end race-based school policies. Those boards claimed a "local control" right to use a race-based school policy because segregated schools targeting African-Americans were their community "tradition" and "heritage."
All-white school boards in Wisconsin now claim a "local control" right to use a race-based school policy because a sports nickname targeting American Indians is their community "tradition" and "heritage," claiming they'll change only when required by the state because it's too divisive to handle locally.
"Local control" can be an appropriate concept for matters that impact only one school district and have no harmful impact on other districts. Athletic nicknames aren't in that category because high school athletics is inherently interscholastic, involving competition between or among schools.
Whether Menomonie residents feel the nickname shows respect is irrelevant. The only thing that's relevant is whether American Indians "feel respected."
Do they? This was answered unambiguously in a 1999 resolution that said "the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council condemns the use ... and will work ... to eliminate the use of depictions of and cultural references to American Indians as mascots, logos and team nicknames in Wisconsin public schools." To truly show respect, the resolution says, "appropriate means of recognizing Native American people exist through teaching Native American history accurately, by treating Native American students with the same respect afforded other students, and by removing 'Indian' mascots and logos."
For more on the Wisconsin debate, see Drop Mascots or Pay Fines.