By David Edwards
Last week, two high schools in New York had cancelled games with Lancaster High in Buffalo because the school district had not made a decision on whether or not to change the “Redskins” mascot, a term that many Native Americans find offensive.
“The people who want to keep the name don’t understand the hurt,” Tonawanda Senecas tribe member Al Parker told the school board at a Monday meeting. “It is not an honor. We are not honored by your continuing this mascot.”
On Tuesday, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Ingraham for a reaction to what he called “crazy behavior” by those opposing the mascot.
“Everything is politically correct so I think the students in upstate New York, maybe they think they’re having their Selma moment by acting against this other team,” Ingraham replied. “They can do what they want, they can cancel the game. Everyone is bringing in witnesses to say I’m more offended than the other guy. And then some guy who is part Indian says, ‘I’m not offended.’”
We are not your mascots: Why Laura Ingraham’s Redskins remarks are so clueless
The radio host didn't just belittle a high school protest--she undermined a centuries-long fight for civil rights
By Jacqueline Keeler
However, we have already had our “Selmas.” Many of them. They had names like Wounded Knee, Alcatraz, and they are ongoing even today. Native American people are still holding protests on the land against the Keystone XL Pipeline and fighting for the Apache sacred sites in Oak Flat, Arizona. It’s in the news. The Keystone XL pipeline fighters even put up their tipis on the Washington Mall last year and rode their horses through Washington, DC past the White House. Ingraham might want to read the news.
This is not a new issue. The National Congress of American Indians, the nations largest and most representative organization for tribes, began their campaign against mascots in 1968. The radical American Indian Movement who were leaders in many of Native America’s Civil Rights era “Selmas” also joined the fight against mascots in 1968.
The reason for Ingraham’s stunning ignorance of this issue and why Native Americans are still being caricaturized is directly tied to the history of genocide in this country against our people. We are the “disappearing Indians” riding out into the sunset, but really we had to disappear didn’t we? For progress, for Manifest Destiny, for America to even exist. In very real ways, mascotting “disappeared” peoples can be seen as a form of trophy-ism: like the head of a noble beast on the wall.
What is extraordinary is that 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, Native Americans are still being caricaturized in our public schools to a degree unknown by any other ethnic group.
I guess Ingraham meant "Selma" as a term for a one-time photo op. But the actual meaning is the opposite. The black Selma was a culmination of a century of activism and protest, and a Native Selma would be too.
True, as Keeler notes, Native have already had Selma moments at Alcatraz and Wounded Knee. More recently, they've raised awareness with their Idle No More and Keystone XL protests. But another Selma wouldn't hurt. Every disenfranchised group should have as many Selma moments as necessary until they achieve all their rights.
Note: This entry gets a Stereotype of the Month nomination because Ingraham implied Native activists are insincere and hypocritical, seeking only fame and glory. From what I've seen, nothing could be further from the truth.
For more on the subject, see Obama's Speech at Selma.