April 22, 2015

Native students protest EMU's racism

Native American group holds protest at EMU following racial incident

By Melanie MaxwellNative Americans attending a rally at Eastern Michigan University Wednesday had a message for the dozen or so students involved in a recent racial incident: apologize.

Nathaniel Phillips, the Native American man who reported the harassment to police, was on hand playing a drum and shaking hands of the hundred or so people who gathered to listen to members of the Native American Student Organization speak outside the EMU Student Center.

Amber Morseau, president of NASO, said the response from the university and the EMU students who allegedly heckled and threw a beer can at Phillips while they were wearing headdresses with painted faces has not been satisfactory. The NASO considers the acts "racist" and a "hate crime."

"We as natives and we as human beings will not accept this silence," she said. "It is unacceptable for us, our relatives, our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers."
EMU takes action

Coincidentally, or perhaps in response to the protest, school officials acted the same day:

EMU investigates report of students dressed as Native Americans during off-campus party

By Ben Baird and Austen Smith"Eastern Michigan University takes these matters very seriously and remains strongly committed to maintaining a respectful, inclusive and safe environment, in which acts that seek to inflict physical, psychological or emotional harm on specific demographic groups will not be tolerated," according to the university's statement.

"The investigation into this matter is ongoing, and will be guided by the university's policies and procedures that govern student conduct."

The university changed its mascot from the Hurons to the Eagles on May 22, 1991. It marked the end of more than 60 years of tradition.

The EMU Board of Regents initiated the mascot name change after an Oct. 1988 Michigan Department of Civil Rights report questioning the use of Native American imagery by school athletics. The report stated use of names, logos and mascots promoted racial stereotypes.
EMU announces chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents

By Jeremy AllenPresident Susan Martin announced Wednesday that Eastern Michigan University was creating a chief diversity officer.

The announcement came less than a week after the university sent a campus-wide email detailing a confrontation April 11 between several students dressed in native American garb and an Ypsilanti resident of native American descent at an off-campus party.

In her email to campus announcing the position, Martin said that incident was one of several that have raised issues of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Days before the altercation at the party, four student protesters were detained at a screening of the movie "American Sniper." They were protesting because they said the movie was insensitive toward Muslims.
"Hurons" name lingers

EMU's Native American student group asks university for more support during rally (PHOTOS)

By Ben BairdNASO members made clear they are not satisfied with the university administration's response so far, both in regards to the students in red face as well as the reappearance of the Hurons logo on campus. The Hurons mascot was eliminated more than 20 years ago after a campus-wide effort was begun by four Native American women who found it disrespectful.

Davi Trusty, who was the president of NASO in 1991 when he attended EMU, said he feels it's a shame Native American students are still fighting the same issues that he fought.

If someone thinks it's okay to tell a Native American to go back to the reservation or to put makeup on their face and pretend to be an "Indian" something is wrong in that person's psyche, he said.

Trusty said they appreciate the love and support members of the community have shown following this incident.

Morseau said Kay McGowan, an adjunct professor at EMU who teaches anthropology and sociology classes, spoke to each of her classes April 15 about racism, disrespect toward women and the culture of erasure--of a dominant culture diminishing another.

McGowan, the only Native American professor on campus, subsequently received an email from someone identifying himself as "John Smith" who told her no harm was intended by what happened April 11 and that the Native American community was overreacting.

"This email alone demonstrates to us that these students involved do not understand what it is they have done and they certainly have yet to see the consequences deserved for what we consider to be a hate crime," Morseau said.
Comment:  No one said it explicitly, but the racist frat party with students in redface is a perfect example of what the NCAA criticized. Namely, how Indian mascots create a "hostile and abusive environment." What could be more hostile than telling an actual to go back to the reservation? Or assaulting him with a beer can?

The students claimed they were "Hurons"--meaning wild savages who could do whatever they wanted. The "Hurons" identity created this problem. It gave them a license to indulge in ugly behavior, and to blame it on the Indians.

That's what Indian mascots do. And that's why they have to go.

For more on the subject, see What "Go Back to the Reservation" Means and EMU Students in Redface Taunt Indian.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

Emu's would have been an even better mascot.

Those moaning about the "tradition" of a dubious mascot for a college hardly known outside a 50-mile radius need to get a life.