Unionville mascot discussion a worthy topic

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Let me be the first to say, good for the students of Unionville High School.

Let me also say, some of the adults need to cool it, too.

The students created and led an Identity Council to start to have discussions about the school’s Indian name and mascot. As I’ve noted to school officials over the years, it is inevitable that at some point, the name and iconography would become increasingly troubling.

A public meeting had been called to discuss the options and merits — but heated social media posts and other issues led to the meeting being called off, for what Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Superintendent John Sanville called a “pause button” or cooling off period.

Obviously, one can argue whether changing the mascot name and iconography is troubling or just being overly politically correct. I would argue the former — and this is a discussion being had with high schools, colleges and professional teams nationally.

And it would seem that the Unionville community has twice as many reasons to at least have this discussion.

Although the initial motivation seemed to be driven by a desire to honor the local Lenni-Lenape tribe (as the names Pocopson and Lenape Road do in the area, to name a tiny few) an increased understanding of history leads us to consider whether “Indians” is the best tribute — a term coined mistakenly by Christopher Columbus, who thought he was much closer to Asia than he really was. Columbus’ legacy has also been under reevaluation, too, and he is now less seen as a brave explorer than at best, an opportunist and worst, someone guilty of genocide.

In this community, the term Indians is double-weighted: with a large and growing South Asian population, the use of the nickname becomes somewhat more problematic.

So, as it is their school, I give the kids a lot of credit for stepping up and asking the question, “is this how we want to represent ourselves?”

Maybe, at the end of the day, the answer is yes. Maybe not.

Without question, though, it is a conversation worth having and if some dyed in the wool grown ups can’t cope with the idea of change, so be it. As someone much wiser than me once said, “change is the only constant in the universe.”

So, it is time to talk about it — even if nothing changes, the conservation is good to have.

My own two cents:

It is time to start thinking about a change — it seems kind of uniformed to use any ethnic moniker for sports teams. If Unionville aspires to be the best, it needs to show leadership in areas across the board, and this can be one.

More importantly, when one thinks of Unionville, one tends to think of horses, anyway. From New Bolton, to Willowdale, this is a horse community. Why not honor that instead? Stallions, Mustangs, Colts, Steeplechasers — the options are almost limitless — and a redesign of the Unionville “U” into a horseshoe pretty much designs itself.

In the meantime, everyone should take a step back, take a deep breath and do something unusual in these times: listen to one another. Maybe it is time for a change, maybe it isn’t — but if we can’t have a constructive, healthy conversation about it, what does that say about us as a community?

Whatever the outcome, Unionville needs to show it is better than petty bickering and name calling on social media. Let’s act like grown ups and hash this out in a fair and reasoned manner.

Unionville is better than this. Let’s show it.

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10 Comments

  1. Donna Boyle says:

    People selfishly want to talk about the cost of change and how this will effect them instead of caring about the native people that their mascots , images , racist terms and stereotypes have harmed for many years.
    Schools and sports team chose these native mascots/names/images because they conjure up false stereotypes of fierce savages , blood thirsty warriors and archaic relics of the past while totally ignoring that we are actually contributing members of modern society who must face these false perceptions constantly.
    Schools have policies that were created to protect every minority from discrimination, harassment and racism , native people should not be the exception to these policies. Schools have a responsibility to uphold the policies regarding discrimination, harassment and racism and provide a safe learning environment for all students.

  2. Donna Boyle says:

    Frank Waln, the Lakota hip hop artist recently tweeted, “Americans will fight harder to defend native mascots than they will to defend the lives of actual native ppl whose land they live on.”

    We need to hold our educational institutions to a higher standard. No Native person, much less a youth who attends school with students like these, should encounter the wrath of this type of opposition, especially with our suicide rate as high as it is today. Because of this, we are strengthened in our resolve to eradicate these types of stereotypes in a learning institution.

    A major concept in the Native community is that Native women were placed on this earth to protect all our children. We will do what it takes to protect our own from this kind of degradation and harm.

  3. Donna Boyle says:

    All too often, we are told that we don’t fit what an “Indian” should look like, because we are not the Disney depiction of Pocahontas. Obviously, the last several hundred years of assimilation and genocide have somehow been missed within the ignorance of his statement. I’d like to take a moment to recognize the failing school system for that. Apparently we are supposed to be wearing loincloths and living in teepees to fit their antiquated stereotypes.

    This is why educational institutions that send their children out into the world are doing them a great disservice; they are not taught cultural diversity. What mascotting teaches children is that the exploitation of one race is OK if it is for the sake of sports. There is no respectful way to support your mascot when it stereotypes more than 5 million people.

    Every child should be able to feel safe in their educational institution. They should be free of judgment and harassment, but all too often this is the behavior that occurs from speaking out against Native mascots. While parents are a big part to blame for our racism epidemic, our schools are also not upholding their end of the bargain to create productive members of society.

  4. Donna Boyle says:

    Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape
    Frequently asked questions.

    How does you tribe feel about American Indian team mascots?
    Even though some are said to be in an effort to “honor our people,” most are insulting and racist and all reinforce insensitivity and stereotypes. Often our children must visit or attend schools where their race is being caricatured on walls, shirts, jackets and flags. Our proud tribal names, villages, heroes and even rituals are turned into marketing tools and demeaned. Sadly, it has been our experience that when we try to educate such offenders, we are verbally… and sometimes even physically… attacked. Having such mascots is NO HONOR… It is an INSULT!

    The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape

  5. K. C. says:

    And what will it cost to change our school logo? Let’s talk cost. It’s not just a mascot change and name change. Erasing history comes with a price tag.

  6. Julie Dye says:

    History cannot be erased. But it can be scewed by representing only one side, which has been the case since 1492, and it is how these names/mascots came to be. Showing respect is not erasure and honor cannot be on the honorees terms.

  7. Aaron says:

    If the Lenape are against their image and culture being used as a mascot then it should be removed.

  8. T Nick says:

    “To come into a community and try to erase its history is wrong no matter how you look at it” Kind of like how Quaker settlers came to the Lenni-Lenape’s ancestral homeland, forced them out, and now people are fighting to uphold decades of historical white-washing that imposes offensive stereotypes (headdresses and chop song) because somehow they think it’s possible to honor a decimated civilization through sports team names and culturally disparaging dress/chants?

  9. Vidya Rajan says:

    I think Mr. Pancoast in the comment thread above has got hot under the collar over something really small. Let the kids/administration decide how they want to be represented. Don’t get married to symbolism or to simplistic terms like “far left”. Does there always have to be a bad guy? Can’t we just reassess symbols with no other agenda but to avoid giving offense to someone who is a Native American Indian?
    I am of Southeast-Asian Indian origin, and have always found the “Unionville Indians” name cute and unintentionally funny, a pun, never offensive. Maybe Native American Indians don’t mind. Let’s give anyone with that background a chance to say how they feel.

  10. Tom Pancoast says:

    To begin with the students did not create the identity council the school administration pushed for the creation of the student led identity council. The other problem is the Indian Head has been sneakily removed , without any public meetings from the school logo in the past several years. The students were told they are not allowed to wear the mascot headdress or do the chop song at any school events. To come into a community and try to erase its history is wrong no matter how you look at it. It’s very clear that the far left is trying to shove it’s agenda down our throats. It started with our sports teams , colleges and now working it’s way to our High Schools. Also Mike the word Indian wouldn’t be a problem if the Indian Head had not been removed from the logo. Clearly it would have been noted that it is a Native American Indian.

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