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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6 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Aaron says:

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

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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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