National Conference For Community And Justice

Opposes The Use Of American Indian Mascots

WASHINGTON, July 23 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) today released a statement opposing the use of American Indian mascots.

The NCCJ action is in response to a call from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to end the use of American Indian images and team names. According to NCCJ's President and CEO, Sanford Cloud, Jr., "America would not tolerate an analogous portrayal of any other racial, ethnic, cultural or religious group depicted in the same manner in which American Indians are on a daily basis." According to Faith Smith, President of the Native American Educational Services and member of NCCJ's National Board of Directors, "The practice of 'taking' from Native people is best exemplified today in the use of Native mascots and images for sports and entertainment. Native voices from across the country are demanding that all vestiges of historic discrimination be abolished with the elimination of Native mascots as a requisite for reconciliation with Native Nations."

NCCJ's statement serves as a reminder of the growing diversity of America and the continuous lack of resources afforded to America's indigenous people. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate for American Indians between 1997 and 1999 was the highest among other communities of color; their population grew more rapidly than the nation's population as a whole during the last decade (17.9 percent versus 10.7 percent); and they remain the youngest group in America --- eight years younger than the median age of the rest of the nation (27.8 years).

Taking America's Pulse II, NCCJ's 2000 survey of intergroup relations in the United States, included findings about American Indians in its broad questionnaire: (1) a substantial number of respondents (67 percent) perceive that American Indians experience a great deal or some discrimination; (2) 59 percent of respondents believe that American Indians have too little influence in our society today; and (3) across six important life domains --- education, housing, promotions, access to equal treatment by the police, and fair media attention --- opportunity is not seen as equally available to American Indians when compared with Whites.

NCCJ is a human relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism by promoting understanding and respect among all races, religions, and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution and education. NCCJ serves 65 regions in 35 states and the District of Columbia and works to transform communities to be more inclusive and just through institutional change by empowering youth, education, faith, economic opportunity, media and government leaders.

 

(Editor's Note: NCCJ's Statement Opposing American Indian Mascots follows.)

STATEMENT OPPOSING AMERICAN INDIAN MASCOTS

The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) is a human relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry, and racism. NCCJ promotes understanding and respect among all races, religions, and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution, and education. As an organization that is not limited to working with or for one constituency, NCCJ speaks out on behalf of all individuals and communities that are unfairly targeted on the basis of their race, faith, ethnicity, culture, class, sexual orientation, age, and ability.

The American Indian community continues to be targeted and negatively stereotyped through the use of their sacred images, symbols, and cultural and religious traditions by many sports teams. Objectifying American Indians through team names, logos, caricatures and mascots, which most often characterizes them as aggressive and violent, perpetuates racist terms that are often used against them. Many half-time shows mimic American Indian ceremonial practices for entertainment purposes which are deeply offensive and insulting to them as well as others. Not only do such programs often inappropriately display the sacred rituals of American Indians, but they also perpetuate historical inaccuracies. These practices undermine the respect and dignity of this country's first people, and completely disregard the great diversity among the more than 560 tribes of this nation.

NCCJ applauds the numerous schools, districts, colleges and universities, and semi-professional and professional teams that have changed their names, mascots, symbols and rituals, and calls for the elimination of such practices from all sports teams.

The continuous misrepresentation of the American Indian population by colleges and universities, semi-professional and professional sports teams are especially damaging because they are using stereotypes to capitalize on the negative pictures they are painting of the American Indian community. No other racial minority in the United States is objectified in such a manner, and it is totally inappropriate that sport franchises and schools continue to exacerbate such dehumanizing stereotypes.

For schools to condone such practices when they are responsible for educating our nation's youth is deplorable. America is strengthened by its diversity and the American Indian people have a unique role in our society due to their history, government-to-government relations, and numerous contributions which have enhanced the freedom, prosperity and greatness of this nation. These are the messages that should be taught to our youth and adults.

American Indian organizations estimate that several hundred schools have changed their names, symbols, and mascots to stop stereotypic caricatures. Unfortunately, more than 3,700 establishments still use them. There is no justification for the continued diminishing of American Indians, and NCCJ calls upon all persons to reject this and all other forms of bias, bigotry and racism which continue to divide rather than unite our nation.

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