Two wrongs don’t make a right. It is a truism that’s been burned inside of me by my mother. Perhaps you have been reminded of this sage piece of wisdom periodically. It was generally uttered after I tried to seek vigilante justice for a perceived wrong against me or vice versa. It’s also a lesson which could be applied by many in the wake of the vote to keep the current Skowhegan Indian nickname.
Recently, the Skowhegan school board voted 11-9 to keep Skowhegan the Indians. The decision came after much input and discussion from representatives of the state’s Native American tribes as well as town residents. By most accounts the dialogue was primarily respectful from both sides. As we have been painfully reminded by this issue, as well as Hyde’s stated reasons for defection from the MPA, race remains a hot issue in 21st century America.
The alleged use of racial epithets by community members towards the Native Americans who spoke were reprehensible. While we have in many aspects made progress as a society, racism, bias, and prejudice still remain. While some may not agree with what is being presented, mocking another person’s ethnicity is not to be tolerated. Those who may have uttered such words should stop for a moment and put themselves in that person’s shoes. It shows true ignorance to insult those with demeaning names just because they are different or express other opinions from ones own..
Equally as insidious are those who want to paint all those who supported keeping the “mascot” and those who voted in favor as racist. It should be duly noted Skowhegan does not have and has not had a mascot for many years. No longer do students don stereotypical Native American dress and prance around enacting rituals. I think most of us would agree with those who spoke out in favor of change that people are not mascots. Skowhegan has made significant steps in educating their students and staff as what is and is not acceptable.
The name “Indians” still remains. Those who spoke in favor of changing the name should remember they don’t speak for all Native Americans. Some view the name as a reminder of the heritage of the area. By changing the name some natives worry their traditions will be forgotten and eradicated. By keeping the name yet removing all of the stereotypes that go can serve as a reminder to that history.
That being said, we don’t know and can’t know the minds and hearts of why individual board members voted the way they did. There are many good and decent people. Is there perhaps a racial element to the way some believe? Maybe, Keep in mind there were Native Americans and non Native Americans alike on both sides of the issue. Racism is not a charge to be taken lightly, it’s very damaging, in fact. The card shouldn’t be thrown around just because of a disagreement about a race issue.
This issue will likely not die until the name is changed, which based on the tightness of the recent vote, will eventually occur. Until then, hopefully both parties will learn lessons from the past debate. Let’s hope everyone can keep the discourse civil and respectful, as most have already done.