Letter to the Editor: Aniyah Robertson “@mariemont”

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The way we treat others is learned and ingrained into us, and by the age of nine (usually) we have learned how to treat others as they should be treated. Unconscious bias is a part of  the mind and attitudes of many Mariemont students towards outsiders. Being in an environment with minimal exposure to other cultures allows unconscious bias. We hear things like, “I didn’t mean it like that”;  “It was supposed to be a joke”; “Is it really that deep?” But you did… and it’s not a joke.. If you’ve ever used any of these… whatever you said, while you didn’t “mean it like that,” that’s exactly what you said. 

Two weeks ago I sat in Spanish class and watched the movie Mcfarland. During a scene portraying a hispanic boy running from school to work they laughed.  He ran to support his family. He doesn’t drive, and we know this because of previous movie scenes, my class laughed. It really made me think about how the way some people live, other people live, is a joke to my classmates. I began thinking about how it’s not necessarily their fault. They haven’t been exposed to as many cultures, although that’s not an excuse. 

 Having a mascot displaying a Native person’s caricature, possession of the Totem pole, and continuing to use the Tomahawk chop supports the idea that cultures and human beings are objects, costumes, jokes and caricatures.  Using a Native person’s caricature as a mascot has been proven to be harmful, inflict negative stereotypes, and contribute to a complete disregard for the “personhood” of Native people. It also continues to reinforce our ignorance of “the others” in our society. 

Native Americans are more likely than any other race to experience violence from someone of another race.  The removal of these caricatures is essential in ridding future hateful activity and judgement towards Native people in America and in our community. No one has the right to a mascot which ignores the humanity in a human. In 2005 the American Psychological Association decided it was imperative for schools and teams to stop using American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities. These caricatures harm native young people’s self-esteem and social identity development while undermining the learning environment for everyone, especially people who don’t have much exposure to native people. Children in Mariemont have little, if any exposure to native people (other than a caricature of them), knowledge of their culture or respect for it, yet the caricatures and stereotypes of the culture are displayed all around the school. This is not a good way to represent cultural awareness. In my opinion, yes we are Warriors but we are not “Indians”. I think an important takeaway is that a Native person is not a Mariemont warrior. Mary Emery was a Mariemont warrior. Native people were not a part of the “Mariemont tribe” they evacuated the area before anyone from Mariemont arrived, because of this I’m not really sure why Mariemont strongly affiliates themselves with this culture. The preservation of history cannot be paramount of stopping harmful judgement towards Native people. While the mascot should be different, if it is to be kept everyone should be aware of native culture. Everyone should also know how/why it’s used as a mascot for Mariemont and understand that using a culture as a mascot can result in negative perception of native people. . Cultural awareness and knowledge must spread to rid ignorance. 

The totem pole is chained to the wall by the aux gym, why? I’m not completely sure, I’m not sure that anyone is. The possession of a totem pole in a majority-white school is offensive. Many children at Mariemont refer to the pole as “The Indian.” A totem pole is not sacred to the people of Mariemont. It is sacred to the Native people here before it.  Totem poles tell a story of Native tribes, but Mariemont’s story doesn’t seem to be exemplified by an “Indian,” which is on the pole. Native people deserve more in this country overall, and to keep a piece of their culture in a place where they were pushed out of, somehow doesn’t make sense to me. The Tomahawk Chop is ignorant and offensive. If you don’t know what it is, you haven’t been to a Mariemont football game or a pep rally, didn’t grow up here, or didn’t go to Camp Kern. A group of (majority white) students standing, shouting and “playing indian.” The Tomahawk chop suggests that Native people are known as aggressive and less than human. There are other ways to support your team, please do not use the ONE that offends a culture. Almost “playing indian,” essentially generalizing an entire group of people by one act or caricature makes “us all” look bad. There are many other ways to support your school sports teams which don’t involve dehumanizing minorities. The Tomahawk chop promotes negative stereotypes and there are plenty of other cheers! Our behavior at football games represents us as a school and the Tomahawk chop does not send a good message. Please use cheers that aren’t offensive. 

America is changing, I hope for the better. By keeping the mascot a caricature of a Native American promotes ignorance in Mariemont students. Most kids in Mariemont don’t know the mascot is offensive, or don’t understand why.  This is the ignorance that could easily be applied to other life situations. In order to progress to a non-prejudiced, more enlightened, inclusive and accepting America and Mariemont “the chop,” the totem pole, and the mascot, gotta go! If this doesn’t make you think Mariemont needs change, at least you know it’s offensive to many. If you read it this far, I genuinely appreciate it. Thanks for readin’. 

 

Aniyah Robertson