Sports mascots and racist stereotyping

centerOn May 13, 2014, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 13th Session, The National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, the American Indian Movement and its Affiliates called for a resolution or a study that addresses racist and derogatory, demeaning propaganda against Indigenous people, in particular the use of the term Redskins by the Washington football team:

“No Indigenous child, nor any child or peoples, should have to grow up in a world where professional sports and media persist in using discriminatory names and mascots that immeasurably damage the selfperception of the child and the child’s equal place in society. However, through the unrestricted use of Indigenous peoples as mascots in sports, media and commerce, Indigenous peoples become victims of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color and national origin. While many Indigenous peoples choose to live their lives with pride and independence from the negative influences of institutional racism, it remains necessary to vigorously assert their equal human rights through education, political action and legal action.
“The names, associated images, and relentless public appropriation of sacred Indigenous peoples heritage include such derogatory and damaging examples as in a football team called the “redskins,” a name that reminds everyone daily of the bloody scalps of Indigenous men, women and children murdered in America. Or, the “Indians,” another name linked to an outrageously racist mascot caricature in professional baseball, and hundreds of appropriated images of Indigenous peoples and cherished Elders to be used for the amusement and profit of nonIndigenous peoples.
“No similar denigrating language, names or images for other minority or protected classes of peoples would be tolerated. Yet, sports organizations, media organizations and many fans have inherited and perpetuated an immunity to racism embedded in derogatory Indigenous sports names and mascots, and the damage they do to the freedom of anyone to live their lives without experiencing prejudice or ridicule.”
Laura Waterman Wittstock, a well-known political activist for the Native American Peoples, notes that the struggle against the name redskins has been going on since at least 1973, when she participated in a meeting with the owners of the football team: “The name Redskins deeply vilifies the very definition of Native Americans as a people and until Americans see that and understand that, it will go on with a hateful term in the name of a commercial enterprise.”

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