True Costs?

One month ago I was asked by the Walton Tribune Newspaper if I wanted to pen an editorial, a response, to the Superintendent’s unilateral decision to halt a never-started conversation regarding the redskin mascot. So, I asked my friend Kelsey if she wanted to help. We’ve both been passionate about removing (and replacing) our alma mater’s mascot because we see it as a symptom of a larger problem…and because we still love our school system. (Plus, Kelsey is a great writer!) Two is always better than one, right?

Below is our response. I’m here for any type of conversation, so please let me know what you think!

John Lewis spoke on social justices in the midst of the Cold War and Vietnam War; social justice was never the only issue occurring in the United States: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

That is what current students, alumni, and community members have been doing in regards to the mascot at Social Circle City Schools over the past three months. We have been publicly telling the unfiltered truth that the term “redskin” is a derogatory and a highly offensive word against Native Americans; it has a history stained in blood. 

In spite of decades of a well-intended tradition, our schools’ mascot should not be one that disrespect some if not all. 

Since July, the Board of Education has allowed us to publicly state the truth regarding this term (and we are thankful for that opportunity). We spoke up despite the personal attacks levied against us by the opposition. We spoke up waiting for the interactive, two-sided conversation we were promised.

As much as we respect the superintendent, we are disappointed that he halted this discussion before the engagement even began. We are disappointed that, like the current state of our nation, the financial costs to the system had a greater value than the negative impact of such a derogatory term on students’ social-emotional wellbeing. We are disappointed because dismissing this need for change contradicts the superintendent’s and entire school system’s mission to teach students to feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relations, and make responsible decisions.

The financial cost is undeniable, but it is not one that has to be taken on right now. There are non-monetary changes that the system can implement that can positively impact the social-emotional wellbeing of its “stakeholders”. For example, instead of indoctrinating students as young as primary school with a password of “redskin plus lunch number”, use “social circle plus lunch number.” Instead of having the study period in students’ schedules called “redskin period,” call that time “homeroom” or “advisement” as it was before the change was made…

History has shown us that significant, meaningful change on the frontend that is not done will end up costing more on the backend (i.e. the social injustices we are dealing with 400 years later).

We acknowledge that having a five-year strategic plan is advantageous, but things happen that we do not plan.  That is why we have a board and superintendent to analyze. When the superintendent wrote in his statement that “during the development of the 5 year strategic plan, this issue [of removing the current mascot] was not identified as being something that needed to be addressed,” we doubt that five years ago the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, had it in their strategic plan to change their mascot. Nonetheless, they took on the challenge.

We doubt that many had the pandemic on their five-year strategic plan, but it is on the top of many lists now. As a community, we have shown that we are capable of adapting and progressing to meet more than one need our citizens at a time.

Conversation does not cost a penny. Acknowledging truth and dealing with controversy is priceless but refusing to acknowledge truth and make changes can cost a generation the chance to move forward without a burden.

The continuation of the “redskin” mascot contradicts the social-emotional learning component of SCCS’ strategic plan. 

You see, the “redskin” is not a mascot issue. It is a respect issue. We as adults, teachers, administrators, and community members have the opportunity to model how young people should reckon questionable traditions with the truth. We can either choose to deal with it directly by having a purposeful, meaningful, and true conversation then agree upon action(s) or we can sideline it, silence it, and put that cost on future generations to deal with later. Each has a cost. 

We respectfully ask that the superintendent and board members re-evaluate that cost and truly come back to the table with that promised conversation.

Well, those are our words. Again, let me know your thoughts, comments, questions, ideas, anything! An interactive conversation goes both ways, so I/we have spoken and not it is my/our turn to listen to you…

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