Petition for Concordia College - NY to Retire Clippers Mascot
Petition for Concordia College - NY to Retire Clippers Mascot
Dearest Alma Mater,
As a Concordia College - NY alumna, it has come to my attention that the Clipper's mascot is entirely inappropriate, and a figure of veiled systemic racism. Upon gathering extensive sources to prove that clipper ships were used to transport and trade slaves, I felt it my responsibility to bring this issue to light. As an ally, I stand with my Black brothers and sisters — many of whom I met while studying at Concordia — to enact tangible change in the face of race relations in America, one step at a time. I implore you to understand both the consequences of ignoring this reality and the immense benefit such an alteration would impart upon your diverse student body.
The year is 2020, and this change to our alma mater is long overdue.
GROUNDS FOR PETITION
It is no secret that when people come together toward a common goal, anything is possible. The use of online petitions to canvass the public on a variety of issues has become a 21st-century must in terms of creating lasting, positive changes to the fabric of our American society. A few notable examples over the last decade include:
- Justice for George Floyd, Eric Garner & Trayvon Martin
- Passing the PACT Act
- Passing Caylee's Law
- Saving Rodney Reed
- Honoring Nipsey Hussle
FOUR DIMENSIONS OF RACISM
According to Collective, "a DEI consultancy and research lab that is shifting how millennial-driven organizations build, engage, and retain diverse teams in today's workforce," there exist four dimensions of racism:
- "Institutional Racism: Policies and practices that reinforce racist standards within a workspace or organization."
- "Structural Racism: Multiple institutions collectively upholding racist policies and practices, i.e. society."
- "Interpersonal Racism: Racist acts and micro-aggressions carried out from one person to another."
- "Internalized Racism: The subtle and overt messages that reinforce negative beliefs and self-hatred in individuals."
EVIDENCE OF CLIPPER SHIPS USED IN SLAVE TRADE
By definition, a Clipper ship is "a type of mid-19th-century merchant sailing ship, designed for speed."
According to the Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery, under Ships, the following is said about Clippers: "Aging and worn-out clipper ships served as slavers and continued to sail the transatlantic routes until the final abolition of slavery in the Western Hemisphere when it was abolished in Brazil in 1888" (Rodriguez, 586).
Notable variations of Clipper ships include the Baltimore Clipper, the Sunny South Clipper, and The Arabian Clipper; all were used in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. If you'd like to learn more in-depth, I encourage you to read the National Geographic article titled "How U.S. Clipper Ships Changed World Trade," as well as "An Alabama Shipwreck Reveals the Untold Story of International Slave Trade."
CONCORDIA'S DIVERSE STUDENT BODY
According to the homepage of concordia-ny.edu, "Concordia is a college Where Worlds Meet [...] We celebrate diversity: of background, interests and life paths. At Concordia, students from all over the world and across the rich map of human experience engage with an ethics-infused, career-focused curriculum on their way to impacting our shared future through lives of passion, purpose and service."
Make no mistake, Concordia College - NY has made leaps and bounds in terms of paying respect to a culturally diverse American history.
- Appointing Rev. John Arthur Nunes as President.
- Hiring an almost entirely Black roster of Admissions Recruiters.
- Commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement both on-campus and in Selma, Alabama with the Tour Choir.
So why, in its 139-year history, has Concordia College - NY maintained its erasure of historical fact? A fact rooted in the disenfranchisement, imprisonment, trafficking, forced labor, heinous torture, and murder of African Americans on American soil and over international waters.
By ignoring the indisputable fact that "Concordia Clippers" contradicts this institution's Christian mission and values, it sends a clear message to your Black students and alumni that white privilege has prevailed.
CONTRADICTION OF FAITH
Of Concordia's Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod sponsorship, the very least we expect is to practice what you preach. Atop the "Church Relations" page at concordia-ny.edu, is a fitting, and albeit ironic, statement: "At the heart of our mission at Concordia College is service to church and community. After all, everything we do ultimately reflects in our society, and should spring from our Lutheran identity and heritage." To that, I say, indeed. Show us.
Scripture on the importance of truth...
"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Scripture on the importance of helping thy neighbor...
"The king will answer them, 'I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.'"
EXAMPLES OF SPORTS TEAMS UPDATING THEIR MASCOTS
According to changethemascot.org, "a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur “r*dskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.," the following teams have changed their mascots following public pressure over its indecency.
In 1972, Stanford University Indians became Stanford University Cardinals, and the University of Massachusetts Redmen became the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.
In 1974, Dartmouth College Indians became Dartmouth College Big Green. In 1988, Siena Indians became Siena Saints.
In 1991, Eastern Michigan Hurons became Eastern Michigan Eagles.
In 1994, St. John’s Redmen became St. John's Red Storm and Marquette Warriors became Marquette Golden Eagles.
In 2000, Seattle University Chieftains became Seattle University Redhawks.
In 2006, Louisiana-Monroe Indians became Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.
In 2008, Arkansas State Indians became Arkansas State Red Wolves.
In 2012, North Dakota Fighting Sioux was dropped and later become North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Michael A. Friedman, Ph.D., compiled research on the "The Harmful Psychological Effects of the Washington Football Mascot." Furthermore, numerous studies and literature have been published on the damaging psychological effects on people of color when faced with racism. Here is one in particular:
"Racism and Ethnoviolence as Trauma: Enhancing Professional and Research Training" By Janet E. Helms, Guerda Nicolas, and Carlton E. Green (Via Sage Journals)
With that, I assert that the Clippers symbol is similarly triggering for the Black community, a community Concordia educates and employs.
POSSIBLE MASCOT ALTERNATIVES
In petitioning Concordia College - NY to retire their Clipper mascot, it only makes sense to propose viable alternatives. Each option listed below would transition nicely with its current alliteration, and would not require a change in Concordia's blue and gold color scheme. My personal favorite is Concordia Couriers. No matter which definition of the noun, courier, can be symbolic of carrying forth a message, as in a message from God of love and against hate. I believe this to be a step in the right direction.
- Concordia Couriers
- Concordia Comets
- Concordia Canaries
- Concordia Centennials
- Concordia Challengers
- Concordia Christians
- Concordia Citizens
- Concordia Cyclones
Let the students decide.
I would also like to note that a new mascot logo design should be illustrated by a Black graphic designer. Even better if they are a student of Concordia College - NY.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the only way for businesses to move forward is to:
- Avoid missteps like keeping silent, adopting strategic colorblindness, becoming overly defensive, and overgeneralizing.
The same applies to colleges and universities.
While I understand that retiring the Clippers mascot would require updating letterhead, merchandise, athletic facilities and gear, I will remind you that history is watching.
Growth and change are wholly uncomfortable, no matter the circumstance, which is why many long-standing institutions, corporations, and organizations remain stagnant.
But as history has shown us, when we confront our misdoings, the change we see is our reward. Please understand, that if Concordia College - NY chooses to be on the side of progress, this alignment of your faith in truth will cause a domino effect.
- The enrollment of both Black students and students of color will increase.
- Other U.S. colleges and universities will take note and/or action.
- An overarching sense of solidarity will be reached.
Will you empathize with our concerns enough to retire the Concordia Clippers mascot?
A Proactive Alumn