Retire the Redmen

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We are East Islip High School alumni who have gone on to become successful doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers, parents, and active members of our communities. We are tax paying East Islip school district citizens who love our bagels, pizza, Italian ices, and driving down Bayview Avenue to watch the sunset by the bay. We are current East Islip school district students who are on championship-winning sports teams, in top-notch music ensembles, and are working hard to prepare to attend some of the best universities in the country. We are filled with EI Pride. We love our hometown by the bay. It is because of this pride that we humbly ask our town and our school district to do better by finally retiring the Redmen mascot.

We recognize that many have a real attachment to the Redmen name. A lot of us did, too. We played sports under it, emblazoned it on our class rings, and took graduation photos in front of the “Home of the Redmen” sign with beaming pride. We take tradition very seriously. But the time has come to ask ourselves if our traditions outweigh the consequences that our actions, or inactions, hold for real humans in and around our community.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Redman” as a “dated, now often offensive term for American Indian.” The National Congress of American Indians states, “The intolerance and harm promoted by these “Indian” sports mascots, logos, or symbols, have very real consequences for Native people. Specifically, rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.” The East Islip School District’s insistence on maintaining this harmful mascot as its representative signals a lack of respect and appreciation for members of other minority groups in our community and only serves to further invite racial divisiveness.

Thankfully, there is an incredibly easy solution and countless alternatives that would not only be more appropriate, but which could actually promote the values, traditions, and history of our community.

For example, we could work together with a local Native tribe to find a name that is not offensive, and which instead honors the Native people who once inhabited the land in the district, like the University of Utah and their mascot “The Utes.”

East Islip’s own motto - “EI Pride” - could also serve as a source of inspiration for a new mascot: EI Pride. EI Osprey (a bird of prey endemic to our town on the bay), EI Eagles, or other similar non-human mascot names would create a powerful mascot as well.

Is this the legacy of East Islip, or can we do better? Will you continue to allow the name of our school, with our excellent academics, sports, music, and more, to continue to be associated with such an offensive and racist mascot? Will East Islip continue to be complicit in upholding a symbol of racial insensitivity that only serves to divide us, or will our town band together with a message of unity and finally retire the “Redmen,” maybe even inspiring other schools to do the same?

We want nothing more than to feel proud of where we are from. Surely, we can do better for our students, our alumni, and our community. EI Pride forever.