Change the Syosset Braves Mascot
Change the Syosset Braves Mascot
In light of the current political climate and events in our own school, it is imperative that the Syosset Central School District reforms its attitude towards people of color. As a Blue Ribbon School, it is necessary to be sensitive towards racial issues in the district.
For years, Syosset has had a Native American head as its mascot. Not only is this culturally insensitive, but it perpetuates a variety of stereotypes and has multifaceted social effects. As noted by the American Psychological Association, having a Native American mascot presents an entire culture as a stereotype. This, in turn, furthers the assumption that culturally insensitive and inaccurate conceptions about Native American culture are acceptable. For instance, studies show that exposure to these mascots reinforces the idea that Native Americans are "warlike". Implicit biases such as this one are dangerous, as they can have a significant effect on hiring practices, jury preferences, and criminal sentencing in the future (study mentioned). Psychologically, Native American mascots have deleterious consequences on Native American students' self-esteem, as they support a variety of stereotypes promoted in society (APA Review).
In addition, considering America's colonial history with the indigenous population, it is grossly ignorant to have a Native American be a representative of sports teams. Native American mascots and team names originated and were extensively adopted during the time of the Dawes Act, described by former President Roosevelt himself as "a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass". This period of intense settler-colonialialism, or the effort of colonists to replace original societies with new ones, was marked by widespread land disposession, genocidal practices, and government led efforts to force assimilation of natives from their nations to the United States. As noted in a comprehensive review of Native American mascots, "the increasing invisibility of Indigenous people as distinctly Indigenous in their territorialized, collective existence...as a component of the American settler vision of Indigenous people as a disappearing people, opened the space for and was also fostered by the active symbolic appropriation of Indigenous identity for the sake of the reproduction of American settler identity and belonging" (work mentioned). The lack of respect for and appropriation of indigenous culture has been present, then, since the time of colonization, adopted after land disposession and forced assimilation. Continuing to use Native American mascots and team names continues a pattern of overlooking the intense settler-colonialist atrocities that paved the way to cultural appropriation.
There cannot be two sides to social issues such as this one. Having an offensive image represent our school district sets a precedent for potential insensitive actions taken in the future. While multiple efforts have been unsuccessfully made to change the mascot in the past, given the current political climate, hopefully progress can be made. Especially in the 21st century, it is incorrect to let racist symbols from a time marked by racism and bigotry define us in the name of tradition.