We Condemn the Westwood High School Mascot
We Condemn the Westwood High School Mascot
As Westwood High School students and alumni, we condemn the school mascot's Native American elements. Despite the "academically challenging environment", "advanced preparation", and high academic rankings Westwood High School boasts, I know I am embarrassed to refer to myself as a Westwood Warrior; How can one of the most educated high schools in the state be so culturally ignorant and insensitive?
The WHS website ironically states its aim is to "develop internationally minded individuals who recognize their common humanity and shared global guardianship to help create a better and more peaceful world". As students who are supposedly internationally-minded and who want to create a more peaceful world, it is our responsibility to openly condemn the violent brutalization of Native Americans, not profit off of them and ignore history by using their culture and people as a symbolization of our privileged high school struggle. Most importantly, this is not the student body's, staff's, or administration's symbol to use nor justify the use of.
Westwood High School is 0.4% Native American. That means around 11 students of the 2,804 enrolled self-reported to have at least some variable trace of Native American ancestry. Prominent Native American groups around the country have openly condemned Native American themed mascots, so any justification that any Native American was involved in the decision to implement or support this mascot is invalid when almost all Native American groups are working tirelessly to change mascots like ours. (National Congress of American Indians, Change The Mascot, United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), National Indian Education Association, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, and more)
Activism from those that have been culturally and/or racially exploited is working. Among many of those that have changed racially insensitive mascots and affiliations are Stanford University, Dartmouth University, UIUC, Arkansas State University, Juanita High School, Newton High School, and most recently the Washington NFL team. There is no legitimate excuse for Westwood High School to continue this: the mascot is not Westwood High School's "tradition" to uphold, and Westwood High School can surely come up with a way to finance this change of the mascot. How about by diverting money from unused programs this upcoming semester due to the pandemic? This is just one idea of many. The removal rather than the change of the mascot would cost even less. Evident with the changes in other schools and teams bigger and smaller than us, it is very possible to come up with a solution for Westwood's mascot and any mitigation from this issue is inexcusable.
Using a symbolization of any culture represented at Westwood would be wrong. There would be outrage if we had an Asian, Hispanic, or African American man as our mascot, primarily from the victimized group. So Westwood: Why are you taking advantage of people who are not adequately represented at our school and therefore are unable to defend themselves?
Cultural ignorance displayed with our mascot further fuels racism and cultural insensitivity among the student body and those involved. The picture in this petition features the most recent WHS class of 2020's senior t-shirt design, and here is a reminder that part of the brutalization of Native Americans in our history includes the intentional wipeout of indigenous communities by foreign disease. It is completely inaccurate to use this image to portray the class of '20 and their senior event cancellations due to COVID-19. After complaints, this shirt was removed and new shirts were dispersed. But despite knowing the offense this shirt caused, this did not stop the self-proclaimed "underground selling" of these shirts by parents of students as seen in the picture. We do wonder why these parents were so adamant to sell this racist shirt that did not belong to their generation with a symbol that did not belong to them. By not aggressively condemning this mascot we are perpetuating this despicable behavior.
The Westwood High School mascot is not symbolic of the student body or administration; It is not a tribute, nor a tradition, nor is it unchangeable. Sign/share this petition to spread the word and to show that you do not support this mascot. Do not be complacent. Resist activism that is solely performative. Do something about it.
Sources to educate yourself: