Cheyenne Mountain High School near Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs where I grew up has a mascot, or did. Since, well, forever, they were the “Cheyenne Mountain Indians.” The mascot’s depiction is a respectful image that could have come out of an Edward Curtis lithograph. It’s not a caricature.
The wokerati recently demanded that the Indian mascot be changed and that the word “Indian” be canceled. They have not demanded that the Indian tribe “Cheyenne” be canceled. Yet.
Over the objections of at least 2,000 alumni and other petitioners who asked that the Indian stay, the school board gave in to the bullies and expelled the Indian. They’re changing the mascot.
What next, will the bullying PC crowd shake down the school board for their lunch money?
The bullies were vague about their “reasoning.” The mascot is racist because the depiction is bad, they imply. Or maybe it constitutes cultural appropriation because the depiction is good, they simultaneously imply. The only thing they said directly was, stop asking why and just do what we say.
Since the bullies won’t discuss this, I will. First, let’s consider racism. Is there something racist about a respectful depiction of indigenous Americans? If so, those beautiful Edward Curtis lithographs celebrated in the Smithsonian are all racist. So too are photographs of Arabs in traditional garb, Scots wearing kilts, Japanese in kimonos and Los Angelenos in leisure suits.
Perhaps it’s the word “Indian” that is racist. I recognize that the preferred label is now “Native American.” If they liked to be called “Indian” about 50 years ago, and like to be called “Native American” now for whatever reason, I’ll abide by that.
But changing the mascot from “Indian” to “Native American” does not satisfy the bullies. It’s not just the word “Indian” to which they object, it’s any word or phrase that is associated with indigenous Americans.
By the way, why are they “indigenous” or “native” Americans? They weren’t always here. They migrated here from Asia across a land bridge at the Bering Strait during the last ice age about 14,000 years ago and probably, to a lesser extent, over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans before and after then. A better label would be “pre-Columbian Americans” but that’s not exactly right either because the European Vikings were here before Columbus.
The most accurate term to describe the group we call “Native Americans” would be “Prehistoric Migratory Asian-Americans.” I know that’s not very catchy.
Let’s go on to cultural appropriation. The argument goes, I suppose, that “Indian” is a word to describe a people and their culture, and that other cultures are prohibited from copying a culture that is not theirs, even if they do it respectfully and well.
But cultures mimic other cultures all the time. Culture is like love in that it increases, not decreases, when shared. Borrowing from a culture doesn’t lessen that culture. European pagans copied Mideastern Judaism and Christianity. Asians adopted western business attire. Indigenous Americans are glad to use Northeastern American culture by accepting minority-reserved scholarships to Harvard.
And what about the word “American” in the phrase “Native American”? That term honors an Italian mapmaker named Amerigo Vespucci who correctly theorized that the lands Columbus sailed to were not Asia, but an continent previously unknown to Europeans (other than those intrepid Vikings). For Indigenous Americans to call themselves “Americans” is to culturally appropriate southern Europeans. How is that OK?
Of course, we all know how that’s OK. It’s because it’s OK to appropriate white stuff. White guys appropriating black jazz music is now verboten, but black jazz musicians appropriating white trumpets, saxophones and keyboards is OK. People of color can do white stuff but white people aren’t allowed to do POC stuff.
OK, that’s the rule. But why? Besides, don’t you have a hunch that if we failed to copy their culture a little, they’d complain about that too?
And where’s the consistency? For example, we’ve been busy re-naming white stuff to honor Indigenous American names. “Mount McKinley” is now “Denali.” But isn’t that an appropriation of the Indigenous American name “Denali”?
The rule seems to be that white people cannot appropriate an Indigenous American name unless the Indigenous Americans demand that they do. And then white people can appropriate it only until the Indigenous Americans demand that they don’t, at which point white people have to stop until the Indigenous Americans demand that they start again.
So what’s really going on here? It’s inconceivable that even the most delicate snowflake is feeling butt hurt by the name Cheyenne Mountain Indians.
What’s going on is that bullies are bullying. It’s what they do. Bullies shaking kids down for their lunch money aren’t really after a few coins. They’re after power. They get it by humiliating others.
The school board giving in to them is bad for them, bad for us and bad for schools.