Out With the Old

How the Black Liberation Movement is paving way for antiracist hallways East High’s official removal of the Native American mascot

Joselyn Hildebrand

“We’re unapologetically fighting for social justice. Remember brown is beautiful, black lives matter, and love unconditionally,””

— Andy Montalvo-Martinez

It’s 2019, and you’re walking into East High on the way to your first block. It is your freshman year. Upon entering the school, you walk past the attendance office where they also sell some East High gear. You see the Native American mascot on a couple of shirts hanging on the wall. Hmm, weird. Wonder why that is the mascot? You continue walking and you see a senior football player wearing his letterman jacket. You see the Native American mascot again on the back of his jacket. Why is your high school using a community’s culture for their mascot?

“I asked my grandfather who is an East High alumni, about the mascot and if there were any traditions behind it while he was there. He told me that at games and events the mascot was many times made a mockery of having someone dress around in a costume and dance around while getting things thrown at him. It was literally just a big joke to people,” junior Lyric Sellers said.

Students at East High are working to change this mascot now. However, this leaves some people wondering why change it now after all this time?

“Many students have wanted the change for years but after the murder of George Floyd this summer, a group of students, teachers, and leaders from the district formed to work on racial equity and social justice within the district with the goal of really becoming the model for urban education. Out of this group came a specific East group and one of their goals was to finally eradicate this racist and inappropriate mascot,” English teacher Megan Geha said.

The Black Liberation Movement that sparked at the beginning of this summer has kickstarted many antiracist changes, the East High mascot change is just one of them.

“Through my work with my racial equity proposal for DMPS, I knew I had to include the immediate removal of East High’s indigenous mascot as to honor my own Mesoamerican indigenous ancestors and (considering the dark history of colonization, genocide, and enslavement) fight for racial justice,” senior Andy Montalvo-Martinez said.

People have formed groups to get rid of these mascots across the nation.

According to Nation Congress of American Indians, “In 1968 NCAI launched a campaign to address stereotypes of Native people in popular culture and media, as well as in sports. Since this effort began, there has been a great deal of progress made and support to end the era of harmful “Indian” mascots in sports.”

Many professional sports teams are in the process of or already have removed their indigenous mascots. The changes or removals of these racist mascots dates to the 1970s. As of July 2020, The Washington R**skins are now The Washington football team. They have also retired their logo. East High is setting a good example to other public schools across the nation.

“We were approached by a couple students and alumni about changing the imagery associated with the word Scarlets during the summer. There have been multiple attempts throughout the 2000s to change the mascot but those attempts never succeeded. The change of the mascot or the meaning behind the word Scarlets is necessary as we see many professional and collegiate teams change or remove mascots and/or imagery that is offensive or demeaning to an individual or group of people,” athletics director Lyle Fedders said.