The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is calling for an end to the use of Native American imagery as school mascots in the state.
The CHRO, a governmental civil rights agency that is charged with enforcing the state's antidiscrimination laws, issued a news release on the subject Tuesday afternoon, urging schools to stop using American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) names, symbols, and images for its athletic teams.
The release read in part:
"A sports mascot is a symbol animated by its fans. Reflected in an image, a name, and often a costume, a mascot is, at its core, a caricature of the group it aims to represent. AI/AN mascots reduce the diaspora of indigenous communities to one stereotypical image and label. That image is then brought to life not by the community who it supposedly represents, but by players and fans who know little about AI/AN cultures and identities. Fans impersonate and mock AI/AN people, often resorting to stereotypes and slurs when cheering or jeering teams during sporting events. Fans refer to teams as 'tribes', engage in the 'Tomahawk chop', bang 'war drums' and wear 'war paint.' These acts are completely devoid of any cultural context and amount to cultural appropriation."
The agency cited a University of Michigan study that showed using Native American mascots creates a hostile learning environment for AI/AN students and compromises the educational experience of non-Native American students by not providing them with an accurate understanding of AI/AN communities.
"The practice of using American Indian names and imagery as part of the educational experience has gone on for too long in Connecticut," said Tanya Hughes, CHRO's executive director. "Using these names is an act of racist appropriation, and that is not even considering the mounting evidence of quantifiable harm being done to all students. While we understand this may be a challenge for some communities, it is time for this practice to end.”