Westwood High’s mascot offers lesson in hypocritical thinking
At Westwood High School in Round Rock, where I’m a senior, our mascot is a Native American. We call ourselves the Westwood Warriors and partake in “dressing up” as Native Americans to show our “school pride.”
Two years ago, the volleyball team dressed as Hollywood’s idea of Native Americans for their team photo. Though some students have tried to persuade past administrations to change our mascot, change has yet to occur. With the rise in popularity of the protests spearheaded by the Standing Rock Tribe, I have become more aware of the hypocritical attitude of Westwood, a school that uses the image of Native Americans but does not represent them.
Though the new school administration recognizes that cultural appropriation is a problem, it is leaving it up to students to actualize change. When I met with the Westwood administration regarding this issue, I was encouraged to form a student committee to focus on tackling the problem of cultural appropriation. The administration, although unwilling to change the mascot to something else, wants to incorporate more of the Native American culture at school.
Of Westwood’s total population, only 0.4 percent is Native American. Westwood holds many multicultural events throughout the year to celebrate its diverse student body. For example, at Taste of Asia, Westwood students share dances, food and music from the continent’s culture. Yet, as of now, there are no cultural celebrations for Native American students.
Westwood is not the only school to have a Native American as a mascot. For example, recently the NCAA called on 18 colleges to change their mascots. This was met with backlash from the schools, which like Westwood see the image of the Native American as a powerful figure, not as something inherently racist.
This pattern of ambivalence toward Native Americans helped President Donald Trump’s executive order to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline go virtually uncontested. When trying to engage in conversation with friends about this issue, their lack of awareness about the pipeline epitomizes how the public has become desensitized to Native American violence.
Though the coverage of the pipeline protest by popular news sources like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News focused on protests by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and actress Shailene Woodley, it ignored the overt discrimination practiced by the oil companies. It is not often mentioned that the pipeline was originally supposed to go through a mostly white neighborhood — but when those residents argued against it, the pipeline was moved onto the land of the Standing Rock Tribe. This decision went directly against past treaties between the United States and other Native American tribes.
Although the coverage of this presidential election received a lot of flak for its lack of focus on facts and important issues, it also encouraged participation from many different demographics that were previously underrepresented in the political sphere. This election reminded me of the importance of listening and acknowledging previously ignored segments of the population.
Although it may seem that a high school student’s voice will not lead to actual change, every action that encourages more inclusiveness and equality is always important. The purpose for writing this is not to criticize Westwood — a school I am very proud to attend — but is rather to encourage more people to speak out in favor of Native Americans and other marginalized groups who are negatively affected by the new president’s administration.
Westwood High School’s administration, although unwilling to change the school’s mascot (above) to something else, wants to incorporate more of the Native American culture at school, a senior at the school writes.