West­wood High’s mas­cot of­fers les­son in hyp­o­crit­i­cal think­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

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.


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