Lost in the debate over how much money it would cost to change the Washington NFL team’s name or what a name change would mean for the football team’s institutional legacy is the reality that using American Indians as sports team mascots has a real impact on Native Americans.
And far from being limited to the world of pro sports, K-12 schools across the country continue to use American Indians as sports mascots. All of it colors the self-concept of young Native Americans, according to a new report released today from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (PDF).
Write report authors Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips:
American Indian/Alaska Native students across the country attend K-12 and postsecondary schools that still maintain racist and derogatory mascots. Research shows that these team names and mascots can establish an unwelcome and hostile learning environment for AI/AN students. It also reveals that the presence of AI/AN mascots directy results in lower self-esteem and mental health for AI/AN adolescents and young adults. And just as importantly, studies show that these mascots undermine the educational experience of all students, particularly those with little or no contact with indigenous and AI/AN people. In other words, these stereotypical representations are too often understood as factual representations and thus “contribute to the development of cultural biases and prejudices.”
Read the report in full (PDF).