I had a conversation tonight with the lovely Mrs. Jib about Native American nicknames/logos/mascots. She came from a school that falls into that category. Frankly, this isn't a topic I care much about one way or the other. I think those who oppose them could do much better things with their time if they visited a reservation and lifted a finger to actually help real, breathing, Native Americans, whether with their hard work or their check books. And I think the defenders could improve their communities by taking any passions for these nicknames and using them instead to improve their hometowns. But my conversation with the lovely Mrs. Jib did teach me something.
The people in these communities? They aren't making fun of Native Americans. They aren't even ambivalent about them. They are fiercely proud of their association with them. And that gets lost in these debates. Opponents (and sorry, more often they are bleeding heart whites than actual Native Americans) often immediately tar supporters as racists, but it just isn't the case. Sometimes people are misguided and cartoonish in their portrayals, and that's wrong. But it doesn't change the pride people have in their communities' ties to Native America. You don't see American communities calling their schools the 'Brown Shirts' or the 'Grand Wizards'.
By scouring Native American references from our high schools and colleges, what we might be effectively doing is scouring Native America itself from the day to day conscience of most Americans. Face it, for most people, an encounter with an actual Native American is an extreme rarity. By removing their reference from daily life, we might be further removing any curiosity about the harsh realities of modern Native American life and increasing the likelihood that the stereotypes will win over.