EDITORIAL: The Injustice of Tradition

By Staff

Ever since the Red-Tailed Hawk became the mascot in 1989, a small group has advocated bringing the old “Indian” mascot back. There’s no question as to whether the old mascot was offensive; every Native American interviewed in this month’s feature thought the mascot’s portrayal was degrading. “It is part of the racism of the last 500 years that dehumanizes us as a race of people,” said Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who has been part of the Tam community since 1988. However those who advocate bringing the old mascot back remain ignorant of its blatant degradation of culture, and exemplify the arrogance of attempting to defend racism.

“I just like to continue old traditions,” said George Cagwin, one of the most vocal advocates of restoring the Indian mascot and president of the Tamalpais High School Alumni Association. Defending tradition is a weak argument; any junior who’s gone through Mr. Lavezzo’s English class knows that an appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy. Racism isn’t valid just because it’s always been done that way.

Those affected by racism are the only ones who can decide whether or not actions towards them are racist. They experience discrimination in ways that people in the majority cannot understand. It adds insult to injury when those unaffected by discrimination attempt to defend their racist actions. For Tam alumni, the old mascot represents a tradition—the mascot is Tam’s image, so there’s reason to be upset if it suddenly changes one day. For Native Americans, the old mascot represents how their culture has been completely defaced and apprehended in recent centuries. Bringing back the “Indian” mascot disrespects an entire racial group; leaving it as the Hawk upsets a few alumni who are resistant to change.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a student at Tam who didn’t even know this debate existed. An important takeaway from examining this issue is that it’s not up to white people to decide what is or what isn’t racist. Native Americans say the mascot harms their culture. Regardless of white opinions on as to how they should feel, Native Americans are still degraded if one wears a Tam “Indian” T-shirt to defend a tradition that likely ended before current Tam students were born.