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Editorial: Should Robinson Middle School change mascot?

Editorial Board • Jan 21, 2020 at 9:00 PM

We’re pleased a member of the Kingsport Board of Education believes the board should revisit the name of a city school mascot. The issue came up two years ago when a committee and survey supported keeping “Redskins” as the mascot for Robinson Middle School.

The word originated as a racial slur to describe Native Americans. Though it may no longer be viewed that way, it remains so as would other terms used to describe a race by skin color. We would not tolerate a school mascot named Blackskins or Yellowskins or Brownskins, and Redskins is no different, especially as a mascot for young students.

The word came into controversy in recent years over its use as the brand of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting its trademarked use as protected speech, the name was retained, but not because its racist origin was forgiven.

Two years ago the school board heard the unanimous recommendation of a special committee tasked to examine middle school names, mascots and colors. The BOE also received the results of two sets of surveys. Based on that input it was decided that the names and mascots of Kingsport’s two middle schools — the Ross N. Robinson Redskins and John Sevier Warriors — would remain intact when the schools eventually relocate.

At a recent meeting, new school board member Julie Byers opened the door to further discuss the issue by saying the board should revisit the colors used by Sevier. Then BOE President Carrie Upshaw said she still has some heartburn about Redskins being the mascot of Robinson.

Among letters to the editor at the time was one that well defined the issue: “Of course the Robinson mascot should no longer be called the Redskins. There is no way to interpret that name other than as a racial slur against Native Americans. To make this obvious, think of a similar stereotypical reference to the skin color of a group of people, only this time let it be a reference you’ve heard used for people of your own race. Now decide if you think the school mascot should have that name, and I think you will see my point.”

The letter stated that “Despite the variation in physical appearance among groups who traditionally inhabited different geographic regions, the study of the human genome has shown that people share in common 99.9 percent of their DNA. That should tell us that only one race really exists: the human race.”

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