The process of determining new school nicknames – a task that elicits passion from generations and has triggered countless “Are you serious” suggestions and even more heartfelt recommendations – is underway at four Houston ISD campuses.
Lamar and Westbury high schools and Hamilton and Welch middle schools had their previous nicknames banned by the HISD board earlier this month, and they are expected to finalize new nicknames by March.
“We’ve already talked with the student council and the students, and they’re very serious about this,” said Lamar Principal James McSwain, who has been flooded by suggestions for the new nickname. “They understand that we were the Redskins for 76 years, and at the end of 76 years, people feel very passionately.
“What you want is – after 76 more years – people to feel as passionately about the mascot that you choose as the one that we had.”
As you know, I’ve been following this issue closely. Some people are unhappy that HISD instituted this policy, and some people will be unhappy with the new names and mascots that get chosen. That’s life, and it won’t be long till it’s all forgotten. This was the right thing for HISD to do, and I hope the students and alumni of these schools view it as an opportunity.
On a related note, I commend you to read this fascinating story of the history of the Washington NFL team’s nickname, and the ongoing fight to get them to change it. One tidbit from the story stood out to me:
Students, parents, and Native Americans alike successfully argued for name changes in school districts and states across the country. A number of state boards of education have conducted a system-wide reviews of every Native American mascot in use in their schools. Miami University in Ohio, named after the Miami tribe, changed its name from Redskins to Redhawks in 1997. High schools across the country made similar changes, dumping “Redskins” and other names in favor of new monikers. In 2005, the NCAA passed a bylaw prohibiting schools from wearing any logo it deemed “hostile” or “abusive” toward Native Americans on uniforms during postseason play. Schools with such mascots wouldn’t be allowed to bring them to postseason games. As a result, the University of Illinois, with much consternation, dropped its iconic Chief Illiniwek mascot, who for years performed faux-Native dances at basketball and football games. Other schools followed.
In 1970, more than 3,000 high school, college, and professional sports teams had Native American nicknames or mascots. Today, fewer than 1,000 remain.
That’s a lot of progress in the last 40-some years. Still a ways to go, but substantial progress. I wouldn’t want to be the last school or the last school district to sport one of these offensive nicknames or mascots. Deal with it now and let someone else earn that dubious honor.