PARMA, Ohio (WJW)– A passionate debate is happening as a local school district grapples with whether to change its long-standing mascot that some people view as racist.
Parma Senior High School has been known as the Redmen for more than 80 years, but some say it is time to retire the name.
“That was him and if you look at our logo, it’s an exact duplicate of it,” said Anthony DeMarco, a Parma Senior High School Class of 1962 alum.
DeMarco spoke first at Monday night’s special community meeting, held on Zoom, regarding the school’s mascot: the Redmen. It was the first of three public forums for people to let school officials know whether to change it.
“It was never done from a racist standpoint at all… when he came to the meeting, he said he was a Redman,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco explained the name is in honor of a Native-American chief that visited Parma in the 1930s. He said the community was so impressed with his culture and values that they changed the school mascot from the Greyhounds to the Redmen.
“It’s very embarrassing to have to say that that’s your mascot for your high school. It’s looked at as so outdated. It’s looked at as very racist,” said Brittany, a 2007 graduate.
“There’s no difference between black face or red face… One is just as wrong as the other,” said Tony Prusak, who graduated in 1986.
“It is a description based on skin color and gender. That does not honor. That is dehumanization. A mascot based on a so-called noble stereotype is still a stereotype,” said Sonja Barisic, who also graduated in 1986.
“I played football with two guys on my team at Parma High who were Native American, they went to the reservations and their dad showed up at all the games, wearing a headpiece and he was traditionally honored by the name,” said wrestling coach Justin Halaska, who got his diploma from Parma High in 2013.
Parma City School District Superintendent, Dr. Charles Smialek said this is an emotionally-charged issue and the district wants to hear as many opinions as possible before making any changes.
“I am definitely affiliated with the small Native American population here and I do feel it is offensive,” said Sherry Norman, parent.
“The question will remain now, why then… If it’s not acceptable at the collegiate level and it’s not acceptable at the professional sports level, that it should remain acceptable at the elementary and secondary school level,” said Sundance, a Native-American community activist, who pushed the Cleveland Indians to remove the Chief Wahoo logo.
There will be two more public meetings, held via Zoom, on July 23 and Aug. 12.
The superintendent said no decision has been made, but if the district does decide to change the name, it would not be in time for this coming school year.
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