PARMA, Ohio (WJW)– The pressure for professional sports teams, like the Cleveland Indians, to drop Native American names and mascots is quickly trickling down to local school districts.
By one count, more than 200 schools across the state of Ohio use Native American names for their sports teams. Those include Parma Senior High school, where the district renamed its sports teams from the Greyhounds to the Redmen in 1936.
During a June 11 school board meeting, Parma City School District Board President John Schweitzer read several letters to the board demanding that the district change that name immediately.
“Given the global attitude toward recognizing systemic racism, I’m asking school board to revisit and change the current name/mascot of the Parma Senior High Redmen to something that is less likely to be construed as racially insensitive by the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic school year,” asked one resident.
“Our continuing identification with this name, which according to Webster’s Dictionary is a racial slur, sends a message of ignorance and reflects a regressive learning system. I know this is not who we are and that is why I am demanding to make this change immediately,” asked a 2005 Parma graduate.
“Regardless of how the name Redmen first came into being, whether good or bad or indifferent, today’s world is different than when it came into being and I understand that,” said Schweitzer, who instructed the district’s superintendent to schedule opportunities for the community to offer input.
Monday’s release from Parma superintendent Dr. Charles Smialek explained the history of the Redmen name.
“The students and alumni wanted an image that exemplified nobility, loyalty and courage. The American Indian represented these characteristics.
“Those questions of honesty; their word was their bond; their loyalty was to their family and tribe. They showed their courage despite the overwhelming challenges they faced. They never gave up. Not only did they respect their elders for the knowledge and wisdom that they received from them; but also they respected the earth for what it gave them to survive.
“The Redmen was named for honor, not to desecrate,” the district explained in its release.
But Native Americans insist it is demeaning.
“Regardless of goodwill and regardless of any permission some non-native school might have from a tribal community, they still perpetuate harmful racist stereotypes,” said Joshua Hunt, a Native American activist and vice-vhairman of the committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance.
“Just because it’s attached to childhood memories or experiences when they grew up with it, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s harmful,” Hunt said.
On FOX 8’s Facebook page on Monday, hundreds reacted with opposition to any change.
At least one Parma school board member appeared to support re-naming the school district’s teams.
“Removing the Redman logo is long overdue,” said Amanda Karpus at the June 11meeting
The Parma City School District has scheduled three meetings for public input on July 13, July 23 and Aug. 12. Follow up sessions are planned with student panels in September, but regardless of what the community shares with the school board the name would not be changed for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Every one of the Parma Senior High School athletics teams has at least one uniform that includes either Redmen or the logo or both. Most teams have multiple uniforms that display the name and/or logo. We are not in a position to replace these for this coming year, even if we adopted an alternative immediately,” the district said.
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