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Your Tewksbury Today

LETTER: Isn't It Time For A New Mascot/Logo We Can All Be Proud Of?

Jan 18, 2016 05:17PM ● By Bill Gilman

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

My name is Maria Simon. I grew up and went to school in Tewksbury. My parents still live here. I recently saw some Tewksbury friends and was surprised to hear about the controversy around changing the team names from Redmen to something less offensive. 

I’ve been a teacher of young children for 25 years. I continue to strive to teach my students in a culturally sensitive way and without the use of stereotypes. The public school district in which I teach is, like Tewksbury, comprised mostly of white people. Yet, mine is a multicultural classroom, with images and stories from a range of perspectives, not solely from the majority, powerful, white one. 

When I teach about Christopher Columbus and later the first Thanksgiving, I tell the kids the truth. Christopher was brave and tried something new, but he did not discover America. There were already people living here and he was anything but kind to them. I share a map that shows where Native people lived throughout our country’s history. The kids are shocked to see the area get smaller and smaller, over time.  We talk about a few of the different groups, their common respect for nature, and that some wear headdresses for special celebrations, but not every day! 

One of my sisters cheered in the 70s and loved it! She felt what she still calls “Redmen pride,” war path, face paint, chants, and all. I understand her attachment to the Redmen name. It brings her and many others back to a simpler, team oriented, fun time in their lives. When they were playing sports for TMHS they didn’t know that their mascot was a caricature of human beings. But, now they do, so what I cannot understand is how anyone could continue to suggest that dehumanizing First Nation people is okay, or more to the point, that it is demonstrative of Tewksbury’s values. Shouldn’t we all do better when we know better? My sister thinks that suggesting Redmen are strong warriors is honoring them. I suggest that it is not up to the majority to decide what honors a minority group. It is for us to listen when that group tells us what does, and does not, honor them and their culture. 

I have always seen myself as an ally to those who could benefit from one. I remember wondering why the only images I ever saw of Native people were those wearing headdresses, attacking white people (who incidentally were taking their land), the one TV actor dressed in feathers and fringe crying about pollution (who was actually Italian), or my own home town teams holding tomahawks and looking angry. It never made sense to me that these people were as one dimensional as those portrayals suggest. I didn’t have words for it, but I do now… ignorant, derogatory, disparaging, stereotypical, racial slur, caricature. 

I am here tonight because I believe it is time for Tewskbury to promote a healthy educational environment for everyone. This can only happen in schools devoid of the bias that comes from stereotypic images and actions of any group. I encourage and invite you to show the generations to come that this is a place where diversity is embraced and where everyone is included. Isn’t that something of which we could all be proud? 

Maria Simon

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