Amy Donaldson: Sister's subtle racism experience provides convincing case for eschewing ethnic sports mascots

Published: Sunday, June 29 2014 6:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 30 2014 6:35 a.m. MDT

Even if the team or school does an admirable job of portraying a tribe or people in a positive light, the fans often engage in stereotypes that are hurtful and inaccurate. The inappropriate use of Native American clothing or distorted traditions can be found among almost every fan base devoted to a Native American mascot.

This isn’t a case of racism as much as it is about racial insensitivity. The real answer is dialogue and education.

We need discussions that are truly open-minded and conversations that seek to bring understanding. We need to stop making excuses, and we need to stop rationalizing what we want. We need to, as the old proverb says, walk a mile in the shoes of those who feel insulted and hurt.

The solution involves the sacrifice of a beloved mascot.

But it also includes a long overdue message that this country should send every day in every way to its citizens of Native American descent: We value your feelings more than we value a jersey. You are infinitely more important to us than a helmet decal or a bumper sticker.

“I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy — myself,” says a prayer from the Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark, translated in 1887. “Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes. So that when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.”

May we consider how we talk about others — whether it’s their culture, their religion, their family make-up or their socioeconomic status — with this wise man’s words in mind.

Twitter: adonsports EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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