Metro Kalamazoo NAACP Issues Statement on Paw Paw Schools Retaining R-Word

Paw Paw Schools Board of Education votes to keep racist R-word and image.

Published February 11, 2017

PAW PAW, MICHIGAN – The Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education in a 4-3, split decision, retained the name and image of “Redsk*ns on Wednesday night in Paw Paw, Michigan.

On Thursday, February 9, 2017, Elrico Hurley, Education Chair of the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP, issued the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the hostility and discourse shown by some members of this community. While I am not surprised by the outcome of this issue, the district’s mascot remains offensive to the people it is supposed to honor. The NAACP will continue to stand with the Native American community and our community advocates to right this historic wrong.

As we are well aware, this has been an issue in the general community for well over 20 years. Some point to it as a tribute to the native heritage of the community. However, ironic those whom it pays homage to, are the ones that have stood in front of the Paw Paw School District and community over the years asking it to rename and redesign a new mascot for the Paw Paw Public Schools.

Since 1963, no professional teams have established new mascots that use racial stereotypes in their names and imagery. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) established an extensive policy to remove harmful “Indian” mascots. There has also been a strong trend to remove harmful “Indian” mascots at the high school level. Hundreds of tribal nations, national tribal organizations, civil rights organizations, school boards, sports teams, and individuals have called for the end to harmful “Indian” mascots. As a point of reference, the NAACP at its national convention in 1999 formally accepted a resolution in opposition to Native American Mascots. The NAACP opposed it then, as we do now because the use of Native American people, images, symbols, and cultural and religious traditions as sports names, logos and mascots perpetuates racist stereotypes and undermines the self-determination and dignity of Native people. Just as we once had colored restrooms, drinking fountains and schools, our communities (one-by-one) began to see the value in diversity and the need for inclusion. It is the NAACP’s belief that Paw Paw, Michigan will see value for inclusion, right this historic wrong, and remove the word Redsk*n and the harmful imagery replacing it with a mascot, name, and image that rightfully reflects the true identity of all who reside in Paw Paw.

Wednesday night was the opportunity for the Paw Paw School District to join with us, to affirming its commitment to respectful racial and cultural inclusion in all aspects of their schools. Unfortunately, Vice President Aaron Mitchell and Trustees Jody Willford, Brent McNitt and Amy Craddock chose to disregard the district’s Non-Discrimination Policy; by allowing a racial and ethnic slur and ethnic stereotypes to enter again into Paw Paw Public Schools. It is now not only at the high school where it currently resides but now back into the elementary schools, middle school, tax-payer funded facilities and district publications (including potentially district letterhead)”.

As a school community, the district has been addressing this issue since 2002, when it started removing the logo and “Redsk*n” name from district uniforms, signage, and publications. The current district logo stands as a red and black PPPS. The Kalamazoo NAACP applauds the effort by Superintendent Sonia Lark to lead the district into an inclusive community. Before the vote, Superintendent Lark expressed her support of changing the mascot and imagery. We also applaud Board President Karen Ayers, Secretary Patrick Lynch and Trustee Renee Richardson for standing up in the face of adversity for what was right. The NAACP looks forward to having a discussion with the administration and the Native American community in the wake of the vote to discuss community healing, cultural diversity and sensitivity inside of the school community, and how the district can truly honor its Native American Heritage in a non-offensive way.”


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