12 Mar 2014

Thoughts on Western Canada High School's team name change

(Western Canada High School's Redmen logo)
10 years ago, I was a senior at one of Calgary's prestigious high schools, Western Canada High. I witnessed the good and the bad, and there is one thing that I can tell you about the school: Western is the whitest school in Calgary.

So for the current students of this school (the ones who are standing up and fighting to preserve the Redman logo and name that is) to say that their brand isn't offensive doesn't mean anything because they themselves have never felt true racial oppression and discrimination, and the stigma of being other (or not white). And if there are students who are non-white involved in this battle (which there probably is), A) they don't care and/or know about the history and legacy of the harm that First Nations have been through, and/or B) they don't have knowledge of institutional racism in Canada.

So, you think the logo and name are not offensive. Well, it really is and let me tell you why. Take for example blackface and the word "negro." If there was a hockey team who used a picture of blackface as their logo and their team name was the "Negro Men" would that be okay? No. But what if the story behind the logo was because the team wore black helmets and the name was because the team wore all black during their three years run as champions. Would it be ok now? No.

But what if there are black people who don't find it offensive? Well, they don't speak for all black people, and on top of that, there are many others who do find it offensive, so why can't all of us just work together and try to make each other happy?

I'm feeling nice, so I'll give you another example. If there was a basketball team called the "Chinks," and the reason why they went with that name was because the team's strategy (and reason for success) was to always find and exploit their opponent's "chink in the armour" (which they would achieve the majority of games because they have the right personnel), would that be ok? I'm guessing no.

Look, Western students, changing the Redman name and logo to something non-discriminatory and non-stereotypical isn't going to hurt anyone. If anything, it'll create more fans for you guys, so just let it be, accept change, and make history with your new sports team name. Because if you don't, that will just show how much people as a whole, but mainly you guys, the supporters, don't care about First Nations peoples and their economic, social, and political issues.

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