Determining whether any conflicts involving race involve racism depends on how one defines racism.  To me personally, I feel that racism not only includes intentional words and actions, but also unconscious feelings, ideas, and stereotypes towards any group of people based on ethnicity or skin color.  Historical context plays a large role in how racial symbols and terms are viewed today.  A Native American mascot by itself is not an obvious symbol of racism.  However, when coupled with the historically derogatory term “Redskins,” the mascot and the team name are easily viewed in a derogatory manner.  Assuming that the team mascot and name were created during a period in American history when racial sensitivity was (in the least) lacking, it is easy to understand why a group of Native American students would object to the continued use of the mascot and name.  The mascot and name, looked at in historical context, brings to mind not only the past decimation of Native American’s culture and human rights, but also the lingering effect such decimation has on the quality of life in native communities and their continued stereotyped image in the consciousness of America’s elite (mostly white) class.

Recently the NCAA banned schools with Native American mascots and team names from using such symbols during NCAA sporting events.  The NCAA is experiencing a backlash from many sports fans, including the Governor of Florida, for this decision.  These opponents view the new NCAA rule as without meaning in today’s “equal” society.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Why does the stereotyping of Native Americans continue to be a socially acceptable practice for the white majority?  If the NCAA had banned the use of derogatory terms of other racial minorities, the rule would be praised by the majority.  We couldn’t imagine in today’s society having our teams named “The Brownskins” or the “Yellowmen,” coupled with stereotyped mascots of fierce African Americans or Asian Americans.  Why does such blatant stereotyping still exist for Native Americans?

In my mind, Native Americans still exist as America’s property in the unconscious psyche of Americans, based on the way in which they were conquered and continue to be controlled by white settlers.  Another factor is that Native Americans continue to be segregated from the western influenced American majority, not only through their “replacement” into reservations, but also by their quasi-independence created by tribal governments.  A third factor may be that Native American equality movements have lacked the level of political, social, and economic support as gained by other minority movements.  Because of these methods of separation, actual Native Americans have not been accepted as a part of modern American culture, but have been maintained as an antidotal and stereotypical symbol of the county’s history.  Native Americans have every right to be upset by the use of such symbols, and if football fans and Jeb Bush don’t like it, too bad.  Hopefully this country’s majority is finally granting, however small, some of the same social recognitions of inequality to Native Americans, as those that have been shown to other American minorities.