Addressing the Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–July 22, 2014.  Today, the Center for American Progress released a report highlighting the impact of native mascots and team names on American Indian and Alaska Native, or AI/AN, youth and proposed key steps that federal, state, and local governments can take to address these effects. The report explores compelling evidence showing that perpetuating harmful stereotypes damages the mental health and self-esteem of AI/AN students and includes stories of how young people experience persisting racism in their communities.

“It’s time to address the real issues in the debate about derogatory nicknames and mascots, and local, state, and federal education agencies have a role to play,” said Erik Stegman, Associate Director of Half in Ten at the Center for American Progress. “Racist representations in schools undermine the understanding of Native people, contribute to hostile learning environments, and make a challenging situation worse for Native students who live in communities where poverty is at nearly double the national rate, high school graduation rates are some of the lowest in the country, and extreme health disparities persist.”

While the debate over the Washington football team’s name and mascot is entrenched in economic and public relations concerns, policy changes can get to the point of the issue and address the impact of mascots across the country perpetuating negative stereotypes in K-12 and postsecondary schools:

The federal government should take action to ensure civil rights protections.  The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights should use its full authority to enforce civil rights protections for AI/AN students and promote a safe and welcoming learning environment.

State governments should hold local institutions accountable.  State-level boards of education and education agencies should identify schools in their state with AI/AN representations, examine their impact, and develop recommendations to remove harmful representations.

Nonprofit organizations should support students who take legal action.  Nonprofit legal assistance organizations and law school clinics should develop programs to support AI/AN students who want to file complaints.

Grant-making bodies should continue research on student impacts.  The federal government and foundation community should identify and fund new research on the impact of derogatory AI/AN representations in schools.

Read the report: Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips.