It is almost impossible to not know about the controversies over sports team names that are named after slurs or white shorthand for Native Americans as they are pretty consistently in the news. I haven’t owned a television for over ten years, but the controversies about these names is also in the newspapers, radio, etc… I have felt for many years that these names are wrong and offensive for several reasons. Those reasons can be slightly different depending on the particular ‘name’. Here are some of the names and my thoughts on them.
There are other team names that are named after specific tribes (such as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida State Seminoles), stereotypes (Elora Mohawks) or simply as Indians (such as the Cleveland Indians) and they tend to be seen by native tribes as offensive, racist and derogatory. When I look at the issue in that light, I can't have any opinion but that the names need to be changed. First of all, while it might cost the teams money to change things, it would be a very great gesture which I believe would go a long way into helping to promote healing in the Native American community. I also think that would potentially bring in more revenue as another group of people who currently feel angry and alienated (and maybe even mocked) would potentially become customers when it feels more respectful and fun for them. Sports teams have been complaining over the last several years that they need to attract more customers- this seems like a good potential way to do it. It also seems like changing a name is really a small thing to do to help build bridges and create opportunities for community gathering and understanding. Just my thoughts....
I felt inspired to send a letter to the University of Maine president about changing some general education requirements for the student body. Here is a slightly edited version of the letter I sent him last November. I do not hold out a lot of hope that my humble letter will change anything, but I wanted to express myself. I think that everyone who studies some of these tough topics such as genocide walks away a changed person and can feel motivated to make changes in their own behavior and to actively work more towards peace in their families and communities. If this letter helps even one person or convinces someone to study more on these challenging topics, it will have been worthwhile. :)
Glenn Cummings, President
Office of the President
46 University Drive
Augusta, ME 04330
I am writing this letter to express my desire and a suggestion for a uniform change to the general education requirements to all academic degree programs that are facilitated by the University of Maine at Augusta. The change that I am advocating for is an addition of a modern day genocide class to the general requirements for graduation.
One of the important reasons for attending college and for the achievement of getting a degree isn’t just the ability to get a good job and achieve financial success/ security, but is for the ability to become better human beings and individuals in our families and the world around us. It is with this belief in mind that universities and the faculty who design courses and degree programs select many general education requirements for a student to successfully complete if they wish to leave the school as alumni with a degree in their hand and its knowledge in their heads. Among the topics that can be found in all degree programs are mathematics, writing and literary competency, humanities, applied sciences as well as social sciences and more. These ‘core’ classes are justified in degree programs to give studies an education that will help them in all aspects of their lives besides their core focus of study. For instance, students study humanity classes because through the exploration of the topics enclosed inside that label, a student learns to think more critically, to reason and ask questions, and to open their mind to more creative thought processes. In the study of humanities, we learn about other cultures and in doing so, we learn more about our own cultures. When a student studies a foreign language, they learn respect and an understanding of the relationship between language, culture and human nature as well as develop more flexibility in their thinking and behavior towards others. Mathematics is taught so that even students like myself who struggle to understand it and its relevance in their personal lives can recognize that it plays a vital, constant role in many aspects of their life and is a universal part of every human culture known. Science is considered vital because it demonstrates to every individual how the world, the universe, how our bodies work and how we are all connected with all other life. The study of science forces us to question, to not take blanket statements at face value, to require some validation before belief, and to recognize that failure is not an end in itself, but just parts of the journey to success.
All of these requirements are very important and necessary and I do not wish to take anything away from their importance by suggesting an addition. However, I truly believe that the addition of a required genocide class would be an important and innovative change to the general education requirements. Many modern day studies and the work of historians tell us that genocide is usually carefully planned. As long as the majority of individuals in every country believe that the act of genocide is an aberration and cannot believe that human beings for the most part really will not only commit genocide, but implicitly ignore it when it happens around them, the human race will never be able to prevent it. It is only by understanding and recognizing that genocide is truly preventable and will happen even where we live can people not only recognize it in its beginnings but also feel empowered to take action to prevent and if necessary, stop it. The University of Maine- Augusta is optimally place to set the standard and show the state and the country the example it should follow. As home to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine as well as some faculty who have intensely studied the subject, these institution has a unique and enviable place in this regard.
I recognize that a suggestion from one student may not make a permanent change in the graduation requirements, but I also know that I must try. I also know that I have completed over a dozen history classes and, with the exception of the Holocaust, those classes have skirted passed though uncomfortable parts of our past as well as the world's. While history will help us better understand the past and maybe give us better insight into the future, it cannot if we ignore or do not discuss the worst that we can be. I respectfully ask that the presiding faculty of the University of Maine- Augusta continues its policy of leadership and make the necessary changes to the general education requirements of future UMA Students. Thank you for your time and consideration to my request.
here.) I think the fact that the Russian government and diplomats took the time and opportunity to help shape the language of the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide' to exclude a 'targeted group' in their country makes one thing really clear to me... the men who helped craft the definition knew that what they did was genocide and so worked to make sure it wouldn't 'qualify'. I frankly find that heinous. I find the denial and the active participation to bury the crime almost as heinous as the original transgression. I believe this partly because I think that people who deny it because they genuinely do not believe the 'crime' happened and believe it has been made up are people that are so ignorant I can feel sorry for their lack of knowledge and understanding. Having a full knowledge and working to deny something for financial motives or to give yourself more credibility in front of other governments and the international community is pretty challenging for me to understand. I also find it provocative that a signatory of this convention who has basically agreed to try to 'prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and peacetime' ... is actively trying to distract the world from their own culpability and failings in the same areas. So to look at the Holodomor as 'somewhat less genocidal' seems a bit distracting and disingenuous; i.e. it's either a genocide or not. The major reason that seems to be given – that Stalin’s plans killed millions... many of whom were not Ukrainian, seems disingenuous at best because what that statement tells me is that those who say it recognize that it is a genocide.... just a much bigger one that encompassed a large 'class' of people rather than just Ukrainians.. (Lastly, I find a small irony in the fact that Russia has politically accepted the existence of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey and denies this one... they seem to be so alike in my mind that every argument to prove the “Great Catastrophe' proves the Holodomor as well.... deportations, false political accusations, government seizure of property, denial of food shipments and journalists, etc...)
pictures from: http://freethoughtnation.com/moses-and-the-midianites/, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk/2012/01/was-moses-black-urban-daily-proposes-black-actors-for-spielberg-biblical-epic/, http://rt.com/news/holodomor-famine-pirozhenko-ukraine/, http://ocfordarfur.wordpress.com/2008/09/
I believe that the model of reconciliation that was used in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide could be used in the aftermath for all genocides. Depending of the circumstances within each individual genocide, I think could be easily used with some potential changes if needed. There are a few reasons that come to mind that I would like to share. I think this may be a stream of consciousness post so I apologize in advance.
What do you think? Do you have a personal experience that you are willing to share?
pictures from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_We_Forgive, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/blog/radical-mercy-in-the-heart-of-rwanda/