Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Open Letter to Roger Goodell, from American Indians in Children's Literature

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Roger Goodell, Commissioner
National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Goodell,

We write to you today as the editors of American Indians in Children's Literature. Established in 2006, AICL is widely recognized in Education, Children's Literature, and Library Science for its analyses of representation of Native peoples in children's books. 

We hold PhDs in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois and we have taught in public and private schools, and in universities and colleges. A primary emphasis of our work as educators is helping others recognize stereotypes of Native peoples in children's books. We believe that the Washington NFL team mascot enables similar mascots in professional and collegiate sports and in K-12 schools. As the images below demonstrate, stereotypes in children's books look a lot like the mascots. There are many examples like this: 




We agree with the requests put forth in the letter from Suzan Shown Harjo, Amanda Blackhorse, and the growing list of Native leaders who are signing their letter. The requests are:
  1. Require the Washington NFL team (Owner: Dan Snyder) to immediately change the name R*dsk*ns, a dictionary defined racial slur for Native Peoples.
  2. Require the Washington team to immediately cease the use of racialized Native American branding by eliminating any and all imagery of or evocative of Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality from their team franchise including the logo. This includes the use of Native terms, feathers, arrows, or monikers that assume the presence of Native American culture, as well as any characterization of any physical attributes.
  3. Cease the use of the 2016 Washington Post Poll and the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey which have been repeatedly used by the franchise and supporters to rationalize the use of the racist r-word name. These surveys were not academically vetted and were called unethical and inaccurate by the Native American Journalist Association as well as deemed damaging by other prominent organizations that represent Native Peoples. The NFL team must be held accountable to the various research studies conducted by scientists and scholars which find stereotypical images, names and the like are harmful to Native youth and the continued progress of the wellbeing of Native Peoples.
  4. Cease the use of the offensive, racial slur name “R*dsk*ns” immediately, and encourage journalists, writers and reporters to use the term in print only by using asterisks "R*dsk*ns" and to refer to the term verbally as the “r-word”.
  5. Ban all use of Native imagery, names, slur names, redface, appropriation of Native culture and spiritually as well as violence toward Native Peoples from the League.
  6. Apply the NFL’s “zero tolerance” for on-field use of racial and homophobic slurs to all races and ethnic groups, especially Native Peoples.
  7. Complete a full rebranding of the Washington team name, logo, mascot, and color scheme, to ensure that continuing harm is not perpetuated by anyone.
Item #5 is especially important. The University of Illinois retired its mascot in 2007, but not its name ("Fighting Illini"), and there was no effort to introduce a new mascot for the team. The result is that many alumni and students have nothing to shift their attachment to, and in that void, they continue to use and call for the reinstatement of "Chief Illiniwek."

As parents of Native children, we have first-hand knowledge of how mascots impact Native lives. Research done by Davis, Delano, Gone, and Fryberg demonstrates the need to let go of these mascots. You may already be aware that the American Psychological Association (APA) recommended retiring all "American Indian" mascots and imagery in its 2005 resolution on the topic, as did the American Sociological Association (ASA) in 2007.

The time for decisive action is long past, and we hope you will take that action, now.

Sincerely,
Debbie Reese
Tribally enrolled: Nambé Pueblo
Editor, American Indians in Children's Literature

Jean Mendoza
Editor, American Indians in Children's Literature

No comments: