Home of the brave -- oops, scratch that

Posted: May 14, 2002 12:00 AM
Perhaps the most offensive element of California Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg's bill to ban Indian mascots and team names in California schools and colleges is that Goldberg somehow knows, as her bill states, that schools with teams named the Chiefs or the Braves, have singled out "the Native American/American Indian community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected." Bullfeathers. When schools name teams after a group, they do so because they see positive attributes in the group -- like a fighting spirit. It is a c-o-m-p-l-i-m-e-n-t. Yes, some of the group chants, such as the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop and the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo are hokey and stereotypical. But this is America, where questionable taste rules sporting events. And guess what: It's legal. By making team names the issue, Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, only trivializes the anti-discrimination cause. Because it shows that to Goldberg, the worst crimes are thought crimes, not real crimes. In this case, the crime is largely in her head. She sees discrimination where most American Indians don't. In March, Sports Illustrated commissioned a poll of 351 Native Americans; 81 percent believed high school and college teams should not stop using Indian nicknames. If Native Americans are not offended, why is Goldberg? And why has this bill met next to no resistance in the legislature? Two Assembly committee votes have run largely along party lines. Most Democrats voted for the bill; most Republicans spinelessly didn't vote on the bill. Bob Pacheco, R-City of Industry, switched from not voting to voting for the bill two weeks later. Assemblywoman Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, is the only member to vote against the bill. Liu initially supported it, legislative aide Catherine Hazelton explained, but changed her mind when she saw how inflexible AB2115 was. Liu's district, it turns out, houses Arcadia High School and its Apache mascot. The school established a special relationship with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, which approved the mascot and suggested changes that were adopted for the school's seal. Tribe members have spoken to classes. Goldberg and her fellows have no business banning that relationship. It's too bad some members don't realize that voters didn't send them to Sacramento to boss around local school boards and high school kids. AB2115 lists names that "are always derogatory or discriminatory," and hence cannot be used: "Redskins, Indians, Braves, Chiefs, Apaches, Comanches, any other American Indian tribal name." (Fighting Irish need not apply.) Then the bill grants "an exception" for Native American tribal schools. The bill also directs the state Board of Education and the California Postsecondary Education Committee to create and maintain a second list of names that "are derogatory or discriminatory when used in conjunction with a derogatory or discriminatory mascot." The law also instructs the panels to review names submitted to them by offended parties. Teams would be able to appeal a ban on names in the second list if they "can provide sufficient evidence that the team name, mascot name or nickname is not used in a manner that is derogatory or discriminatory." Guilty until proven politically correct. It's too bad that Goldberg isn't as offended with state government's biggest problem, a projected $22 billion shortfall. Maybe if someone named the budget Pocahontas, she'd pay more attention to it.