Monday, April 4, 2016

Whose Job Is It To Stand Up And Say Racism Is Wrong In Public Education? #mepolitics

Banner displayed on a bus taking Skowhegan athletes to a sports contest. This photo was posted on facebook Oct. 28, 2015. Note the use of cartoonish "Indian" image and the phrase "It's tribe time now" (whatever that is supposed to mean) as examples of the type of cultural appropriation that native people in Maine continue objecting to.
Below is the bland bureaucratic response the chair of Maine's State Board of Education sent back to my letter asking that they get involved in helping a public high school retire their racist mascot. 

History suggests that many like Ms. Harris will be too timid to stand up to racism even if at the point where it is about to devour their comfortable status quo existence.

Your comprehensive email to members of the State Board of Education has been received.  As Chair, allow me to respond on behalf of the Board.  The issue involving the Skowhegan mascot name has received considerable attention from the media. 
The State Board's responsibilities are laid out in Maine statute.  The Board does not play a role in matters such as this and is unable to participate in it.  Maine is a local control state and as such mascot names have to be dealt with at the local level. 
Clearly you have been involved in making the case for a change and will have to continue to work among elected officials within your community.  If there have been legal violations, law enforcement should be involved.
Martha J. Harris,Chair


Dear Ms. Harris,
Thank you for your prompt reply. You seem to have missed my main point, however, which is that the institutionalized racism of Skowhegan's mascot affects students far beyond the narrow confines of the RSU #54 district. You may have noted that I cannot vote or even offer testimony to the elected officials of RSU #54 because, although I pay property taxes on a home I own there, I do not reside in the district.

If not the Maine State Board of Education then who addresses matters which affect students of multiple school districts? Are you perhaps suggesting that the Maine legislature is the correct body to address with this educational concern?

In these historical times it would be advisable for members of the State Board of Education to examine their collective role in standing up, or failing to stand up, to racism. Other societies who have gone down the road of officially sanctioned racism may be worth studying.

Lisa Savage

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