|Brewer High School's mascot logo|
Organizing for social change can be tiring. Especially in Maine, where 50% of our winter plans go astray as the weekly (or twice weekly) storms brought on by climate change necessitate canceling events like a door to door campaign. As an organizer I often have several precious hours already invested in an event that gets snowed out.
So that is one of the reasons that local people don't often take a leading role in changing the Skowhegan Area High School mascot from pretendians to something fun and inoffensive. Osprey anyone? (I think it's most likely they will change to Patriots, but any mascot based on human beings is likely to be problematic.)
This is a comment thread on SIP leader and conflict-of-interest board member Jennifer Poirier's post about the Skowhegan girls basketball team beating the Brewer High School Witches. I am going to assume that Mary Compton calling them "ho" is a typo and that she meant to type "go." I am also going to assume that Mindy Gilbert doesn't know that there is a sizeable Wiccan community in our area, one that proudly draws on what they call "Old Traditions of Witchcraft," and that some members may very well be offended by Brewer's mascot.
Probably Mindy did not major in history, and thus may be only dimly aware that many alleged witches were tortured to death in New England. There are towns like Salem, Massachsetts that have built an entire tourist industry on this history.
The real point here is that SIP folks think it is hilarious to offend people.
And, to return to my original point, it is exhausting trying to reason with people who find it fun to offend. For white people like me, there is the option to walk away from the problem muttering that you can't fix stupid. But it isn't stupidity, it's ignorance. And not knowing is an entirely different thing from not being capable of understanding.
Consider this SIP post in the same thread, from a political theorist posting as Joseph Pais:
Pais has a Facebook profile that includes a MAGA hat child pissing on the word Hillary (Clinton, presumably) from 2016, so it would appear that his analytical chops have developed over the last couple of years.
"Leaving race out of the argument they [changers] have no foundation to stand on" starts down a strategic path that does afford some insight. White man says: we refuse to talk about race. That's white privilege in a nutshell.
White privilege turns the corner to white supremacy when it says: "that's when you see the real racist in this argument come out."
They are talking about Penobscot tribal ambassador Maulian Dana here, whom they have demonized to the point where I'm surprised Joseph Pais hasn't photoshopped his MAGA hat meme to swap out Hillary for Maulian. It's likely that some in SIP have thought about it.
However, they have a mole in their closed Facebook group, and they know for certain that an image like that would turn up not only in this blog but also in newspapers and t.v. channels in Maine.
Pretending that Maulian "stands alone" despite the enormous turnout of Native people from several Wabanaki tribes, and that she is just doing it for attention, are common themes for SIP.
The reference above alleging that she "doesn't keep her word" means this, I think: the school board voted 11-9 in 2015 to keep using the racist mascot, and the SIP folks imagined that Maulian and the other changers had agreed to slink away, silenced, if the school board vote went against them.
Key point from Jennifer's post above: it's not the institutionalized racism that is causing turmoil, it's commenting on the racism. White silence is required to maintain the status quo. Got it.
Would it surprise you to know that some changers on the board were threatened with physical harm because they voted to retire the Indian mascot? Some had the courage and good enough health to continue serving on the school board anyway. Not all have been up to the continuous, arduous task.
In fact, Not Your Mascot chapters in Maine and throughout North America have made it perfectly clear that they will not be silenced. And that they will not go away until all the Native mascots and team names are in the dustbin of history.
I stand with them. And I'm not going away either, no matter how weary I get.