Last night, at the Lancaster NY School Board meeting, Lancaster residents and Western New York community members had an opportunity to speak their opinions regarding the use of Lancaster’s mascot – the Redskins.
Following last week’s working group session, where those registered on either side of the debate were matched up three to three at a fourteen different tables, many of those for keeping the mascot felt “oppressed,” “offended” and “made a mockery of.”
One of the most vocal supporter’s for maintaining Lancaster’s racist mascot, Brenda Christopher, who went so far as to fly in two “Native American” supporters of the Washington football team’s mascot (one of whom is a proven fraud) simply for this working group, stood at the podium shrieking, “When do we get to tell our side of the story? I want my five minutes!”
Christopher, along with two other proponents for the mascot, claim last week’s working group session was “stacked” against them since they felt “set up” because the tables “were almost all anti-mascot.” “I had to sit at a table with two chiefs… two of them!” she lamented.
In his response to Christopher’s questions regarding the uneven table numbers, Dr. Vallely, the Lancaster Superintendent of schools, quickly rattled off statistics of the evening’s registrants included the fact that only 28% of registrants were “pro-mascot” while 58% were “anti-mascot,” the rest being undecided. While 100% of those marked “undecided” or “anti-mascot” appeared at last week’s working group, up to 30% of those in support of the mascot did not attend resulting in lopsided numbers at the working group tables.
Despite Mrs. Christopher’s display and misplaced sense of oppression, many Native and non-Native Western New York Community members and Lancaster residents approached the podium to speak in support of a change to the mascot.
Resident Bob Scheer summed up what many residents proud of the community feel, “We’ve confused the symbol with the thing it symbolizes… the reality of who we are, is not that symbol.”
Chris Brown, a Lancaster resident and school coach explained, “By keeping this mascot, our student athletes are bearing the bull eyes of bigotry and racism.” As Lancaster gains national attention, and local high schools at the behest of students boycott their sporting events with Lancaster, Brown fears for the safety of students who bear the mascot name across their chests.
At the close of the evening, only a handful of adamant supporters for maintaining the mascot spoke up. However, even those who voiced their pride in keeping the “tradition alive” acknowledged, “We know it’s going to change. We know that. We just want you to get it over it, to stop dragging it out, so we can get on with our lives.”
Many agreed, sharing their embarrassment at Lancaster’s portrayal in national media as “the last outpost of outdated racism” because of a push to “save the tradition” has painted all Lancaster residents “as dangerously fanatical.”
There was, as at previous meetings open to the public, a strong Native showing, primarily citizens from various Haudenosaunee nations, reminding people that, “We’re here. We’re your neighbors. We’re willing to talk and to educate,” as phrased by Robert Rayekwiratkyehnawek D’Alimonte, Beaver Clan, Tuscarora.
Al Parker, Heron clan Seneca and John Kane, Kahnawake Mohawk, were quick to remind the school board and audience members that traumatic history, such as boarding schools, are not so far in the past. Those are our grandparents that were forced into those schools and “had the Indian beat out of them” or died in the process. Despite all of that, Al reminded the school board members, “we’re still here.”