Philly Dem. wants to ban native nicknames at Pa. schools | Wednesday Morning Coffee

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, says it’s ‘well established that mascots, logos, and the like, that stereotype or fetishize indigenous peoples highly correlate to the alarmingly high suicide rate among Native youth’

November 3, 2021 7:09 am

In April, after a years-long push, school officials in Bellefonte voted to scrap the district’s Native American mascot, WJAC-TV reported. Legislation would require other districts to follow suit (Capital-Star file).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Even as Washington’s professional football team and Cleveland’s Major League Baseball franchise have scrapped offensive Native American nicknames and mascots, some Pennsylvania school districts are still clinging to such outdated imagery.

But if a Philadelphia lawmaker gets his way, those holdout districts would be required by law to get rid of those nicknames, or lose their PIAA eligibility if they don’t.

“At its core, the use of ‘Indian’ mascots is a denial of the personhood of Native peoples, which has real consequences,” state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphiawrote in an Oct. 14 memo to his House colleagues seeking support for his proposal.

Speaking to CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Rabb said some 64 districts statewide “have some iteration of mascot or team name that is deeply offensive.”

Some districts, such as Bellefonte in Centre County, and Susquehanna Township in Dauphin County, have gotten rid of their mascots in recent months, according to published reports.

The Susquehanna Township district, which is just outside Harrisburg, dropped its nickname after an “overwhelming” push from students and the community, CBS-21 reported.

Writing to his House colleagues, Rabb said the use of such nicknames have real-world implications for the mental health of native youth and their elders.

Indigenous Americans are “more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a difference race,” Rabb wrote. “In fact, it is well established that mascots, logos and the like that stereotype or fetishize indigenous peoples highly correlate to the alarmingly high suicide rate among Native youth.”

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia (Image

Rabb told CBS-21 last week that he’d met with stakeholders during a virtual town hall, where advocates and members of the indigenous community had shared their experiences.

In his co-sponsorship memo, Rabb noted that banning the use of native nicknames and insignia was the only appropriate response.

“For far too long, indigenous peoples have faced discrimination, disrespect, and violence. Our commonwealth must not remain complicit in the perpetuation of derogatory, bigoted, and harmful practices which encourage bullying and other forms of abuse,” he wrote. “Therefore, eliminating the use of offensive stereotypes for school mascots is the least we can do to begin mending the damage done by the appalling historical oppression of these groups.”

For Donna Fann-Boyle, of the Coalition of Natives & Allies, the changes can’t come soon enough.

Activist Donna Fann-Boyle, center, on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol, with Kelly Bashew, left, of the Dakota tribe, and Ramona Woods, of the Mohawk tribe, right (Submitted photo).

“These mascots are racist and [have] provoked behaviors that are abusive toward native people,” she told the Capital-Star in a text message. ” … Using. native people as mascots perpetuates stereotypes toward us which are harmful. Using us as mascots takes away our humanity.”

Fann-Boyle, who has Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, said she believes that “schools that use native mascots and names should not be allowed to use tax funding … [the] U.S. government needs to stop making natives fight our rights, which should be protected.”

In a text message to the Capital-StarRabb said that he’s so far picked up one, potential Republican co-sponsor for his bill, which he hopes to formally introduce his bill before the National Day of Mourning and Remembrance, which falls on Thanksgiving Day.

Rabb told the Capital-Star he’s sponsoring a concurrent resolution recognizing the day.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

Our staff burned the midnight oil on Election Day (and night), collecting up all the latest news from around the state. You can read all our coverage in our live post. Most races were too close to call as of late Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning.

But here are few top-line results: 

Democrats have claimed victory in two state House special elections held Tuesday in Delaware and Lackawanna counties, Stephen Caruso reports.

At least three sitting state legislators were on the ballot, running for local offices, which could cause a trickle down of special elections in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Stephen Caruso also reports.

Pennsylvania counties sent out more than 1 million mail ballots ahead of the Nov. 2 election, according to new data from the Department of StateMarley Parish reports.

An hour after polls closed, Pennsylvania’s top election official reported a “very smooth election” with no “major or widespread incidents”, Marley Parish also reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a pediatrician explains how Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids was tested for safety and efficacy. And go ahead and enjoy your memes — they really do help ease pandemic stress, a Penn State expert says.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (Facebook photo)


Unofficial returns showed Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner winning another term, while Republican Kevin Brobson was on pace to win a seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, the Inquirer reports.

State Rep. Ed Gainey was elected Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor on Tuesday night, the Post-Gazette reports.

Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams won the race for mayor, beating back a write-in challenge from incumbent Mayor Eric PapenfusePennLive reports.

LancasterOnline looks at the factors driving local voter turnout on Tuesday night.

The York Daily Record rounds up local election results.

Incumbent Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure defeated controversial newcomer Steve Lynch, the Morning Call reports.

State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne, appears on pace to win a seat on the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Republican Brenton Davis appears to be the winner of the race for Erie County Executive, defeating Democrat Tyler TitusGoErie reports.

The race for New Jersey’s governor’s mansion is still too close to callWHYY-FM reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Trace Brewing (@tracebrewing)

What Goes On
1 p.m., Capitol Steps: Worldwide Walkout Day rally, protesting childhood vaccine mandates, and sundry “tyranny.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Philadelphia elections lawyer Adam Bonin, who is hopefully sleeping in this morning, and to Carrie Fischer Lepore, at the state Department of Community & Economic Development, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations, friends, enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one that made election night sound just great: It’s Empire of the Sun, and ‘Walking on a Dream.’

Wednesday’s Hockey Link
Toronto blanked the visiting Las Vegas Golden Knights 4-0 at Scotia Bank Arena on Tuesday night. The Leafs’ Auston Matthews scored twice on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.