In the emotional discussion about whether Dartmouth High School should keep the drawing of a Native American as their sports logo, it would perhaps be helpful to look at some analogies.
A stereotype of Native Americans is that they are strong and brave, as we would like athletic teams to be — but is that a good reason to have a Native American image as a logo? Would logos based on drawings of other racial or ethnic groups be considered acceptable ways of honoring those groups?
For example, a stereotype of Jewish people is that they are smart and assertive. Should a debate team or honor society use a drawing of a Jewish person as their logo?
A stereotype of African Americans is that they are good at music and have great rhythm. Should the dance team or school band have a drawing of an African American as their logo?
A stereotype of Asians is that they are good at math and technology. Should the math or robotics team have a drawing of an Asian American for their logo?
Embracing stereotypes is harmful for all involved — those who are labeled and those who do the labeling — even when the stereotype may seem complimentary.
Stereotypes affect how we think about other people; they affect how we act toward them, too. And the fact that the current Dartmouth logo is a historical image does not make it more acceptable. Just imagine historical, caricatured images of the groups mentioned above being used as logos today.
Many have said that the image honors Native Americans, but there are many more meaningful ways for a community to recognize, honor, and respect the extraordinary history and contributions of Native Americans in Dartmouth.
We can begin with education and an honest and clear-sighted look at the experiences of Native Americans in our community in the past and in the present day. For a start, read about the Wampanoags and their encounters with European settlers in Jack Spillane’s article “Cultures Clash over Dartmouth’s Indian Logo” in The New Bedford Light, March 8, 2022: https://newbedfordlight.org/cultures-clash-over-dartmouths-indian-logo/
Sasha Lauterbach is a resident of Dartmouth.
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