Rabb will host virtual town hall today on Native American history, racialized mascots and allyship; plans to introduce legislation to ban Native American mascots in schools

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 14 – State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila., is hosting a virtual town hall on Native American history, racialized mascots and allyship from 7 to 8 p.m. today, and has announced he will introduce legislation to ban Native American mascots in schools. 

“As a commonwealth borne of a colony that would not have existed without the Penn’s Treaty at Shackamaxon in 1683 between British immigrants and the Lenape Turtle Clan, Pennsylvania must commit itself to ending the extended era of collective disregard for indigenous heritage and egregious cultural appropriation,” Rabb said in a memo he circulated about the legislation he intends to introduce

Rabb noted that many public schools and sports teams across Pennsylvania use or refer to indigenous culture in their mascots and logos, and social science research has shown that derogatory mascots have a negative psychological and social impact on people with indigenous heritage. 

Department of Justice data shows that American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race, and it’s been well established that mascots, logos and the like that stereotype or fetishize Indigenous peoples highly correlates to the high suicide rate among Native youth. 

 “At its core, the use of ‘Indian’ mascots is a denial of the personhood of Native peoples, which has real consequences,” Rabb’s memo said. 

Several states have banned or limited the use of Native peoples for public school mascots, including Maine, Washington, Colorado and Nevada, and in 2005, the NCAA prohibited 18 institutions from using derogatory mascots. 

And yet, more than 60 schools in Pennsylvania use Native peoples or references for their team name or mascot. In fact, as states Rabb, “Neshaminy High School and Sayre Area High School, both have team names that use an epithet so vile it is akin to the n-word for African Americans.”

“For far too long, Indigenous peoples have faced discrimination, disrespect, and violence,” Rabb said. “Our commonwealth must not remain complicit in the perpetuation of derogatory, bigoted and harmful practices which encourage bullying and other forms of abuse. 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.”