I’ve found myself newly aware of the discussions the Napa Valley Unified School District board members are having with the community in consideration of changing the Napa High mascot. I found myself not having an understanding in what lay behind the consideration for change.
Like anyone looking for truth, I found myself attempting to unlock each argument; from the thinking of ‘this image as tradition’, to the perspective of what I understand to be imaging demeaning discrimination.
During my process, I found myself remembering when Napa High had its 100-year anniversary a while back. Similar arguments were going around then. I remembered too that the argument had surfaced, off and on, for many years prior.
At the 100-year anniversary, I recalled how much effort by Napa High that was put into respectfully re-imaging the mascot for the school. I recall as well how much respect still goes into not stepping on the Indian’s image at the old Napa High or District Office.
The question then struck me of who truly owns this image? My thinking followed that all sides perhaps had as much ownership as the other, that all the positions were true for those holding their position. In other words, not one side holds all the cards; all sides hold all the cards.
As an example, I thought that when I see the image that I have of myself, of course it is true. However, my parents have a somewhat different image of me; which for them, (bless their heart) is no less as true. My community has an image of me, which might as well be as true for them, as mine is for me, or my parents for me.
I went on in my thinking and could somewhat understand an argument for discrimination, should the image it represented was done to demean and promote caricature. I found I would like to understand more as to how support of the current image might condone discrimination (and how I might unknowingly condone it); given the current respect I’ve witnessed for it has in the community. Right now, I don’t understand it all and would like more information.
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All in all, my current perspective of the mascot is one that reminds us all of the proud and noble people who lived here long before we did. It is one of a few remaining reminders to everyone who lives here of a native people’s heritage. They who lived are still part of our lives.
Additionally, my limited knowledge acknowledges the native people’s history in Napa of being killed and ostracized over the years since the beginning of the settlement. I can empathize with the perspective that perhaps a mascot might not be the best way to represent a heritage; as it does bring up all those past dark deeds of racism.
However, as long as the Napa community can recognize and treat Native Americans in the respectful and celebratory manner, and in the truth that they deserve, it might not be all that bad.
In the end, I remain conflicted, as I find inside myself owning the sight of two perspectives, each with their own truth. Which part is more right?