In the continuing chronicle of the Marquette Senior High School nickname issue, a member of the Native American community weighed in with a letter to the MAPS school board at their regular meeting earlier this week.
The letter, written by Austin Lowes, Acting Chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and read aloud by tribal liaison, Leora Tadgerson, included the following passage… “The word ‘Redmen’ is a racial slur that was used to dehumanize Native American people. It is a throwback to an era where Native Americans couldn’t vote, where our youth were sent to boarding schools to face unspeakable trauma, and when the Federal Government put official bounty proclamations on the bodies, then the scalps of our men, women and children to advance their termination policies. The words ‘Redskin’ and ‘Redmen’ need to be a relic of the past, tossed in the wastebasket of history.”
His explanation of why the current name is inappropriate seems to sum up the “change the name” reasoning shared by most of those who oppose the use of the Redmen moniker. Basically, regardless of the purported origins of the name, it’s no longer fitting as the identity of MSHS athletics. Some people… not all, find it offensive.
It should be noted that Lowes was not representing the official stance of the tribe, but rather was sharing his own feelings about the issue. However, the United Tribes of Michigan, the organization that represents the various tribal groups of the state, has issued an official statement opposing such nicknames.
But, as we know, there are two sides to this story. According to the survey commissioned by the MAPS board a couple years ago, about 60% of respondents indicated that they favor keeping the Redmen handle. Reasons for that vary, but we often hear that tradition supersedes the new sensitivity to racial stereotyping, as well as the position that the name actually comes from that initial “red sweater” story.
When we last visited this issue, I suggested that the sides could be boiled down to “townies vs trolls,” with the townies citing school history, and the trolls… folks who grew up someplace else, preaching from the soapbox of political correctness. While that may not be a perfect characterization, it’s probably not far from the truth. Without involving actual politics, it’s become a political issue, as evidenced by the last two elections for MAPS school board members.
Two years ago this month I wrote that the new board, which would take over after the first of the year, would probably tackle the issue and a decision would be made. Yet here we are two years later and I can say the same thing. Let’s hope this time it happens, and, regardless of the outcome, we can put this thing to rest and move on.
Inequities in high school sports?
A great football season came to an end last Friday for the Negaunee Miners at Ford Field in Detroit. They lost in the Division 6 Championship game to the minors from Grand Rapids West Catholic by the decisive score of 59 – 14.
There’s no shame in losing a championship game. Not even when you lose by a wide margin. It happens. Particularly when you’re up against a squad that starts the season with what some suggest are unfair advantages.
Here’s the beef… Private schools, like GRWC, can recruit athletes from anywhere, unencumbered by the limits of their assigned geographical district. So, though a private school may have a relatively small enrollment, comparable to a school like Negaunee, they may have a very “successful” sports program due to the recruitment of student-athletes who live outside their district. It can result in a situation that resembles an all-star team vs your team.
This is not a new issue in Michigan high school sports. But with our local team fresh off a public vs private mismatch, it’s worth looking into the issue a little further, to see if we’re on to something, or are we just sore losers. I’m sure Negaunee thinks they could have played better, but the private school from Grand Rapids just had too much talent. The ability to recruit surely plays a part in that.
When presented with the idea of separate divisions for public and private schools, Geoff Kimmerly, Communications Director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, responded, “There is far more to this than just being a public vs. non-public football issue. We have to look at how public schools handle open enrollment, how charter schools fit in, and we would have to look at how the public vs. nonpublic competitive issue affects all sports – not just football. Our data shows that, at least since we’ve been tracking it the last few years, the number of champions and high finishers across all sports is similar to the percentage breakdown of public and non-public schools.”
In other words, there may be a competitive advantage, but in actuality it plays out to a minimal degree. And there are a lot more things to consider than just the implications of one big, fast kid running wild through the Negaunee defense. It’s complicated.
Rather than engage in a fight with the system… a fight that likely can’t be won, maybe we just have to fall back on the advice my trusted golf guru gave me when I complained about getting beat… “Play better.”
ABC 10… On the Air?
Apparently TV stations aren’t immune from the effects of the worker shortage. Regular viewers of ABC 10 probably noticed they didn’t have any newscasts, early or late, this last Monday.
Admittedly, the thought came to mind that the station had thrown in the towel in the local news competition and decided that the fight for ratings, against no fewer than 4 other newscasts, was one that wasn’t worth the cost.
On the contrary, Station Manager Jeff Harju assured me that the show will go on, and that “sickness and shorthandedness” caused the disruption. And, sure enough, the next night saw the return of both their 6 and 11 o’clock news programs.
We’ve looked at the local news scene before, and we continue to marvel at the fact that a market the size of ours… one of the smallest in the country, can still support as much local coverage as you’d find in much bigger communities. Though traditional power TV6 still commands the biggest share of viewers, it’s worth wondering… will their dominance last forever? Or will one or more of the other players in the field close the gap? We’ll just have to watch and see.