UNFORTUNATELY, WE’RE NO closer to resolution on the “Redmen” controversy.
If anything, after Monday evening’s MAPS School Board meeting, we might even be further apart.
One-hundred-twenty-five residents showed up at the meeting. Fifty-three of them signed up to speak on the issue–the majority voicing their support for keeping “Redmen” the nickname of Marquette Senior High School.
(Revision: We were informed the final count on speakers was actually 26 in favor of changing the name, 18 against, although a majority of the crowd seemed to favor keeping the name.)
A special committee had previously recommended changing the name.
“This is a nationwide movement to eliminate Native American names, logos, and mascots,” said Danielle Niswander, whose four children attend Marquette schools. “It is money, politics, votes and claims of racism that are fueling this cultural fire…The origins of this fight were not derived from Native American outcry, but rather, the result of a handful of predominantly white activists with a political and financial agenda.”
And impassioned words from alumni of MSHS. “The Redmen name is special to us,” said Scott Martin, a Marquette alumnus and supporter of the name. “It is our legacy. I think we can find compromise but we need dialogue.”
Legacy. Pride in the school’s history. Identity with a name that has represented the school for nearly a century is important to so many of school’s alumni and parents of current students. You get the sense, as well, that those who support the Redmen name feel the other side is trying to impose political correctness and cultural hypersensitivity on everybody else.
But that’s certainly not true of all, if not most, of the opponents of the name.
“My wife and I have six children who’ve attended Marquette schools,” said resident Chris Wilkinson. “My wife graduated Marquette Senior High School. And we’ve all talked about it as a family and we reached a consensus–and that’s difficult when you have six kids–that if anyone is offended by the name, then the name should be changed.”
Polls conducted by the Mining Journal and WLUC have shown overwhelming support for keeping the name but, of course, those polls are self-selecting and unscientific.
But beyond that, should majority rule determine whether a name is kept or changed? If majority rule had been enforced in the South in the Sixties, Southerners would likely still be observing Jim Crow laws.
Not an easy issue to deal with here. No easy answers for the school board.
“This shouldn’t be an us-versus-them issue,” says Board Chairman Rich Rossway. “This is our community we’re talking about. But we need more comments from our citizens. They’ll help us make an informed decision. We don’t want to rush into this.”
You’ve got to empathize with Rossway and the Board. No matter what decision they make, they’ll undoubtedly anger a sizable portion of this community. Hints of possible recalls are already floating about.
More important is this: We’re spending time, energy, and anger on a nickname, not on education. “The students will suffer,” says Superintendent Bill Saunders, “because the focus is not on them.”
When might a decision be made? Rossway says that’s uncertain. You wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to put it off indefinitely, but no, he says they will eventually make a decision.
And then, for better or worse, we’ll find out something more about the nature and good will of this community.