We are living in an era where many of us presume to know how other people feel about a particular situation – or how we think they should feel.
I’ve been thinking about this in regard to the Mason City School Board’s decision to drop the Mohawk name, mascot and imagery out of respect to the greater Mohawk Indian nation.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, headquartered in Akwesasne, New York, recently wrote to School Superintendent Dave Versteeg requesting the name change, saying use of the Mohawk as a mascot was offensive and not in keeping with what an educational institution should be promoting.
Several questions come to mind.
Is the concern of the Mohawk Indian nation about a team nickname in Mason City, Iowa, in the words of a Shakespeare play, “much ado about nothing?”
Was the School Board’s action an overreaction -- “much ado about nothing?”
Or is the emotional reaction of many Mohawk loyalists “much ado about nothing?”
One thing is for sure: The “cancel culture” arrived in Mason City with a thud Monday night.
The Mohawk loyalists will point out that no offense is intended by the use of the name and I’m sure that is true. But I’m a white guy who’s had a pretty good lot in life, as did my ancestors. I know little about the Mohawk culture and heritage and therefore should not presume to know how someone imbedded in that culture is supposed to feel.
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Telling people of a different culture how they should feel, based on our white, uppercrust, safe-haven self-righteousness is at best inappropriate and at worst, racist.
I was struck by the words of School Board member Peterson St. Pierre, who happens to be Black, at last week’s board meeting. He said he understands what it is like to be misrepresented. He told those in attendance, “You don’t hold moral ground to say whether or not someone is being oversensitive or whatnot. But we do hold the moral ground to actually hear them and be understanding.”
So, where do we go from here? We will change the name because of the moral ground we have chosen to respect and because that’s what our elected officials have voted to do. And we’ll move on.
Is it a big deal? Today, yes, for many people. Ten years from now, I doubt it.
Incidentally, that Shakespere play, “Much Ado About Nothing,” was a comedy!
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John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.