By Charles Friedmann
Although many in the community cannot see it, the Lancaster Board of Education and appointed superintendent did their job as elected officials in removing the “Redskins” nickname.
It is not their job to “take a vote” for every important issue and please only the majority. The budget, big financial proposals, other crucial issues, yes. A nickname, no.
They removed a term that is seen as offensive and that brands Native Americans. Nearly 70 years ago, some alumni, in good faith but ignorance, gave it a new meaning. We are no longer ignorant that the term is offensive.
The name meant a lot to many Lancaster alumni, but their tunnel vision keeps them from seeing the hurt it does to Native Americans and the hurt it will do to the district’s image to use such a racial slur.
Look at the word. Redskins. It conjures up all sorts of images of Native Americans. Some alumni see only the fierceness, bravery and heroism it implies in their competitions. To Native Americans it is a race brand that brings back reminders of how their fierceness and bravery left them victims of genocide, deprived of their lands and relegated to reservations. Some people don’t know that. Some people will never forget. Sound like too much political correctness? I don’t think so.
The board had the insight to see ahead. Here was a chance to show enlightenment about a name that never should have been used to project honor. To preserve Lancaster’s image and dignity, to restore the dignity of Native Americans, history will show that they did the right thing.
Commonly, the question is asked “Why now?” Realize that 70 years ago African-Americans were routinely called unrepeatable names and couldn’t vote in parts of America. “Indians” may have had it a little better but America had no ear for their concerns about racism. Although some of that hasn’t changed, society’s outlook and understanding has matured. The country is on the verge of change. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.
For 45 plus years, I’ve seen the best that Lancaster High School can offer. I’ve seen its students, teachers, coaches, directors and even administrators strive to great heights in the classroom, on the athletic fields, gyms and in the pool.
You will find excellence and the greatest students in the classroom, band room, the stage, the chorus, the weight room and the art room. They have a reputation beyond compare. I always felt pride when I would hear athletes and parents whisper, “There’s Lancaster” when my athletes would appear on the track. They didn’t say, “Redskins.”
We haven’t lost a tradition, we have lost a name for it. There is a name for it. “Lancaster.” It’s not “Redskins.”
Charles Friedmann is a retired science teacher and coach at Lancaster High School.