Mascot debate: Society's more and values change

Jennifer Hisey

I work for a company that supports people who are mentally retarded. Oh wait. Did you just have a knee-jerk reaction to that word? If so, good. You should have. 

We can all agree that the word “retarded” is an insensitive and unacceptable word that is used to describe a minority group of people who have disabilities. Yet, for decades, the word “retarded” was the socially acceptable term. It was widely used in government and throughout society. It wasn’t until that minority group spoke out demanding they be treated with dignity and respect that the term was changed. 

As people grow and change and attitudes shift, things that were once socially acceptable are removed in favor of words, logos and depictions that are more in line with a society’s morals and values. 

More:Southern York County board moves forward with phasing out Native American mascot

More:So you thought Southern York's mascot controversy was settled? It isn't

Southern York County School District athletic logo design.

Throughout the debate over logos and mascots that depict Native Americans, or any race of people, I keep hearing, “It’s been around for ages! Why change it now?” Or, “The Indian Head honors our history! How is that offensive?” Does that make it right? Should we go back to using the word “retarded” because that was the socially accepted term for years?

Since the 1960s, and possibly even before then, indigenous people have fought to be heard and to be treated with dignity and respect. Some tribes have even been decimated to the point of extinction. They’ve been characterized as savages in movies. Their heritage has been erased and their images are used to make a mockery of their culture.

Unless you are a part of that minority population, you don’t get to decide what is offensive to their people. If a minority population is telling you that word, that image, that depiction is insensitive and inappropriate, then we, as an inclusive society, are obligated to change it.