A recent Waukesha County Circuit Court ruling in favor of two residents of Mukwonago who wished to have their Constitutional rights to retain the Muwkonago High School Indians nickname and logo ought to be respected and followed. Our courts promise and deliver “justice for all.” Scientific evidence to the contrary, the rights of individual citizens in our republican form of government, and guaranteed in the United States Constitution are sacrosanct.
The Constitutional and civil liberties of even one single humble citizen of the United States are more precious and more powerful than any interest group, any race of people, any Indian Nation, or any other citizen that might interfere with those rights. The Waukehsa County Ciruit Court ruling must be and is fully respected under the rule of law by Struggles for Justice.
We fully support the rule of law. And here the rule of law has protected two men whose rights were not respected in this case.
Nevertheless, Struggles for Justice also seeks the justice promised to all and not just some, for other citizens of the United States who may be Native-American in origin. They too are individual citizens of the United States of America, with Constitutional rights under our law. The rule of law protects every single one of us and not just the two men who brought the lawsuit.
The legislature at some future date may wish to pass new legislation that addresses this problem in a more concrete and direct manner. DPI Administrator Paul Sherman was unable to tell the District what they might have done to eliminate the discriminatory effects of such nicknames and logos. Therefore it is impossible for Mukwonago to make any changes when they do not know why those changes are necessary and what might be done to mitigate the discriminatory effects of the Indian nickname and logo.
Struggles for Justice views the ruling as a victory for opponents of such symbols. Since 2005 when the Department of Public Instruction under Susan Burmeister brought to the attention of school districts with Indian nicknames and logos that the symbols and names may do harm to students under their care, school districts have had information that might change their views on such symbols.
A body of new scientific research by University of Arizona Researcher Stephanie Fryberg shows conclusively, that such names and symbols do measurable harm to the self-esteem of Native-American students while directly contributing to the racial and ethnic prejudices of the dominant racial group.
The Wisconsin Indian Education Association led by Barbara Munson have convinced a number of other school districts in Wisconsin to wisely do something which to date has eluded both the judge in the case, the two men from Mukwonago who brought the lawsuit challenging the DPI court ruling, and the Mukwonago Area Schools and the entire Mukwonago community.
Simply eliminating the Indian nicknames, mascots, and symbols for use of school sports teams has proven an elegant and logical solution to the problem Mukwonago has faced since the early 1990’s. By simply changing the logo and nickname to something that is not based upon a race of people or an ethnic group schools can free themselves of any racially discriminatory practices.
If Paul Sherman of the DPI was unable to tell the Mukwonago Area Schools and the two men bringing the suit about the science of racial discrimination as shown in a great body of peer-reviewed research, the Wisconsin Indian Education Association, the Great Lakes Tribal Council, and individuals such as the young man who brought the original complaint, have all placed in the District’s hands detailed information about the groundbreaking scientific research that leads any logical and educated person to see that removing such nicknames and symbols is the obvious action for Wisconsin schools.
The force of the scientific evidence, and perhaps the moral consciences of the Mukwonago community and its public school administration will one day operate to remove this injustice to Native-Americans in Wisconsin and to reduce racial and ethnic prejudice among all students.
There will come a time, when a Mukwonago Area Schools Administration, or School Board will come to grasp the meaning of the research and the ill effects it has in promoting racial and ethnic discrimination and the bullying that can result from one student believing that their race, or ethnic origin is superior to another’s or using representations of those things against other students, particularly those of a minority race or ethnicity that has traditionally faced discrimination.
The oddity of this ruling and of the likely response of the Mukwonago Area Schools and community in retaining the Indian nickname and logo, is that the growing body of social psychological scientific research of hundreds of studies on this very subject and detailed in the archived pages of Struggles for Justice were not at issue at all in the court’s decision.
The immediate and practical effect of this decision is that Mukwonago has been left free to ignore what science tells us about how the self-esteem and racial and ethnic attitudes of students under the care of school officials is impacted by the name Indian and the symbol used by the Mukwonago Area Schools.
But the most important fact to take from the Waukesha Circuit Court ruling permitting Mukwonago to retain its logo and Indian nickname from here on is that the racial discrimination that does ensue from the use of these things will remain, and do their work which is against the interests of protecting the well-being of children and young adults attending schools in the district. Put simply, a judge’s ruling does not stop racial discrimination and prejudice when such bigotry is not addressed or even acknowledged.
The court decision does not address the fact that symbols have been appropriated without the consent of Native-American Nations and their people’s and their legally constituted tribal councils by a dominant racial group over that of a minority racial group. The continued use of the Indian nickname in Mukwonago and elsewhere along with symbols depicting these people as the dominant racial group wishes, and even mascots in some other places, all disrepect legally constituted government within the United States and its laws. It also is just disrespectful of the people concerned.
Sidestepping the scientific evidence of racial discrimination and its harmful effects on the children so affected and appropriating a part of the culture of a people living under both U.S. law as American citizens and citizens of indigenous tribal nations fully recognized by the United States government since 1776 and then playing with that bit of culture, and depicting those people in a light that limits how they are seen and perceived is just plain wrong. It is immoral. It is disrespectful.
And any moral and wise leaders in Wisconsin would well consider reversing course and doing the right thing. The body of scientific research builds on decades of earlier investigation into the origins and effects of racial discrimination upon African-Americans and other minorities. An educational institution such as the Mukwonago Area Schools and the community served by them, have it in their power to learn about what the Indian nickname and logo actually does to impact indigenous people in Wisconsin.
Failure to do so is simply a moral lapse of judgment that does not reflect well on those people. And getting rid of the names and symbols that marginalize a race, ethnic group, or a people is the whole point of the thing that is missed by those who wish to retain them.
The Mukwonago Area School and its community have had placed before them like a feast this vital information on the manner in which the name Indian and its logo narrows the vision for the future and self-esteem of Native-American children. The research shows them also that white students have their sense of superiority as the dominant race increased and enhanced.
They’ve had this information placed before them by both the DPI and the Wisconsin Indian Education Association in 2005. Again, in 2010, the Wisiconsin Indian Education Association in seeking to help the complainant placed this very same information on the research and what it meant in front of the school district and its officials. And again, this research came up and was prominent in the August 2010 DPI hearing that was found to be unconstitutional.
Struggles for Justice has repeatedly referred to the science of racial bigotry as found in research that has been peer-reviewed and accepted since the middle of the last century.
Struggles for Justice calls upon the Mukwoango Area Schools to finally take a look at the social pshycological research of the past sixty years. And especially the research begun in 2002 by Stephanie Fryberg. They’ve had others give them the actual reference material by our count at least four times now.
The other feature about this case that has been so singular, odd, incredible, and dissappointing, is the refusal of the Mukwonago Area Schools, the judge in the case, the lawyers for the two men bringing the lawsuit before the Waukesha County Circuit Court, and the community at large to examine that scientific evidcence that would conclusively show them that their nickanme and logo symbol does real harm to the very people that are educated in that school district: their children.
When will the Mukwonago community examine that evidence from science? Why does the district have so many students taking psychology when they refuse to make us of it themselves?
Tribal councils throughout the nation, and the Wisconsin Indian Education Association can come away knowing that they have provided and continue to provide a beacon of understanding, tolerance, and most importantly knowledge that others are using and benefitting from throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest and around the nation.