As a part of the #NotYourMascot campaign, the American Indian Movements (AIM) of Indiana and Kentucky mounted a protest at Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday, sustaining pressure on a Washington football team to change its name. The #NotYourMascot campaign is designed to draw attention to the shameful and racist roots of the football team’s name.
Carolina Castoreno, who organized the rally, describes it as one piece of a broad vision of justice:
“I take great pride in being an advocate for social justice. While I organize for many Native events, I take part in many multicultural movements. I support the LGBT community in their fight for marriage equality. I marched in 2006 alongside millions of undocumented workers and continue to promote change for immigrants. And I stand by my Black brothers and sisters in every cause they have, including being very vocal about the disappointing grand jury decision in Ferguson last week. I do this because I am committed to my beliefs that all marginalized groups deserve equality and to have their voices heard.”
Albert Running Wolf of AIM Indiana, who was present at the rally, explains:
“People think the name Redskins is from something that the first settlers said because we painted our faces red. But what it actually goes back to is that they would kill our people, and they would actually skin us. When those skins would be let out to dry in the sun, they would be stained red with the blood, and that was where they got the term redskins from.”
The rallies are intended to educate the public about this legacy of violence. The #NotYourMascot demonstrators were met with some heated confrontations with fans, but also received some support from spectators.
Castoreno faced a hateful backlash from a variety of people, noting “fans sporting Blue jerseys jumped at the opportunity” but she ultimately felt that “the most emotional part of the day was to see my fellow brothers and sisters of color sporting redskins attire and mocking us right along with their white buddies.” She fears that the media will characterize the situation as mostly “minorities in a controversial argument. But they were only a handful, and the most repulsive commentary came from white fans of both teams.”
Running Wolf remains hopeful. “We see and we hear our ancestors who fought before us and died for us, calling to us in a spiritual way to stand up,” he said. “It’s our turn to live again. It’s our turn to rise up and show this America that we’re here. That wind of change is coming, and those who don’t understand are going to get blown away by that wind.”
Castoreno envisions a path forward “all of this only reiterated that we need to continue the discussion here in Indianapolis regarding racist mascots and negative imagery. I plan on creating a time and space at IUPUI to cover not only this topic, but also to find ways the many cultural groups can work together on important national movements such as the ones I’ve mentioned. I am a firm believer that those of us with oppressed history must band together to fight the problem more effectively.”