California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California "Racial Mascots Act" yesterday which imposes a ban on the word “Redskins” from being used as a mascot or team name in public schools.
This new legislation has also rekindled an ongoing fight between activists and the NFL about changing the name of the Washington Redskins professional football team.
The ban will go into effect on Jan 1, 2017 to give schools in Merced, Calaveras, Tulare and Madera counties an adequate amount of time to phase out all the materials that bear the name and mascot.
California is the first state in the nation to enact such a restriction. Schools throughout the nation including Lancaster High School in New York and Lamar High School in Houston, Texas have dropped the racial slur as their mascot already, but no other state government has issued a formal ban on it.
Recommended: Native Americans Like Never Seen Before
"[California is] standing on the right side of history by bringing an end to the use of the demeaning and damaging R-word slur in the state's schools," the National Congress of American Indians said in a joint statement with Change the Mascot, NBC News reports. "They have set a shining example for other states across the country, and for the next generation, by demonstrating a commitment to the American ideals of inclusion and mutual respect."
Historically, “Redskins” referred to the bloodied scalps of Native Americans who were skinned and sold by British colonizers, according to Cherokee and Choctaw writer Baxter Holmes.
Activists have been pushing for several years to get the NFL to change the name of the Washington Redskins but the team's owner, Daniel Snyder, has responded with unwavering refusal citing the fact that many U.S. high schools use the name as justification for why the football franchise shouldn’t have to change it and insisting that name "honors" Native Americans.
Let’s see how long that argument holds up as more and more school districts start dropping the name and states begin following California’s lead and placing bans on its use.
"This landmark legislation eliminating the R-word in California schools clearly demonstrates that this issue is not going away, and that opposition to the Washington team on this issue is only intensifying," said Ray Halbritter and Jackie Pata, from the Oneida and Tlinga Raven tribes who also spearhead Change the Mascot.
"The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name."
This wouldn't even be an argument if the team was named, "The Washington Crackers," in fact, that mascot wouldn't have even made it past the boardroom and the person who thought of it would have been fired and probably banished from the country.
Good things never come without criticism...
While Governor Brown's decision to pass the Racial Mascots Act has been applauded and is certainly a step in the right direction, he has also received some criticism as he vetoed a similar bill earlier this year that would have prohibited public buildings and facilities from being named after Confederate leaders following the Charleston, South Carolina shooting.
Although Brown didn't deny that the action was necessary, he still vetoed the bill introduced by Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) because, "Local governments are laboratories of democracy, which, under most circumstances, are quite capable of deciding for themselves which of their buildings and parks should be named, and after whom."