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There's a growing push for a Gaston County school to retire its offensive mascot

Retire the Red Raider demonstration
Dante Miller
/
Rebecca LeClaire holding 'We are not your mascots' at the Retire the Red Raider demonstration on Nov. 15

On Nov. 15, members of the Retire the Red Raider coalition and the Metrolina Native American Association held a demonstration in Gaston County to call for South Point High to retire its Red Raider mascot. We hear from people who want the mascot gone and learn why such mascots can be harmful to Native Americans.

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021

A group called Retire the Red Raider has been appealing to the Gaston County school board for roughly two years now. What do they want? They want South Point High to change its mascot, a depiction of a Native American dubbed "The Red Raider."

On Nov. 15, members of the group and the Metrolina Native American Association held a demonstration outside the Gaston County School office before their board meeting. They were joined by South Point students, alumni, parents and citizens of Native American tribes.

People in the crowd shouted that the mascot was offensive and damaging to the Native community in Gaston County.

A spokesperson for the board released a statement saying, "The Gaston County Board of Education does not have the policy that addresses school mascots."

Additionally, the statement said, “The Board of Education realizes that people have strong feelings related to school mascots. Some people say the South Point mascot is tradition, while others say it is inappropriate. The Board has heard both sides of the issue and believes changing a mascot should start at the school and community level since it is at this level where school mascots, colors, logos, etc., are typically determined.”

According to the group Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry, there were more than 70 schools in the state just a few years ago that used depictions of Native Americans as mascots. Of those, the group says, 33 still use them, including Belmont's South Point High.

We sit down with advocates who want the Red Raider to be retired and learn why such mascots can be damaging to the Native American community.

Guests:

Rebecca LeClaire, president of The Metrolina Native American Association.

Ann Doss Helms, education reporter for WFAE.

Jason Black, professor and department chair of communication studies at UNC Charlotte and coauthor of "The Controversy over Native American Representations in Sports."

Laura Boyce, founder of Retire the Red Raider coalition

Dante Miller is a community engagement producer for WFAE and a Report for America (RFA) Corps members. Dante first joined WFAE in 2020 through RFA to work as part of a unique partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Digital Public Library of America. Her work in that project allowed her to use radio, online stories, Wikipedia entries and events to meet the community's news and information needs.