by Margaret Mitchell, YWCA Greater Cleveland, President & CEO
Cleveland – July 10, 2020 – YWCA Greater Cleveland stands in solidarity with the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition, which is comprised of four northeast Ohio Native American organizations: the American Indian Movement of Ohio, the Lake Erie Professional Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society; the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance; and the Lake Erie Native American Council in calling for the elimination of harmful and racist Native American sports mascots, names, and imagery. This is not a new position, this has been our position.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke truth when he said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Cleveland City Council, Progressive Insurance, and Cleveland baseball sponsors must call on the Cleveland Major League Baseball team to end all use of Indigenous themes and imagery.
Racism has had a place in sports for too long, it is time for it to end. The stereotypes that have been depicted are a result of an unequal power dynamic and do not honor Native Americans as many have claimed. They instead perpetuate harmful stereotypes, resign Native People to the past, and erase the experiences of Indigenous People living in our community today. The insensitive name and imagery of the team and former mascot are a constant reminder that indigenous people are seen as less than.
Cleveland declared racism a public health crisis because studies have shown that the daily exposure to racism that people of color face causes poorer physical health outcomes and an increased likelihood of chronic health conditions. To look at the stereotypes represented by the Native American mascots, imagery, and team names and not acknowledge how these contribute to the psychological and physical harm of Native people is to discredit the struggle of Indigenous people everywhere.
At a time when many Clevelanders are waking up to the realities of racism that Black Americans face daily let us not forget that we live on stolen land and fail to acknowledge the deliberate genocide of native Indigenous people.
It is time to listen to the voices of Native American people, who for decades have stated that these team names and mascots cause harm, and stop the use of Indigenous themes. It is time. Make the change.