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Indian mascots and common courtesy

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced this month it won't allow teams with Indian mascots to use those mascots in NCAA tournaments.

The NCAA also penalized Florida State for the use of its Seminole mascot. This action aroused passionate criticism. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the NCAA's action against Florida State was insulting. Others have joined him in this criticism.

Mascots are a source of pride, they argue - a tradition. This same argument, however, can be used to support any number of social injustices.

For example, it was tradition for blacks to sit in the back of buses. It was tradition to bar women from working outside the home. And mentally ill people were traditionally sent to live out their lives in institutions. Each of these "traditions" has been changed and society is better for it.

Breaking university traditions and causing some sentimental heartache for alumni is a small price to pay for showing respect to the Indian peoples.

But another, more substantive, argument against removing Indian mascots is that they are not really offensive.

"Norwegians don't complain about teams called the Vikings," is a common retort to arguments against Indian mascots.

Norwegians are not offended; therefore, proponents of this view reason, neither should Indians be offended.

This, however, presupposes Indians and Norwegians come from a common perspective and, therefore, are similarly offended. This presupposition is not true.


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