Published December 20, 2016
BELDING, MICHIGAN — By a 7-0 vote the Belding Area Schools Board of Education voted on Monday evening to replace the school district’s R-word sports mascot in this small Michigan town east of Grand Rapids.
The R-word has been a source of controversy for almost two decades. The school district began using the Old English B to represent the Belding community and appease opponents to continued use of the R-word.
Last month, parents asked the board to either bring back the R-word or eliminate it.
“As we move forward, it’s been hidden even further and this parent group was just asking either bring the Redsk*ns back and be proud and show it or move on,” Belding Area Schools Superintendent Brent Noskey explained to the audience Monday.
American Indians across Indian Country consider the R-word as an extremely derogatory term and equivalent to the N-word.
After Monday’s vote, the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports & Media applaud the Belding School Board for their progressive landmark decision this evening to replace their team name “Redsk*ns” and associated symbolism with a non-race based option.
Earlier this year, the Coalition was brought in to assist the school “district on a journey of introspection, education, and history, engaging students, and all other stakeholders with local tribal input, to determine what purpose the name and associated imagery serve today,” according to a news release issued last night.
In 2003, the Michigan Education Association asserted: “As long as ‘Indian’ team names, mascots and logos remain a part of school athletic programs, we as educators are tolerating and perpetuating racism and stereotyping.”
The fight to eliminate the R-word continues to another Michigan community. The Paw Paw school board will hear public comment on January 18, 2017 at 7 p.m. and is expected to vote on the controversial mascot issue at its regularly scheduled meeting on February 8, 2017.
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