Letter to the editor: Prescott Student Council, you are not alone
TO THE EDITOR
Dear Student Council Members:
Over the past six years of my retirement in Prescott I have been impressed by the quality of education in Prescott. Nothing has heightened that sense more than the Student Council's resolution regarding our indigenous American neighbors' treatment as "mascots" of other schools in the Middle Border Conference. I proudly wore my T-shirt to two basketball games this winter, because I am absolutely convinced that your discouragement of using "Indian" mascots is on target!
The excuses of the Superintendent of the Osceola School District (as reported in the Pierce County Herald) that they had carefully consulted with the Seminole tribe in Florida struck me as lame, in light of the fact that we are not Floridians, but Wisconsinites, and every single tribal group in Wisconsin has expressed its disapproval of making our indigenous neighbors into mascots. I also found the "Black Hawk" defense of the Baldwin-Woodville superintendent rather disingenuous. The fact that at the middle school and elementary level they teach the kids that the symbol is a black colored bird, indicates to me, that at the high school level they recognize otherwise! (I was moved by my online research to order Black Hawk's autobiography from Amazon, and have finished reading it).
I would share with you that in my own high school days (1960-64) at River Falls, there was nothing that stirred my passions as much as the Civil Rights movement led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My dentist's son, James Laue, a graduate student at Harvard at the time, participated in the Sit-In movement, dedicating a fair portion of his life to the Civil Rights struggle. He served for a period with the U.S. Justice Department in its Civil Rights Division as an observer and reporter of Civil Rights violations during marches and protests throughout the South and beyond. In the fall of 1963 Jim Laue was invited by River Falls High School to share his experiences at an all-school assembly. His presentation moved me deeply and helped to shape my own commitments to racial equality.
My understandings of our society were further shaped by three years in Chicago in graduate school, experiencing desegregation of the Buffalo, New York, public school system from 1975-80, as well as the report of the Kerner Commission, which suggested in 1967 that, "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal." Sadly, despite some efforts to produce helpful Civil Rights bills, voting rights acts (one of which has been repealed as "unnecessary"), change has been far too little and far too slow.
However, there has been some hopeful progress. Recognition of women's rights, acceptance of LGBTQ individuals has moved forward miles from 50 years ago. Black rights, not so much. I do believe, however, that we are taking at least baby-steps forward.
If I were writing an addendum to the Kerner Report today, I would suggest that we are struggling to avoid perpetuating a nation of multiple societies, black, white, indigenous, immigrant, and perhaps more—each too much separate, unique, and unequal. I am greatly heartened by the passion and hopefulness which you as student leaders of Prescott High School, along with your generation of people in many places (as demonstrated by the multitude of marches for violence free schools last week) have shown.
Please know that you are not alone! There are those of us in the community who share your passion, admire your convictions, and applaud your efforts! Thank you for those efforts, your thoughtfulness, and your careful expression of (in my opinion) "righteousness," in regard to our indigenous neighbors. I offer you my encouragement. I shall continue to wear my T-shirt on appropriate occasions, and shall continue to applaud your efforts. Thank you.
Charles A. Wolfe