Wednesday July. 1,  1998
Mascot should be one we can all be proud of
My name is Patricia Merzlak, and those of you that know me only from the Erwin High School mascot issue probably have me tagged as activist, trouble maker, outsider, politically correct...and in so much as any of that is true, it is because I am first of all a parent.

My husband and I have lived in the Erwin district since 1964.  We have had five children graduate from Erwin over the years from 1971 through 1998.   In all that time we have said good things about the school, supported the programs and teachers, and kept quiet when our children were having difficulty with the Erwin mascot, their depiction of the American Indian.

In the past few years, Native Americans have documented the damage done by "Indian" mascots/logos in public schools.   This is a mental health issue, one important to Indians and non-Indians alike.  So much information has come out that we could no longer keep quiet about the mascot.

Our children are Indian children, and it is very difficult for them to go to school where the mascot is someone's idea of an American Indian, with not a clue as to what being Indian is all about.   We have stood by as their heritage, identity and culture has been taken over, watched as feathers and paint are used for fun and sports, and tried to explain to the children why this is being done.  Children at school seem to think it is funny for someone to actually claim to be an Indian.  We tried all we could to defuse a lot of the problems,  problems that teachers never knew about.  But there is racism, and so many stereotypes.  Not only do my Indian children become influenced by the mascot image, the other children get their views of Indians from the mascot.

Even though all schools sign nondiscriminatory statements which plainly call for no racial bias,  the Buncombe County School Board attorney recently told us, "We choose to disregard that statement for now."  I didn't realize civil rights were optional.   I think all parents,  at least loving ones, want the same thing for their children that we do....that they grow up proud and self-confident, with high self-esteem and a good self-image.   These feelings are the basis for a solid adult life.

You loving parents also would not want your children embarrassed or discriminated against.   One of our more vocal opponents stated that he might change his mind if his daughter came to him and said she was embarrassed by the mascot.   Does he not realize or care that other children are embarrassed by that same mascot?  Would any of you want your children so hurt?  Are not my children as important as yours?   Do their mental health mean nothing?  Is your mascot worth the damage it is doing to children, both Indian and non-Indian?

The reason so many public schools and colleges around the country are changing these racist mascots is not because it is politically correct, it is because no race of people should be used.  And as a matter of fact,  no one would even consider using any other race,  think about it.

This issue is about Indian children and their future, and the world they inherit.  To you is is just a mascot, good for sports and a pep rally.   Your mascot can be a thing or an animal, a symbol that harms no child.  This is not a local issue,  it is nationwide.

I am just a parent;  who among you would do less for your children than I am trying to do?  We have asked the Erwin High School, "Please change,"  for all children.  The message you are sending is that a mascot is more valuable to the community than the children that attend the school and their sense of value of other cultures and races.

For my children and grandchildren I stand;  I respect your children ,can you not respect mine?  Can we not work together and choose a mascot we can all support proudly?