North Carolina Educators for the Elimination of Racist Mascots
70 Jazaka Ridge Ln., Swannanoa, NC 28778
For immediate release Thursday August 23, 2001 (2 pages)
New educators' group for eliminating Indian sports imagery
Teacher David Voyles thinks North Carolina's public school curriculum should not include American Indian sport mascots and the misuse of Indian religious imagery, and he is asking teachers and educators around the state to join him in putting out that message.
"Since the Buncombe County Schools' definition of 'curriculum' is "everything that happens to and for a student beginning at the school house door...", we need to pay attention to this aspect of our curriculum," he says.
Voyles will announce the formation of a new organization at UNC-Asheville Thursday night at the showing of a film produced by Wisconsin high school students, "Images of Honor: Remnants of Racism in Wisconsin Public Schools."
Voyles' new organization, North Carolina Educators for the Elimination of Racist Mascots (NCEERM) will be based in Buncombe County, in the mountains of western North Carolina, where Voyles has been a tenth grade English teacher for twenty two years.
In his invitation letter to educators, Voyles emphasized the need for his fellow teachers to voice their concerns about this issue. He wrote, "As educators we know that representing people as stereotypes increases the likelihood of discrimination and persecution."
Voyles says that "NC educators have needed a channel through which to express their concerns on this important issue. There are 18,000 American Indian students in N.C.'s public schools and that group has the highest drop-out rate of any segment of the school population. We need to look for every opportunity of making our schools more welcoming." Please turn over
He added, "The N.C. Commission on Indian Affairs has asked that all non-Indian public schools in the state retire Indian mascots by June 2003. We want to support them in that effort."
Voyles noted that there are nearly sixty schools in the state with Indian mascots. With that many schools interacting and playing each other in sports, virtually all North Carolina students are exposed to the stereotypes. He added that his own school's mascot is the "Warriors" and that he has seen student-made signs saying "Massacre the Warriors, " Relocate the Warriors," and "Scalp the Warriors,"
Trying to put such signs in an understandable context, Voyle's letter states, "No one would think the intent of the slogans was to purposely hurt Native American people but those who are mindful of tragedies such as the Trail of Tears and the programs of genocide once sanctioned by the US government find the messages chilling."
Voyles added, "Just this spring, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement calling for the end to Indian sports mascots and imagery in all non-Indian schools across the nation. We as educators must listen to such voices and re-examine the overall metaphors of our schools. The sad bottom line is that not only are we harming the Indian students in our state but we are teaching the other students that stereotyping other cultures is OK. We cannot purport to teach 'character education' while keeping these racist mascots."
Voyles was Teacher of the Year in Buncombe County in 1990 and 1997 and, in 1991-92, was Region 8 Teacher of the Year. He said in his invitation letter that he felt his peers awarded him these honors "...because of my commitment to all students in North Carolina, and because of that commitment I feel I must act on an educational issue that is harming our children."
Voyles said he can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 828-686-3377. NCEERM's mailing address is 70 Jazaka Ridge Ln. Swannanoa, NC 28778.
The film event at UNC-Asheville will be at 7 pm Thursday August 23 in the Whitman Room of Ramsey Library. An exhibit entitled, "It's Only A Game?" prepared by Buncombe County high school teachers is also on display in Ramsey Library for the remainder of the month.
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