Guys. This is me in high school.
plus a jazzy background.
It was 1998. I was a junior. Britney Spears was skinny. I had a perfectly perfect chin length bob that doubled as a face helmet. I had a steady boyfriend. I had 3 best friends who would sing Spice Girl’s lyrics with me at lunch. I was in choir, the History Club (for the free trip), and the school newspaper. I wasn’t a nerd but I wasn’t the coolest of the cool. I was insecure and just trying to blend in. Just like the rest of high school dopes. All just trying to get by in one piece.
Now it is 2013 and my high school is still standing and educating girls in bra tops and boys in whatever boys wear, while everyone learns via robot teachers and laser beams that shoot knowledge into student’s heads. I’m pretty sure that’s what happens in high schools now. But something else is different too…
You may have heard my high school’s name in the past week or so. It’s been in the NY Times, Huffington Post and even on ESPN. They are talking about a hot button that has been discussed for years and years and years. And finally, a group of brave kids wanted to do something about it.
Here is the cover of that yearbook from 1998.
What’s wrong with this picture? I bet a lot of you will say nothing. We’ve sort of been taught after 100 million Thanksgivings and Halloweens that nothing IS wrong with this. But what if it was a different picture and it said Blackskin? Or Yellowskin? Would you see something wrong then?
The word “Neshaminy” refers to a Native American tribe that resided where I grew up. There is a mall named after them too. And as long as the school has been there, they have been the Neshaminy Redskins. Just a brief history lesson (I learned it in History Club….please) the term “Redskin” is what us whities called Native Americans because of the paint that they would use on their faces. It’s derogatory. Plain and simple. No matter how you use it. For example, “that Redskin is sooo awesome!” Still derogatory. It’s objectifying a group of people.
Well, the editors at the Neshaminy school newspaper, The Playwickian, decided that they weren’t going to publish the word “Redskin” anymore in the print of the actual paper. Instead, they would just refer to the football team and other school teams as “Neshaminy.” They wrote this piece stating why. And it was brave. Because they knew there would be backlash. But they just didn’t know how much.
After they made this decision, the principal of the school declared that they MUST print the word “Redskin”. That they actually are not “allowed” to NOT print the word. Um, what? The principal doesn’t feel that Redskin is a racist term in any way and is shoving their first amendment rights up his racist principal butt. And hence we have a huge hot debate going on within the school and now the state and the country and also the universe.
Does this totally sound like a weird episode of Glee or is it just me? Granted, that’s my only exposure to any high school anymore, but come on. A racisty squirly principal telling a bunch of kids, who are standing up for what they believe in, that the school will take away their bus for their trip to nationals followed by a rendition of Don’t Stop Believing??? I mean…. You get it.
But it hasn’t ended here. The kids at school who made this decision are being bullied. Football players are ripping copies of the paper in their faces. Grown ass adults are attacking them on Twitter. And to top it off, a full page ad in the school newspaper was taken out by the class of 1972 saying some bullshit about school, tradition and “GO SKINS”. Just to pretty much tell the kids to shove it. And no one is helping these kids.
These kids aren’t trying to take away a school mascot (although they SHOULD. Or someone should.). They just don’t want to print the word in the paper. National papers have done the same with the Washington Redskins. But we’re not talking about a team with billion dollar merchandising deals. We’re talking about a high school mascot. Do you really give a shit if the mascot changes to the Neshaminy Tigers, or the Neshaminy Squirrels or the Neshaminy Racists? Wait that last one would be offensive. And we wouldn’t want to project to the world that the high school is racist, WOULD WE?
So after a big open forum and meeting at the school with the administration and the students, an agreement was not reached and now it’s going to the school board. These kids are standing up for what they believe in and they aren’t getting any real support.
Well I want them to know that a little insecure junior girl from 1998 supports them. In 1998 I wrote some weird weird shit for the paper. Most of it was never published because they would look at me like, “what is wrong with her? We can’t publish a hate piece on Winnie the Pooh. That’s weird” But sometimes my weird stuff was published. And that was exciting….seeing your words written for everyone to read.
And here we are in 2013 and I make my living writing weird shit for everyone to read. Thank you Neshaminy and thank you Playwickian.
I hope that you will support these editors like I do. It takes guts to work for the school newspaper and do things that others don’t like. Just like AHndreAH Zuckerman and Brandon Walsh did
You may be reading this and still disagree with me. You may think that the term Redskin isn’t offensive. You may think that tradition is more important. You may have some argument about football and recognition and team spirit.
None of that is as important as respect. And the Native Americans deserve it. And so do the editors of this school paper.
I want this to get as much attention as possible. What this principal and these administrators are doing is wrong. For those of you who do agree with me, I need you in full force attention getting mode.
I want you to tweet/facebook/instagram/whateverthehellyoudo with the hashtags #theRword and tag @theplaywickian. You can follow them on twitter and give them encouragement here.
Write to the school board. Tell them they are shitheads. Don’t use those words. You know how to act.
And I’ll leave you with this.
This openly gay Neshaminy student posted this and was voted class president. And I’ll be voting him president of the world.