I’ve been writing about the New Year, New Iowa Open Letter Campaign of my friends at the Great Plains Action Society. See: Your Invitation to be an Ally. At the end of this is a statement by GPAS related to a racist image found in the Sports Page restaurant in Indianola.
I called the Sports Page, where someone took a message from me, and passed it on to one of the owners. The message returned was they didn’t know anything about a mascot. Which was an unfortunate way I put the message to them, but I’m sure they got the point of follow-up concern about the imagery in their restaurant.
Great Plains Action Society makes the following points response to this issue, applicable to all persons or establishments that continue to display racist imagery.
THIS IS NOT A MATTER OF ‘OPINION’: FOR DECADES, MULTIPLE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THESE IMAGES AND MASCOTS HARM INDIGENOUS CHILDREN. Exposure to this racist imagery also correlates to increasing negative views of Native people in non-Native children. Too often this issue gets brushed aside as a matter of “differing opinions” about what is or is not “offensive.” To be very clear, this is not about what is or is not offensive, or whether there is consensus about this among the vastly diverse Indigenous communities. Experts have weighed in and it is clear that children mascots hurt Indigenous children, full stop.
I spent my entire adult life working in a children’s hospital and this concerns me. Following is part of a policy statement on the Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Racism is a “system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’) that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.” Racism is a social determinant of health that has a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families. Although progress has been made toward racial equality and equity, the evidence to support the continued negative impact of racism on health and well-being through implicit and explicit biases, institutional structures, and interpersonal relationships is clear. Failure to address racism will continue to undermine health equity for all children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families.The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health, FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, POLICY STATEMENT, AUGUST 01, 2019
GOOD OR BAD INTENTIONS ALONE DO NOT DETERMINE THE WRONGNESS OR RIGHTNESS OF AN ACTION. So often we see people claim that because they have good intentions, their use of racist imagery and mascots is not problematic. However, it’s still problematic, because regardless of an individual’s intention, it is still an act that harms children.
RETIRING MASCOTS AND DISCARDING STEREOTYPED IMAGE IS NOT AN ERASURE OF ANYONE’S IDENTITY; IN FACT, THE EXISTENCE OF THESE MASCOTS IS A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR TO INDIGENOUS ERASURE. Many supporters of racist images and mascots are under the impression that retiring them is taking away from their identity because being a [insert racist mascot here] is a huge part of who they are. It’s unfortunate that people have built their identity around “being” a [racist mascot], because identifying as something that harms children and society in general is problematic, and that identification should especially cease when they learn about the harmful effects on children.
An Open Letter to Amanda and Joe Ripperger, the owner of the Sports Page restaurant in Indianola, and all other owners of establishments with racist mascot decor:
It was brought to the attention of Great Plains Action Society that an Indianola community member contacted the owners of the Sports Page restaurant about their racist “R*dman” mascot sign hanging at their establishment. Though the owners, Amanda and Joe Ripperger, said they took time to think about removing the sign, they eventually declined to do so based on typical, problematic reasoning. The reasons they gave are among the most common rationalizations in defense of racist images and mascots and so we are taking this opportunity to, once again, clarify some points about the racist images and mascots “debate.” We are including text from their response to the community member for context and transparency. From the community member:
They approached the restaurant owners and this was their answer:
On our first request to remove their racist signs, we were told they were “decor,” nostalgia and history.
In a second response the Ripperger’s said:
I am very sorry for your families hurt that you have experienced in our community, and we do hear your concerns. We have decided that the signs will remain up. Our restaurants are a piece of Indianola’s community, but most importantly they are ours. We have owned and operated these restaurants for 10 years on January1 and we are so proud to be part of the Indianola community that it seems like we would be erasing something that is near to our hearts. Nothing hung on our walls is meant to be derogatory. We hope that you and all our customers know that.
Thank you for sharing your perspective with us.
Sincerely,Amanda and Joe Ripperger
We believe they would be sensitive to additional feedback and might hopefully change their position. Great Plains Action Society