This summer’s AIM-West campaign against racist mascots in sports refers to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, though the movement against racist stereotypes long pre-dates UNDRIP. Article 8 says, “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for… any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their dignity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities.”

Oakland’s Chinatown Youth Center Initiative called off a collaborative fundraiser with the Oakland A’s because on the date of the event the A’s will play against the Cleveland Indians, a sport team with a Native American mascot. On April 12 Fundraising Committee Chair of the Chinatown Youth Center Initiative Michael Lok wrote, “Our organization stands in complete solidarity with the movement to eliminate discriminatory practices and the commodification of people of color/ethnic communities’ identities, not just in sports but in all facets of our society.”

Tony Gonzalez of AIM-West welcomed the stance, “This extraordinary courage by a non-profit organization, and display of support to also sacrifice August 19, and a badly needed fundraiser for their youth center, should not go unnoticed by the American Indian, and the progressive community! Instead, let it be an example of solidarity with American Indians in other cities who plan similar protests where major league teams with racist images as logos are scheduled to play.”

The City of Berkeley passed resolution no. 65,489-N.S. October 25, 2012 “Ending Racial or Ethnic Stereotypes in Team Names, Mascots, and other Public Titles,” which addresses the social impact of “derogatory American Indian images… perpetuat[ing] a stereotypical image of American Indians that is likely to have a negative impact on the self esteem of American Indian children.”

In 2001, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued as statement on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols, asserting, “an end to the use of American Indian images and team names by non-Indian schools; that stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other groups when promoted by public education institutions, teach all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society.”

Sherylin Hue Tan, Director of the Chinatown Youth Center Initiative wrote April 17, “Because we believe in the fight to eliminate the dehumanization of people of color, we will definitely share with our youth what we’ve learned through your organization so they can to continue think critically about the commodification of people of color’s culture in this country.”

This year’s AIM-West campaign against racist mascots sheds light on the USA’s original human rights violations which persist today. Awakenings and expressions of solidarity around emotional violence in racist language and attitudes is a great step to take for American society today. It’s step one in confronting the myriad of social struggles, all of which are experienced by the indigenous – the people who have always been at the forefront of challenging our nation’s abuses of power.

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Wendy Kenin is a member of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission
Wendy Kenin is a member of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission