Some students at San Diego State University are pushing to scrap their “Aztec Warrior” mascot and its use of a spear, claiming they perpetuate “harmful stereotypes of Native Americans” and disrespect them.
In an official resolution submitted earlier this month to the student government, the SDSU Queer People of Color Collective called for the immediate end to any association with “Aztec” culture.
“The continued use of the name ‘Aztec’ and the ‘Aztec Warrior’ mascot perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Native Americans, including the notion that Native Americans are innately violent, dangerous, and ‘savage,’ which is demonstrated by the Aztec Warrior’s aggressive body language, the Aztec Warrior’s use of a spear at special events, the use of a spear on the SDSU Athletics Logo which is printed on uniforms and SDSU memorabilia, and the slogan ‘fear the spear,’ ” the resolution states.
The resolution also calls on the university to keep in mind the appropriateness, viability and general appeal when creating or choosing a new mascot. The students would also like to see a weapons ban instituted – that is, the new mascot cannot “use, hold, or operate anything resembling a man-made weapon,” the resolution states.
In a statement provided to The College Fix by campus spokesperson Natalia Elko, the university declined to comment on the push to ax the mascot.
The statement did, however, say that the university conducted a “broadly based, thorough and thoughtful” study from 2000 to 2003 that “overwhelmingly confirmed,” based on a student referendum, that the mascot accurately portrays Aztec culture and history.
“Nearly 10,000 students voted, setting a new SDSU record for a student referendum and endorsing the proposed mascot by more than a 3:1 ratio,” the university’s website states. “More than 4,700 Alumni Association and Aztec Athletic Foundation members voted in their referendum, with more than 88 percent of voters backing the mascot.”
Contacted by The College Fix earlier this month, SDSU Queer People of Color Collective students pushing for the initiative initially agreed to an interview on their effort. However, they have yet to do so.
Anthony Berteaux, a columnist for The Daily Aztec student newspaper, penned an op-ed earlier this month titled “Rally around the Warrior,” in which he defended the use of the mascot.
“There’s something inherently special about our student body exhibiting pride when we, old and young, collectively cheer on the Aztec Warrior as he rallies us together,” Berteaux wrote. “The ridiculous argument to eradicate our school mascot … in the name of combating racism ridicules social justice movements.”
He also said the movement to scrap the mascot “disrespects” the school’s culture and history and “fails in logic” because it does not acknowledge the fact that mascots are supposed to act aggressively in order to “rally school pride.”
Jose Gutierrez, in a dueling column for The Daily Aztec, had a different point of view.
“Letting go of racist traditions sure is hard, isn’t it America?” Gutierrez wrote. “Anyone with even an ounce of respect for the Aztec culture should support this proposition.”
In a poll on The Daily Aztec’s website, 66 percent of the 334 respondents as of Sunday night said they are against changing the mascot, while just 15 percent said the mascot is offensive and should be scrapped. The remaining respondents said they had not heard of the effort to change the mascot.
College Fix reporter Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.
IMAGE: SDSU website screenshot