Native Americans

Bowdoin College’s punishment of students who dressed up as pilgrims and American Indians at an off-campus pre-Thanksgiving soiree – calling it “cultural appropriation” – did not sit well with a civil rights group.

In an email shared with The College Fix, Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, wrote to Bowdoin Dean of Students Tim Foster:

One is supposed to know, in advance, according to your missives, that off-campus parties that would offend your sensibilities and/ or those of some phantom, typical or actual Bowdoin grievant — especially around Thanksgiving time, and who dress in inappropriate, culturally insensitive costumes — would violate the standards and conduct code of Bowdoin. To that assertion, and expectation, I must say—from the perspective of civil rights, due process, and free speech and association, that your position is absurd—and your threat to punish “offensive” students outrageous and idiotic.

Meyers, who is black, said he was mistreated as a student by his own college for “being disrespectful of black students’ demands for group identity and black separatism”:

I suppose if I mocked such separatism on the Bowdoin campus — as I criticized my fellow black students (whom the college had backed) as inauthentic — as race hustlers — Bowdoin officials —possibly even you — would bring me up on charges of cultural insensitivity. I might even be threatened with “discipline” for having an off-campus party at which my friends dressed up as Black Panthers or as African chiefs, and who put atop our heads handkerchiefs or head dress or crowns or otherwise dressed in African garb such as dashikis – to make the point that blacks who paraded around as black Mau Maus were being ridiculous in their emulating so-called black African culture.

Meyers notes that the “very observation of Thanksgiving as an occasion” is offensive to some:

Who gave you the right to be the arbiter of good taste? To censor ideas? Who gave you the right to punish differences of viewpoint? Who appointed you as the arbiter of acceptable and unacceptable dress at an off-campus party, to which you weren’t either a participant or an invitee?

Meyers asks Bowdoin for some basic answers:

Was there a complaint about the off-campus party brought to any entity at Bowdoin against any student there? Or are you the complainant? Is it fair or proper procedure for the college’s dean of students to prefer charges against “offensive” students even as he [you] condemns the accused and predetermines their discipline? What kind of due process other than a kangaroo procedure is that? You have defined the nature of the offense, and you have already decreed the students guilty of offending and breaking the code of conduct.

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Political correctness knows no bounds at Bowdoin College, one of the worst universities in the nation

Bowdoin College men’s lacrosse players have been disciplined by administrators for how they spent personal time at an off-campus party to celebrate a pre-Thanksgiving meal with friends.

The “Cracksgiving” party took place just before Thanksgiving in a house rented by some members of the men’s lacrosse team. It’s called the “Crack House,” and “Cracksgiving” something of an apparent annual tradition. The invite asked people to dress up like Pilgrims and Native Americans, urging students to “wear your finest Thanksgiving attire.”

Fourteen of the 50 or so who went wore costumes, according to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, calling their actions in an email to the campus community “harmful” and a “racist act that perpetuates prejudice, promotes hurtful stereotypes, and demeans others.”

The school has taken “disciplinary action” against the 14 students, calling it “conduct unbecoming of a Bowdoin student,” Foster stated.

“For some, wearing a headdress and ‘war paint’ on one’s face and bare chest is just harmless fun. For others, it is cultural appropriation that demonstrates poor judgment and insensitivity,” Foster said in his email, sent Tuesday, reports the Bowdoin Orient student newspaper, which printed the memo in its entirety.

Foster was apparently shocked and outraged that some students dared wear the costumes, because in October campus leaders had tried to shame them over their dastardly plans.

“[J]ust a few weeks ago, in anticipation of Halloween and ‘Cracksgiving,’ student leaders held a ‘Cultural Appropriation Fashion Show’ hoping to educate students about inappropriate costumes,” Foster bemoaned in his email. “Many got the point and decided not to wear costumes to ‘Cracksgiving.’ But others, including some of the party hosts who knew about and/or attended these educational efforts, chose to willfully ignore the message.”

And now these conscientious objectors must pay the price.

“Dean Amaez and I have had several conversations with leaders of the men’s lacrosse team, and the team and their coach have discussed this situation together. Members of the team now recognize that these actions were hurtful, and they have decided that the tradition of ‘Cracksgiving’ has run its course,” Foster smugly continued.

But privately, students have taken out their frustration over the situation on Yik Yak. Foster’s not having it.

“[W]e will not tolerate attempts to silence the substantial ongoing student leadership and dialogue on these issues through malicious, personal attacks posted anonymously on Yik Yak and elsewhere—posts that cannot be described as anything other than cowardly,” he stated.

Cowardly? Interesting choice of words, considering that when students at Bowdoin freely exercise their First Amendment rights – off campus no less – they’re publicly shamed and disciplined.

Bottom line: Bowdoin is one of the worst colleges in America.

It received an F grade in October from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for having one of the worst core curriculum graduation requirements in the nation, lacking basics such as history and economics.

What’s more, American history courses are not required for history majors and American literature courses are not required for English majors, a probe into the school by the National Association of Scholars found.

Furthermore, regardless of major, there is no foreign language requirement for graduation. But students are required “to take one course each in the areas of ‘Exploring Social Differences’ and ‘International Perspectives.’ There is no such requirement for anything dealing with America’s founding principles, commonalities, or culture.”

In addition to its horrible general education program, it was one of the first colleges in the nation to boot Christian ministries from campus because the Christian groups won’t allow non-Christians to take leadership positions, paving the way for many other colleges to follow suit.

Every year it takes naked pictures of some of its female students. Seriously.

The NAS study also found that Bowdoin lacks political diversity. With an estimated four or five politically conservative faculty members out of approximately 182 total faculty members, Bowdoin College is a predominantly liberal community that lacks diversity of thought.

In short, parents do not send your kids there. Just … don’t.

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix (@JenniferKabbany)

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Native American tribal leaders demanded “zero tolerance” and the expulsion of several University of North Dakota students after said students wore t-shirts with the logo “Siouxper Drunk” on them. The shirts also had a picture of the school’s old mascot, the Fighting Sioux, drinking out of a beer bong. University Herald reports:

Several tribal leaders, many of them former students of the University of North Dakota, met with representatives of the institution and the North Dakota University System on Monday at the state capitol in Bismarck about the issues. They also discussed creating an atmosphere of “respect on university campuses throughout the state.”

Leigh Jeanotte, member of the University of North Dakota’s American Indian Student Services, told Forum News Service Native American students at the university are considering filing a grievance with the Office of Civil Rights, and possible “informing tribes to not send students to the university.”

Jeanotte said the students feel they don’t have many other options.

Read the full article here.

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Students at the West Virginia-based Marshall University protested Christopher Columbus on Monday – Columbus Day – describing him as a mass murderer who launched the ultimate destruction of Native Americans and calling for the quasi-holiday to be abolished.

“Even in 2013, with so many facts out about the man, children are still being taught in school he was a good hearted man, even though he massacred a lot of the native peoples he came in contact with,” sophomore Autumn Lee told The Parthenon student newspaper at the public university.

“For the next 500 years, there was an emphasis on destroying Native American culture through conversion and education,” Lee, who organized the protest, told The Parthenon. “Even in the 1970s in Canada, there were still boarding schools where children were beaten if they spoke their language.”

Lee is a member of the Cayuga tribe of New York and Canada, according to the newspaper.

It’s unclear by the article if the protest was large; a picture of it shows one blonde female student holding a sign and not much else. The write up does not state how many students were involved in the effort.

But it’s not the first time Columbus has been disparaged by students or professors.

In 2007, Glenn Morris, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado at Denver, called for the observance to be abolished. In an op-ed in The Denver Post, he stated:

Columbus Day … celebrates racist concepts of discovery, conquest and occupation. In fact, Columbus began the transatlantic slave trade with captured Indians from the Caribbean. Soon, Africans were forced into slave ships to replace the millions of indigenous Americans who were slaughtered in Columbus’ regime of invasion known as the Encomienda. For this crime against humanity alone, Columbus should be stripped of any accolades, honors or holidays.

Columbus Day is not merely a celebration of Columbus the man; it is the celebration of a racist legal and political legacy – embedded in official legal and political pronouncements of the U.S. – such as the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny.

Stephen Martin, a graduate assistant at Oklahoma University, told the student newspaper in 2012:

“It could and should be a day for contemplation and reflection. Of course, we cannot turn back the clock, and we cannot reverse centuries of colonialism. But we don’t have to celebrate it, as if it were some kind of great triumph, either.”

Writing for Daily Kos in 2011, SUNY women’s studies professor Denise Oliver-Velez stated in a post titled “The Three R’s of Columbus Day: Robbery, Removal and Rape” that “as an anthropologist, I can attest that more attention is placed in the classroom to ‘Indian pot-shards and burial mounds’ than to the harsh political reality of life on the rez or in the urban off-rez ghettos of places like Minneapolis-St. Paul.”

She went on:

As a black American, I have a voice, a movement, congressional representation and even now a president who is cast in my skin color. Granted, that voice is often repressed, and I live daily with the affect of systemic racism on my community. We are 12.6 percent of the population as opposed to 0.9 percent for those counted as Native Americans and Native Alaskans reported in the 2010 census. And yes-there are those of us who are “black” who can speak of “red” roots as well. That same census shows 16.3 percent of the population as Latino or Hispanic, and we know that the history of rapine practiced by the Spaniards and Portuguese explorers did not extinguish indigenous DNA.

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The Washington Redskins are less than two months away from kicking off the NFL season as a possible Super Bowl contender for the first time in more than a decade.

But in recent months, their on-field potential has been overshadowed by a longstanding nickname controversy. Many fans, the media and members of Congress continue to mount pressure on the storied franchise to change its name, calling “redskin” an offensive term.

The team’s owner, though, has vowed to never change the name and has maintained that it is a positive symbol of their culture.

In March, American Samoa representative Eni F. H. Faleomavaega introduced a bill that would abolish any trademarks that feature the term “redskin.” In May, Faleomavaega and nine other Congress members appealed in a letter to Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, to change the name on the grounds that it was derogatory, offensive and damaging to Native American youths.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” the letter stated. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

Similar letters were also sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the president and CEO of Fed Ex, the team’s sponsor. Goodell responded with a letter of his own.

“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,”Goodell wrote. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Whereas Goodell, thoughtfully and respectfully replied to the claims, Snyder was more defiant and blunt. He declined to directly respond to Congress, but instead addressed their claims to USA Today by explaining that fans understand “the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means.”

“We’ll never change the name,” Snyder said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” Snyder said.

However, closely examining the “tradition” of the Redskins name doesn’t particularly bode well for either Synder’s or Goodell’s claims.

Washington’s football team has been known as the Redskins since 1993. It’s possible that the team’s original owner, George Preston Marshall, named the team as some form of homage to head coach Lone Star Dietz, who was supposedly part-Sioux. (Dietz’s true heritage has long been questioned by historians and has never been proven.)

Dietz was known for wearing war paint and feathers at games. What was not as well known was that Dietz did so at Marshall’s request. In addition, Marshall himself was known for being an ardent racist. The Washington Redskins were the last team to integrate and only did so because they were forced by the government in 1962 — sixteen years after other NFL teams began signing African-Americans.

In short, it seems unlikely that Marshall was truly honoring the team’s coach.

Last week, Rep. Faleomavaega addressed the controversy on the floor of the House of Representatives. The speech echoed the sentiments of the letter and made it clear that his side was not giving in anytime soon.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s time the National Football League and the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, face the reality that the continued use of the word ‘redskin’ is unacceptable. It is a racist, derogatory term, and patently offensive to Native Americans,” Faleomavega said. “The Native American community has spent millions of dollars over the past two decades trying earnestly to fight the racism that is perpetuated by this slur.”

In some ways, the situation is reminiscent of the fight that took place in North Dakota over the University of North Dakota’s former nickname, the Fighting Sioux. In that case, after years of threats of sanctions by the NCAA, lawsuits, state laws and petitions, residents of North Dakota voted to retire the nickname.

In both instances, nicknames were under fire for being offensive to certain groups of people. However, Washington’s nickname is more apt to offend a broader group of people, whereas the “Fighting Sioux” pertained to a smaller portion of the population.

Both teams were also under tremendous pressure from a variety of sources, but the Redskins haven’t been pressured by their league and governing body, the NFL. In contrast, the NCAA deemed “the Fighting Sioux” to be “hostile and abusive” shortly after the controversy over tribal nicknames began.

The Fighting Sioux nickname was ultimately retired because North Dakotans grew tired of their tax dollars being spent on the dispute. The Redskins debate could also be decided for financial reasons, but in a much different way.

According to Forbes, the Washington Redskins are the NFL’s third most valuable franchise, worth $1.6 billion. Furthermore, $131 million of that figure can be attributed to the franchise’s brand strength. Stripping Washington of its nickname would not only put a significant dent in the team’s overall value, but it would also hurt the NFL.

Although Snyder has strongly and publicly shot down the possibility of changing the name, it appears that others in the organization are open to at least gauging the public’s opinion on the matter.

Last week, the team released a lengthy survey to their fans that included a section of questions relating to whether or not the team should change its name.

There are a lot of factors and variables in this multifaceted dispute. Political, economic, historical and social issues all play significant roles. Regardless of the outcome, it would be nice to see each factor weighed equally in determining the conclusion. Perhaps then, this time, the dispute will be settled by something other than money.

Fix contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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For nearly 100 years, members of the men’s social group The Tejas Club at the University of Texas have called each other “braves” as a show of kinship and to pay homage to East Texas Indians, but one professor recently told club members they’re racist because of the practice.

Professor Robert Jensen, who caused controversy last November when he called Thanksgiving a “white supremacist” observance and likened the Founding Fathers to Nazi Germany, told members of the men’s student club at one of their weekly coffee klatches that calling each other “braves” in effect celebrates what Jensen called the genocide of Native Americans.

“(It’s) inappropriate, and in fact is racist,” Jensen said Monday in an interview with The College Fix. “The United States as a nation exists as a result of one of the most, if not thee most, extensive genocidal campaigns in recorded human history. The European conquest of what is now the continental United States resulted in the extermination of virtually all indigenous people in the United States.”

Jensen said he believes the tradition should change, that the club’s members are acting racist, whether they think they are or not.

“A lot of us who are white are unconsciously racist throughout our lives in all sorts of ways,” he said. “We are not always aware of what we are doing.”

Jensen, 54, is a journalism professor who has taught at the university for 21 years.

Jensen’s comments to Tejas Club members were made on March 21 as an invited guest speaker for one of the group’s weekly coffee meetings, which aim to facilitate conversations and intelligent debate among students on a variety of topics. Often, high-profile guests are invited to speak.

Each year, The Tejas Club co-hosts a “Week of Women” coffee with the Orange Jackets, a women’s service organization at the University of Texas, and it was at that annual event that Jensen made his controversial remarks.

He was asked to speak primarily on pornography’s connection to sexism and racism, which he did. But toward the end of the talk a female student in the audience asked Jensen what he thought about The Tejas Club’s practice of calling each other “braves.”

The way a Tejas Club member describes it, it was then that Jensen went “on a ten-minute tirade regarding the persecution of Native Americans,” states an email to The College Fix from the club’s president, Chris Fellows.

“He concluded with ‘your organization is racist’ and promptly ended his talk, rejecting all questions and opportunities for dialogue,” Fellows stated. “Members of Tejas approached Mr. Jensen to discuss his accusation, but he found all points to be ‘bullshit.’ After it became clear that rising tempers made civil discourse impossible, Mr. Jensen was politely asked to leave three times. The Tejas Club’s reaction wasn’t a response to Mr. Jensen’s views on sexism or racism, but on his combative and aggressive approach.”

“We’re disappointed that the outcome of this event wasn’t a conversation about women’s issues, as it should have been. And we certainly don’t think solutions to racism or sexism have been achieved, but we will continue to host coffees regarding these topics until they are.”

Jensen said he was just doing what he thought was right.

“Whether it was a tirade or not is subjective, they are welcome to their interpretation,” he said. “I told them I thought it was important for white people to hold each other accountable for racist practices.”

The Tejas Club, however, works to promote a variety of causes that support diversity and equality. Founded in 1925, members today participate in pro-diversity events on campus, and host the weekly coffee meetings, open to the entire university community.

“In December, it hosts a holiday party for underprivileged children,” the group’s website states. “Throughout the year, the Braves participate in community service projects. … Recently, the club has partnered with the University’s Counseling and Mental Health Center to further suicide prevention and awareness with our fellow students.”

As for the history of the “braves” moniker, the club’s website states: “Friendship is the most important attribute of a Tejas Brave. In fact, Tejas is derived from the Native American word for ‘friend’ or ‘ally.’ … (Original members) began to call themselves the Tejas and referred to each other as braves, with the intention of emulating the friendliness of the East Texas Indians.”

While Fellows declined to comment to The College Fix specifically about Jensen’s racism accusations, Jensen said he recalls some of the young men on March 21 arguing that the “braves” nickname honors Native Americans. But Jensen said that explanation does not cut it.

“I do remember some of the men saying they feel they are honoring Indian people with this practice, and that is a standard response for people who use Indian nicknames and mascots,” he said. “I don’t think there is a strong argument there. … I think it’s important for the United States to come to terms with its history. … This is a culture that is in deep denial about its own barbarianism.”

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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IMAGE: Shown is Professor Robert Jensen/Credit – Jason Cato