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White progressive activist: new New College mascot like an ‘angry, threatening brown’ person

‘Reminiscent of … historically offensive imagery’

A Bernie Sanders-supporting white female activist in Florida took to the op-ed pages of a local paper this past weekend to claim the new mascot for the recently transformed New College … is racist.

Progressive Floridians have been apoplectic since Gov. Ron DeSantis began overhauling the New College of Florida by appointing right-leaning trustees such as Christopher Rufo.

The trustees’ abolition of the New College DEI — diversity, equity and inclusion — office led to the typical paroxysms of incoherent anger — such as comparing DeSantis to Adolf Hitler and claiming the school’s changes were doomed to fail because people wouldn’t stand for “fascism.”

The New College recently changed its mascot to the “Mighty Banyans” (pictured), named after a type of tree that graces the campus.

But according to Robin Williams (pictured), a retired educator and current president of the Manasota Democratic Public Education Caucus, the Mighty Banyan “should have set off alarms.”

In a Herald-Tribune op-ed, Williams claimed the conservative trustees and interim president “supported and chose an altered mascot that depicts a tree that has been anthropomorphized to closely resemble an angry, threatening brown individual”  (emphasis added).

MORE: Mascot makeover to avoid alleged ‘OK’ hate symbol may be ‘overreaction’

It is an image that is also reminiscent of the historically offensive imagery perpetuated by the “Tarzan” books, which featured a main character who lived in an African jungle and boasted of being a “killer of beasts and many black men.” Though generations have passed, there is no getting around the reality that the “Tarzan” literary series remains one full of vile racial stereotyping, with Black men portrayed as “primitive natives” and “savages.”

“The Mighty Banyan” mascot also appears to bear similarities to race-oriented memorabilia that was especially popular during the Jim Crow era in the United States and, unfortunately, served to ingrain racial stereotypes in the American psyche.

Williams said the mascot is merely “latest in a long list of poor decisions” by President Richard Corcoran, Rufo and others associated with the New College, such as the alleged “banning of anything related to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Reacting to Williams’ column on Twitter, Rufo wrote “Advice for white libs: if you see a tree and immediately think ‘looks like a scary minority to me,’ you might be the racist.”

Editor’s note: The article was updated with the name ‘New College’ instead of ‘New School.’

MORE: Cal State Long Beach’s new mascot: a non-binary shark who uses plural pronouns

IMAGES: Chris Rufo/Twitter screencap; Robin Williams/Facebook screencap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.