by Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald
Assembly Bill 30, sponsored by Democratic Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) was signed by Governor Brown yesterday and goes into effect January 1, 2017. The bill, known as “the California Racial Mascots Act” makes the state the first to prohibit public schools from using the term “Redskins” as a school athletic team name, mascot, or nickname beginning January 1, 2017.
The bill also prohibits the State Board of Education from waiving this prohibition. While the bill does go into effect at the beginning of 2017, it allows schools to phase in new sports and band uniforms as long as they avoid the use of the name “Redskins.” It is believed that the bill will affect approximately four high schools in California.
The term “Redskins” was once used to describe Native American scalps sold for a bounty and, as a result, people are speaking up and saying they want a name change that is not racially or culturally insensitive to Native Americans.
The grassroots group, Change the Mascot, has had an ongoing campaign which has been a strong supporter of the legislation to eliminate the use of “Redskins,” as a mascot or team name. They praised California Assemblymember Luis Alejo and Governor Brown for its landmark stand against the R-word. Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who testified at a key hearing on the bill in the Senate Education Committee on June 17 and fellow Change the Mascot leader, National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata, said in a joint statement:
“We applaud and extend our deepest gratitude to AB-30 author Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Governor Jerry Brown, and California’s lawmakers for standing on the right side of history by bringing an end to the use of the demeaning and damaging R-word slur in the state’s schools. They have set a shining example for other states across the country, and for the next generation, by demonstrating a commitment to the American ideals of inclusion and mutual respect.”
Change the Mascot goes on to state their discontent with the NFL’s lack of action stating, “Their historic step to build a better future stands in stark contrast to the dogged inaction of Washington’s NFL team, which in the face of all the evidence that this term degrades and offends Native Americans, continues to defend and promote the slur for its own financial gain.”
Assemblymember Alejo, who authored the bill and has also opposed the NFL Washington Redskins team name, said “This is part of a national movement and now is the time for us here in California to end the use of this derogatory term in our public schools.” The Washington Redskins football team has been the subject of passionate debate in recent years, with many activists and Native Americans calling for a name change.
DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, was on NBC’s Meet the Press earlier this year in February and expressed an understanding of the desire for the name change, stating, “I think that the right course is to sit down with our fans and let’s really talk about what we love about that team. And if it’s in the best interest of everybody that we not offend anybody, let’s make that change.”
Perhaps it’s time for us all to look at this, not from our perspective, but from the perspective of those who are most offended by the use of this name. Assemblymember Alejo and Governor Brown, with the support of other legislators, took a big step in making positive change and it’s time for the federal government to follow. It’s time for change.