On June 24, 2013 the Port Townsend (Washington) school board held a public event to field response and encourage discourse leading up to the board’s decision to keep or retire the Port Townsend High School mascot of over 60 years(?): the “Redskins”.
According to sources in attendance at the event, the public statements included opinions both in favor of and against changing the name, with a majority of the speakers arguing to keep the name. Following the public’s statements, the school board voted (unanimously) to retire the name and begin the process of choosing a replacement.
The morning after the decision, the (Port Townsend newspaper) ran an article(http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20130624/NEWS/306249982/redskins-retired-as-team-name-and-mascot-for-port-townsend-high) announcing the board’s decision. The article included a photo showing a young woman (Tyese Logan) wearing a Port Townsend cheerleading uniform while in the midst of sharing her opinions opposing the pending name change. Not having been able to attend the event ourselves, and always interested to hear any opinions concerning the issue of Native American mascots, our curiosity of what exactly she had been expressing when the photo was taken led to an idea. “Let’s share this photo on our Facebook page and ask people to guess what they think she’s saying! YEAH! That’s what we’ll do! It’ll be great! We’ll ask people to share thoughts either in support of or opposing the name change! A real life dialogue could develop! Thanks Zuckerberg!”
So we did it: we posted the photo on our Facebook page accompanied by the following:
“”REDSKINS” CAPTION CONTEST
We always enjoy hearing the thoughts and opinions of people who oppose change like that which was unanimously voted upon last night by Port Townsend’s school board.
Although we can’t hear what the young lady in this photo is saying, judging by the now-defunct team name embroidered across her chest we assume that she was speaking in favor of keeping “Redskins” as Port Townsend’s mascot.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN:
post a comment about what you think she might have been saying.
If you know what she actually said, feel free to post that. If you yourself oppose last night’s decisions, feel free to post your thoughts as a caption for this photo. If actually ARE the young lady in this photo, feel free to post your own thoughts as the caption for your own photo.
Whiteskins Nation: have fun but keep it civil.”
Nothing to do now but sit back and watch the dialogue unfold.
But…something else happened. That’s right, nothing. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. Crickets. High speed, broadband silence.
This went on for some time, until someone who seemed to know Ms. Logan personally shared the post with Ms. Logan. Great! Dialogue started!
Kestlē Kaedynce Kynlee shared your photo.
Tyese Logan YOU’RE FAMOUS ON THE “WHITESKINS” FB PAGE.
What morons they are. SERIOUSLY…. hahaha gotta love the PT hippies
June 25th at 3:48 pm
We’ve been called much worse, even by people with whom we ended up having very thoughtful and respectful conversations. But that’s beside the point. The big thing is that this is great! Maybe Ms. Logan will now share directly with us the thoughts she was sharing at the time of the photo! Maybe then other people, both for and against the mascot change, will reply as well!
Unfortunately, no. Didn’t happen. We would soon hear from Ms. Logan but not about her views regarding Native mascots (her comment is included below). Thankfully though, this “share” did initiate some comments to the original post:
Tyese Logan if I were you I would politely ask them to remove this. You don’t deserve this. You spoke from the heart about your opinion. Emotions are running high and who knows what words people will put in your mouth about what they think you are saying. Come on people this is bull.
June 25 at 3:58pm
As a resident of this community, I ask that you remove this. It falls beneath the respect, dignity, and honor we strive for in this discussion. Sell your shirts and so on, but please don’t ask people to put words in her mouth.
June 25 at 4:42pm
Sadly it’s out of our hands and I just have to suck it up. Just got off the phone with peninsula daily news and this website page stole this photo illegally. It’s a cruel world we live in. It brakes my heart. All I can do is keep my head high and be proud.
June 25 at 4:57pm
While I honor everyone’s right to their own opinions on the matter of the name change, the posting of this picture steps past the voicing of opinions and moves right on to a very distasteful level of personal attack. What do you hope to gain by posting this picture (with a not-so-subtle mocking tone)? I, too, request that you remove this photo.
June 25 at 4:58pm
Kestlē Kaedynce Kynlee
PEOPLE GO TO “OPTIONS” ON THIS PHOTO AND HIT “REPORT” I JUST DID IT!
June 25 at 5:10pm
Kestlē Kaedynce Kynlee
Who ever posted this photo of you Tyese is a low life POS with too much time on their hands. Seriously, don’t get it get to you. Chin up hun!
June 25 at 5:11pm
Reported as harassment to a friend!! Great idea Kestlē Kaedynce Kynlee!
June 25 at 6:34pm
Not quite the response we were hoping for, but we sincerely appreciate these five people taking their time to share with us their thoughts.
Although not in the timely manner in which we would have like to respond, we did post the following comment in response:
“Thank you for your comments. Although we did not intend for this post to offend Ms. Logan or anyone in the Port Townsend community, after reading your comments and considering how we have made you feel, we have decided to remove this post. These requests to delete this post are all too similar to the requests which we and others continue to make for sports teams to retire the misrepresentations of Native people from their names and mascots. We have continued this conversation from your thoughtful feedback on our blog: [URL] Thanks.”
Shortly after posting this comment, we deleted the original post and photo from our Facebook page.
However, it would be a shame let pass something which this situation can contribute to larger conversation currently going on in the US and Canada concerning Native sports mascots. That something can be summed up in two words:
‘intent’ and ‘misrepresentation’
When we posted the photo and our “caption contest” we never intended to disrespect, offend, misrepresent or harass Ms. Logan or any other member of the Port Townsend community in any way. Since the photo had already been posted by a local Port Townsend paper, and since we felt the invitation for contributions or “captions” was worded in a respectable manner and welcomed a variety of opinions, we thought we were good to go. Creating a dialogue, hearing opinions with which we agree and disagree, continuing the conversation following the school board’s vote: these were our intentions.
Despite these intentions, the comments we received made it clear that at least 5 people actually did feel disrespected, offended, misrepresented and/or harassed, either personally or on behalf of Ms. Logan. We respectfully understand these feelings and regret that the effect of our posts is so different from our original intent.
Consider the similarities between our intent in our Facebook post and the intent of many sports teams, such as the Washington Redskins: each of us do/did something that produces unintended outcomes. For Whiteskins, it was a Facebook post. For the Washington Redskins, it is their team name and logo. Both groups also claim that they intended no offense or disrespect. Those are the similarities. Where we differ from the Washington Redskins is that we are willing to admit that even though the outcomes of our actions are different from what we intended, we are still responsible for those outcomes. As a result, we took down our Facebook post. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins maintain that because their team’s name and logo are not intended to disrespect or offended Native and/or non-Native people, they are in no way responsible for the offense and disrespect that result from their name and logo. As far as they are concerned, they have done nothing wrong and feel no obligation to change their name or mascot.
Obviously, we disagree with their approach to misrepresenting other people.
Consider this interaction between two of the commenters in their comments to our Facebook post:
“…who knows what words people will put in your mouth about what they think you are saying.”
Kristan French to Tyese Logan
“Sadly it’s out of our hands and I just have to suck it up…It’s a cruel world we live in. It brakes my heart. All I can do is keep my head high and be proud.”
Tyese Logan in response to Ms. French
It’d be great if everyone, individuals and communities, could 100% control the manner in which they are publicly represented. Sadly, that ain’t happening. Just as sadly, these two comments helped us realize that we might have actually just made this situation a little worse for at least one person. It really doesn’t matter that we’d invited Ms. Logan to speak for herself and share her opinion about why she is in favor of keeping the former Port Townsend H.S. mascot. What matters more is that when she did speak for herself, she expressed a feeling of helplessness over how someone else had misrepresented her. Rather than continue to contribute to this cruelty of this world, we decided to delete our post.
We actually fully agree with Ms. Logan. There’s a lot of cruelty in the world. A world where Native people and communities are represented to the majority of “us” as some odd combination of Thanksgiving, the “Tomahawk Chop”, slutty Halloween costumes, Disney, Disney, Disney, the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Hollywood Westerns, the Boston Tea Party, Dances With Wolves, and yes, the Washington Redskins. For most white people, this all combines to make up entirety of our “understanding” of Native people. This is nothing new. It’s older than our Founding Fathers.
The same concerns that Ms. French expressed apply here: this ongoing stream of misrepresentation defines people with little to no input of their own. “THIS is what Native people sound like. THIS is what Native people are saying. THIS is what it looks like to honor Native peoples’ history and culture.”
And as Ms. Logan expressed, these misrepresentations are so prominent and pervasive that it seems like change will “NEVER” come. However, people keep working for change. Protesting for change. Speaking on their own behalf in attempts to change how “we”, us Whiteskins, see them as people.
Thankfully, the Port Townsend school board, joining others in recent months, has decided to consider the disparity between the intent of the school’s mascot and the outcomes it has on the community. Thankfully they decided to consider the ways that a simple thing like a high school mascot can go a long way in joining in a rich tradition of misrepresentation, disrespect, and dishonor to Native people. And most of all, thankfully they decided to act.
In the spirit of the Port Townsend school board’s decision, we also respectfully listened to, considered, and acted upon the views expressed to us concerning the misrepresentation and offense that Ms. Logan experienced because of our Facebook post.
From all of this, we’d like to ask two things of the leadership the Washington professional football team and anyone else who is able to make decisions regarding the team mascots of academic, recreational and professional sports teams:
1) Consider the disparity between the intention of Native mascots and team names and the outcomes they produce
2) Respectfully acknowledge the individuals and communities which are misrepresented by these names and mascots
We understand that there is a lot of money to be made at the expense of Native individuals’ and communities’ abilities to represent themselves. Forbes values the Washington professional football team’s brand strength at $131 million. While it is impossible to determine how much of the brand’s strength is tied to the team’s name and logo, let’s pretend that it is 10%, or $13.1 million.
Here’s an idea: If Dan Snyder really does intend to honor Native people through his preferred team name, a $13.1 million donation to one or even numerous Native non-profit organizations may be a good way to start the “honoring”.
If you are interested in reading a REAL discourse regarding the Port Townsend school board’s decision to change the high school’s mascot (like we had hoped to but failed to create) see the comment section at the bottom of this article.