FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHY IS THE RED RAIDER MASCOT OFFENSIVE AND HARMFUL?
Since the 19th century, "red" was most commonly a reference to "redsk**," a racial slur that derived from murdered and scalped Native people. The “Raider” reference draws upon inaccurate stereotypes of Native Americans as violent and aggressive attackers, rewriting the history of violent oppression and displacement of Native people by European settlers and the United States government over centuries.
The Red Raider logo depicts a bright red Native American man with an earring, mohawk, and feather. This depiction is a racialized caricature of Native Americans, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and treating an oppressed group of people as a mascot for others’ entertainment. For more on why Native leaders and other experts say Native mascots are offensive, visit our Organizations and Resources pages.
ARE NATIVE PEOPLE IN NORTH CAROLINA REALLY OFFENDED?
The North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs called for an end to all Native mascots in 2000. The Metrolina Native American Association, serving over 10,000 Native Americans in our region, has publicly supported the effort to retire South Point's Red Raider mascot, calling it "offensive." We are currently working to connect with the eight Native American tribes in North Carolina and the Catawba Nation in South Carolina. However, many individual citizens of North Carolina Native nations have already voiced their support for retiring the mascot.
ARE PEOPLE IN BELMONT (STUDENTS, PARENTS, TEACHERS) REALLY OFFENDED?
Our coalition includes current students, recent and not-so-recent alumni, parents of current and former students, and current and former teachers. Our petition has received support from across the country, but there are hundreds of people in Belmont and across Gaston County who have signed. Our campaign will highlight many of their voices. While Native mascots are being retired across the country as Americans recognize their harmful effects, this is an effort that has strong local support as well.
"The time is always right to do what is right." While Native mascots have always been wrong and offensive to Native Americans, awareness is stronger now than ever as a result of efforts for racial justice across our region and the entire country.
Across the country, schools and professional sports teams, including the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, are reexamining their Native mascots and considering their unintended harmful effects. In North Carolina, 55% of K-12 schools with Native mascots have retired those mascots in recent years at the urging of the state Board of Education and Commission of Indian Affairs. It's time for South Point to join other institutions across our state and country taking steps to repair past harm and stand up for inclusiveness and tolerance.
WHAT SHOULD THE MASCOT BE CHANGED TO?
We support a community process that engages students, teachers, alumni, and community members to select a new mascot that reflects South Point's history, spirit, and values. Many people have suggested the Cardinal (Belmont High School's previous mascot) or the Raider (without reference to Native Americans). Belmont has a rich history to draw upon, and we believe that the process of selecting a new mascot can bring people together and give us a chance to discuss the values and symbols that unite us as a school and community.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR CHANGING THE MASCOT?
According to statements from Gaston County Schools in recent media stories, there is no official policy for changing the mascot, and it will be up to the school community to make any changes. The state has issued recommendations to all school districts around Native American mascots, so we plan to lobby the Gaston County Schools superintendent and school board, as well as the South Point High School administration, to take action to change the mascot.
I HAVE NATIVE ANCESTRY AND I'M NOT OFFENDED, SO WHY CHANGE IT?
While many people have Native ancestry, membership in a Native nation is a political designation, and each tribe has specific citizenship requirements. Being able to identify a Native ancestor is very different from having the lived experience of identifying as a member of a Native American tribe and being immersed in Native culture and community.
Many people are familiar with a now-debunked study that claimed that 90% of Native Americans were not offended by the Washington Redskins name. However, when researchers replicated the study and interviewed only respondents who were members of a Native tribe, they found that over half were offended by the mascot name, 65% were offended by the "tomahawk chop," and 73% were offended by fans imitating Native American dances. When determining what is offensive, we should listen first to those who identify most strongly with Native culture and tradition.
AREN'T THERE OTHER MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES TO FOCUS ON?
Yes! Native people are disproportionately affected by poverty, chronic illness, addiction, sexual violence, and other negative health and educational outcomes due to both past and present systemic inequities. Right now, Native people are involved in struggles over murdered and missing Indigenous women, health access, and fighting to retain control over Native lands. Native Americans have also been expressing solidarity with Black Americans in this critical time. Native people are even more disproportionately killed by police and imprisoned. These are all important issues we should be concerned about. But the ability to support any group of people starts with listening and respecting their point of view--including listening to and respecting Native demands to remove offensive mascots.