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Lancaster High School: Making Progress

Updated on January 15, 2016

About a year ago, one of the stories making national headlines was the movement to change the Washington Redskins team name in the National Football League. Of course, since Dan Snyder is committed to his bigotry, the name is staying for now. However, how excited I was when I realized that we were able to make some progress on the same issue right in our own backyard. Lancaster High School made the decision to get rid of the Redskins name and mascot.

I did not go to Lancaster high school, but I have many close acquaintances that do. For the last few years, I have been quite disturbed to see the Redskins name and logo on the sports uniforms that they wear. I didn’t say anything at the time. If you need a jersey to wear, and that’s the jersey you have, because that’s the school you go to, then I figured the blame was more on the school than on the kids. Sure, it’s still wrong to wear the jersey, but could I be sure I would not have worn the jersey? I’m not sure. I would like to think I would have done something, but sometimes you have to work with what you have. My only point here being that I, like probably many people, had a fairly close connection to the issue.

Whitesboro

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Before going on, I think what’s important in all of this is that the school did make the right decision. This is something to celebrate. However, with that said, I was quite disheartened at some of the reaction I heard from people I know, some of whom attend Lancaster. Rather than celebrate their school’s progress, they lamented the loss of their mascot. Now, I’ve already written previously about why the term Redskins is offensive in a Griffin Article last year, so I won’t rehash that. Suffice it to say that we probably would not have allowed them to be the Lancaster Jews, or insert almost any other group. So, what I can’t understand is, why is there any resistance to the change? The term is offensive—or, if you want to parse words, the term at least offends a great number of people—so why not just change it? What is Lancaster really losing here? Yes, they lose the old name, but it’s just a name. They can keep all the sports teams. Names change all the time. What does it really matter what the name is? I hear an odd argument that the name is tradition. I’ll put it in the context of my own high school. We were the Spartans. Now, let’s suppose the good people of Sparta were offended by this. Would I resist changing the name? No. Why do I care what my high school’s team names and mascot are? Who am I to say, no, my school’s right to the term Spartans trumps your right to avoid being offended? But let’s just be honest about it: the terms Redskins is particularly offensive. It represents a distinctly Eurocentric view of an ethnic group. It implies that the first thing to notice about Native Americans is the color of their skin because they’re not white. But again, my intention is not to get into detail about this.

Lancaster High School: The Worst of the Worst

Although I’m less than pleased with some of the reaction I’ve seen around me, I think it’s a mistake to focus on that. This is a time for celebration. The Lancaster school board ought to be commended for their decision. It’s fairly amazing to me that the term Redskins has been commonplace for as many years as it has, but I think that one day, sooner rather than later, no one would dare to name a sports team “the Redskins.” So, while the Lancaster school board’s decision seems particularly enlightened right now, in perhaps a few short years, we’ll only be wondering why this was even a debate in the first place. A bad habit can be difficult to break, but once broken, it becomes impossible to see why it was begun in the first place. In other words, if no team were called the Redskins, could you see anyone arguing that a team should be called that? I’m not sure that those who fight in favor of the term can be dissuaded, but time will be their undoing. Until then, these small steps forward are good and should be celebrated.

Preview: Marxist Critique of 2015 America

One of the major disputes of political philosophers is the idea of private property. Different political theorists have had different thoughts on it over the last few centuries. America’s founding was most heavily influenced by the ideas of Locke, who believed private property was a natural right. Karl Marx, on the other hand, was firmly against the idea of private property, saying, “[T]he theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property” (214). However, interestingly, when writing the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson changed Locke’s three natural rights of “life, liberty, and property,” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Nevertheless, America retained a concept of private property, and continues to do so to this day. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was written as a critique of his world in 1848, yet many of his critiques about class struggles remain relevant today. Viewed through a Marxist lens, America’s policies make it an explicitly unjust society.

Marx would have moral objections to many practices of private enterprises. In his Communist Manifesto, Marx said, “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’” (45). Essentially, Marx is saying that human interactions have been replaced by financial interactions. Instead of seeing a person as the person they are, capitalism has caused people to only see people for their money. In this same line of thinking, it seems clear that Marx would have strong objections to large retailers such as Wal-Mart staying open during holidays such as Thanksgiving. Rather than the bourgeoisie employer seeing the proletariat employee as a person, the employee is only seen as a means to make money. No consideration is given to the “idyllic relations” associated with holidays. Related to this is another of Marx’s criticisms. Marx said, “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers” (45). Whether it be the Wal-Mart employee not allowed to get off on Thanksgiving or the poet trying to create art, the bourgeoisie society sees them only on the basis on how much capital they can produce. Marx says this is unjust because people are more than simply the capital they produce. There is something inherently important about people and their personal relations outside of capital.

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