Actor Nick Offerman, best known for his role on the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” added his voice to calling for a change to the Minooka Community High School mascot.
On Saturday, Offerman, a Minooka native, shared an online petition on his Twitter account that called for the change. As of Monday, about 7,000 people had signed the petition.
“Here’s your chance to get on the scoreboard of decency,” Offerman tweeted. “Sign here to change the school mascot from the ‘Indian’ to something that is not denigrating indigenous folk. It’s dumb and shameful to resist this by now, unless you enjoy racism.”
Offerman added in a subsequent tweet, “But is it not the right thing to do if society is to be decent to all the people? If the NFL and NASCAR can make course corrections away from racism, can’t our school system? Step up.”
The description of the petition argues the mascot is “dehumanizing, and many Native Americans have expressed their opposition to this harmful practice.”
The petition cited the National Congress of American Indians, which said that “these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.”
“The unfortunate truth is, Indian mascots were created in a society where bigotry and racism were widely accepted,” the petition description added.
One parent of a recent MCHS graduate, who has criticized the district’s handling of racist incidents, said administrators must take more action.
TeSaxton Washington said her multiracial son was the target of racist verbal attacks from a classmate this past school year. Washington said she’s continued to challenge school administrators to do more.
“This is a systemic, ongoing plight and the students there are literally like prisoners serving a prison stint,” she said. “The racism is not only perpetuated by the students themselves. It starts at the top.”
Washington said she felt school administrators need to set the tone to “dismantle the entire system” of racism. She suggested that people from outside of the district, specifically people of color, should be allowed to sit on the diversity committee to give an “untainted” view about any problems.
On Monday, the school district released a statement regarding the debate over its mascot, although it didn’t appear to give an indication about a possible change.
“MCHS has been monitoring our social media channels over the past few weeks and are aware of the multiple Change.Org petitions regarding the district’s mascot,” the district said in the statement. “MCHS remains focused on providing our students with a quality educational experience that promotes strengthening mastery, collaboration, high expectations and success for all our students. As a public school district we respect and welcome the opinions of our stakeholders on how to better accomplish these goals.”