Opinion Reader Contributed Schools

Op-Ed: The Continued Existence of Racism in the West Hartford School System

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Hall High School junior Elizabeth Mohring urges the Board of Education to change the town’s high school nicknames.

By Elizabeth Mohring

The Hall Warriors and the Conard Chieftains school team names need reform. The insensitivity of the schools’ names and former mascots has been ongoing and compromised for too long.

A decade of national focus on racial justice has spotlighted topics that have gone untouched. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling in protest of racial inequity brought the focus of reform to sports. Team names and mascots in professional, minor, and college leagues are viewed as disrespectful mockeries of Indigenous peoples. Although different movements of racial equality have occurred, sports teams and their names and mascots have been ignored.  A 2014 count “found 2,128 sports teams had references”(The 2,128 Native American Mascots People Aren’t Talking About: Hayley Munguia) to Indigenous cultures. Yet in recent times many have faced scrutiny and changed their names and mascots.

Our high school names are a disgraceful part of our community that the Board of Education (BOE)  has allowed it to remain.

A 2015 BOE decision agreed to change mascot imagery but no name change. The two Republicans on the BOE, Jay Sarzen and Mark Zydanowicz, fought to keep both name and mascot the same but were outnumbered by four Democrats. A compromise having only the school mascots removed is a partial victory when the racist names that hold the same power the former mascots did are allowed to persist. The schools now have an HW (Hall Warriors) and a red C (Conard Chieftains) on school-affiliated signs and attire. Without the imagery of  “war Indians,” the connotations of the names are still the same.

Should West Hartford stand by this decision to intentionally disrespect an entire ethnicity?

The pep groups for each school, run and managed by students, have changed their names. Formerly known as “The Tribe” Conard students leaders have transitioned to “The Red C” and the Hall Group, previously known as “The Reservation” transitioned to “Blue Reign.” The names changes have gone smoothly showing implementation of reform can be accepted.

The West Hartford BOE continues to participate in injustice; however, it does have the power to repair the injustice. A change needs to be made, instead of the compromises previously made, on an uncompromisable topic.

Name changes can be simple even if just the “Red C” and “Blue H” representing the two teams. A new animal can be more complicated but preferred by the student body over a letter representation; discussion can happen. A solution is possible.

Sports uniforms, school chants, and architecture can be hard to change. Not all changes need to be made immediately but a name adjustment followed by a movement towards slow elimination is effective.

West Hartford should not be trailing behind in an issue of human respect.

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  • I believe WeHa has enough sensitivity to make the necessary changes without further delays. Stand up to the ReThugliKlan bullies who are hanging onto a racist legacy. We’re better than that!

    • Cute play on Republican. Go back and learn the history of the KKK and you’ll realize that the Democrat party embraced the Klan. The KKK extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for Black Americans.

  • Cancel Culture at it again. This is getting ridiculous. Elizabeth Mohring does not speak for the Native American community. Both Warriors & Chieftain are not offensive. Even if it is who care’s. Try to get any group of people to agree on any given topic. You will never get a consensus. This is out of line. A compromise has already been made. Stop moving the Goal Post. This article is gross.

    Chop On. Tomahawk All DAY LONG!

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