Legislation Would Outlaw Nicknames Like “Infidels,” “Rednecks”
AUGUSTA – The outcry against athletic mascots representing people of European descent will crescendo next week when lawmakers will vote on a bill that would force schools to abandon names derived from ethnic identity.
“People who happen to have white skin have every right to feel insulted by cartoonish depictions of them,” stated Rep. Leslie Fossell (R-Wiscasset) , sponsor of LD 98.6, “particularly when these stereotypes evoke images of how their people were slaughtered.”
Fossell and others supporting the bill identified the Al Iman Muslim Academy in Lewiston as having the most offensive nickname, the “Infidels.”
Raheem Al-Karzawi, headmaster at the Al Iman Academy, said the nickname was not intended to offend those sensitive to victims of Jihad, but to honor the cultural and historic significance of those who have populated the Lewiston area for centuries.
“We did not expect people to be so sensitive [when we chose the name],” said Al-Karzawi.
Similar sentiments were heard at a public hearing in Princeton, where residents, many of them Passamaquoddy, defended their local nickname, the “Rednecks,” and their beloved mascot, “Percy the Poacher.”
This image “pays homage to those who have contributed so much to our local culture,” said Joyce Francis of Woodland. “When you think of this area, or all of Washington County, really, you think of a drunk white guy with a sawed-off shotgun chasing deer on his ATV at 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Why should we not represent that?”
In Portland, the owner of a Vietnamese business sponsoring a pee-wee basketball team insisted on uniforms that read “The Dead G.I.’s.”
“This name recognizes the American soldier in a dignified way,” said Duc Hahn, owner of the Hanoi Poloi Restaurant. “It does not in any way refer to the fact that we kicked your cracker asses all over the jungle during the Vietnam War.”
Melvin Crowley, Professor of Caucasian Studies at the University of Southern Maine, disagrees.
“The point of scholastic athletics is to provide a quality experience for children,” Crowley told a crowd at a Windham High School (“Home of the Jews”) public hearing last week. “It is not a place for political statements. Civic pride deriving from ethnic conflicts simply does not belong in this venue.”
One local resident shouted her retort: “This is PC bullshit. You can’t call anybody anything nowadays. Everyone’s so touchy.”