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Mascot undermines culture

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Jose Gutierrez, Staff Columnist

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Letting go of racist traditions sure is hard, isn’t it America? This country’s courts had to legally declare racist acts, such as slavery, and racial segregation unconstitutional because its citizens would gladly continue practicing these acts if they weren’t illegal.

While there aren’t any laws to ban the use of cultural Native American figures as mascots, San Diego State doesn’t need to wait until a law is passed. Leadership starts here, after all. It goes without saying that keeping the Aztec Warrior as a mascot perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native Americans. Therefore, SDSU should permanently retire its Aztec mascot.

The SDSU Queer People of Color Collective will soon propose to the Associated Students reasons why we should remove our mascot, according to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies senior Thomas Negron Jr.

Anyone with even an ounce of respect for the Aztec culture should support this proposition.

Our mascot, first chosen in 1925 by individuals who I’m sure were incredibly race-sensitive white men, doesn’t glorify, dignify or respect any values held by the Aztec people. Donned in a feathery warrior costume with a skull headdress along with a conch shell horn, our Aztec warrior depicts the Aztec culture as savage, brutal and dangerous. Is the SDSU mascot even of Aztec descent? If not, then it’s just another case of playing dress up in an Indian costume. This is called cultural appropriation kids, and it’s highly insensitive.

As the American Psychological Association pointed out – yes, the same one whose style is used for writing essays – “The continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities establishes an unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment for American Indian students that affirms negative images and stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society.”

SDSU, let me remind you of the diversity pledge promoted by the school.

“I pledge … to not contribute to stereotypes or make generalizations about individuals but rather to use my own experiences and interactions to better understand and embrace all people.”

By keeping the mascot, the school is inadvertently contributing to the stereotypes of the Aztec people.”

When SDSU students think of Aztecs, what else will they reference but our mascot and his savage portrayal of the Aztec people?

“But wait, Aztecs are extinct so it doesn’t matter!”

No, they’re not extinct. There are currently an estimated 1.5 million Nahuatl (the Aztec language) in Central Mexico alone. These indigenous people are incredibly marginalized and discriminated against in Mexico. But you wouldn’t know by the education, or lack thereof, of Aztec culture on campus.

“The continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities undermines the educational experiences of members of all communities – especially those who have had little or no contact with Indigenous peoples,” as referenced by APA’s resolution for the retirement of American Indians as mascots

To illustrate how we’ve already undermined our education of the Aztec culture, the description for the YouTube video “Adopt an Aztec” claims our Aztec Warrior to be 3,000 years old.

Let me fill you in where the school obviously hasn’t. There weren’t even Nahuatl speakers in what’s now known as Mexico until the sixth century. Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire, wasn’t even settled until approximately 1325. I don’t even know where this 3,000-year-old figure came from.

There’s really no justifiable reason to keep the mascot, seeing as it does more harm than good.

To the people who say actual Aztecs should be thankful that SDSU is even promoting their culture, how one columnist did for this paper more than a decade ago, I say nobody should give thanks for being mistreated.

To the people who still can’t see the problem with having an Aztec Warrior as a mascot, it sure is hard seeing properly when you’re racially colorblind isn’t it?

Lastly, to the people who want to hold on to the mascot for tradition, it’s tradition that keeps racism alive and well. Just look at the Dutch dressing in blackface every Christmas, you know, because it’s traditional.

So just as the APA, as well as countless individuals and organizations, has called for the retirement of American Indian mascots by colleges and universities, everyone else should too.

Update: Read about the history of the mascot and the opposing argument.

This article has been changed. It originally stated the mascot was chosen in 1925 when it was actually SDSU’s former mascot, “Monty Montezuma,” that was chosen at that time. The Daily Aztec apologizes for any confusion this may have caused. 

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “Mascot undermines culture”

  1. Matt on October 2nd, 2014 11:23 pm

    I think the Aztec culture is really cool, and and the fact that it’s my alma mater’s mascot makes me even more interested in them.
    .
    Our mascot is called the “Aztec Warrior” meaning that we are depicting the warriors of the aztecs, who I’m sure we’re pretty brutal and badass. He’s meant to be a generalization of the Aztec warriors, not the Aztec population as a whole.

    And I love how you call out white culture for being brutal savages that forced people into slavery, but then say that the aztec culture deserves respect. Did you know that aztecs sacrificed babies into volcanos?

    All cultures are jacked up in one way or another. It’s part of us being human. Stop majoring in the minors and write about something that is actually of consequence.

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    “Our mascot is called the “Aztec Warrior” ”

    Addressing this and this alone, I have never in my life hear anyone including the basketball announcers say “Let’s hear it for the San Diego State Aztec Warriors!”

    Always “Aztecs” so I’m not sure you’re right there….

    [Reply]

  2. Bryan Robinson on October 3rd, 2014 9:02 am

    The Aztec were not a race of people. The Aztec were an empire. SDSU’s mascot is not the Nahua Warrior, or the Chichimec Warrior, but is instead a warrior for an ancient nation state. The Aztec Warrior is no more degrading to the Aztec Empire than are the Spartans to Sparta or the Trojans to Troy.

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    Actually, they are a people. Again, the Mexica, hence the name Mexico. And again, they (we) are still around

    [Reply]

  3. Frank Davis on October 3rd, 2014 11:23 am

    Oh boo hoo, another pc police member trying to take away history and pride by inserting their own agenda on others. What “harm” is the mascot doing? And just to educate you, the Aztec Warrior is not an American Indian. How is this mistreating anyone? What negative stereotype are you talking about? How is it racist? You make a lot of claims, none of which are backed up by fact, just “feelings.” And of course, for those of us who see nothing wrong with it, you automatically label us racists without knowing a thing about us. That’s so easy these days, isn’t it?

    “Nearly 10,000 students voted, setting a new SDSU record for a student referendum and endorsing the proposed mascot by more than a 3-to-1 ratio. More than 4,700 Alumni Association and Aztec Athletic Foundation members voted in their referendum, with more than 88 percent of voters backing the mascot,” according to the GoAztecs web page. Boy I’m glad all these racists have someone like you to set them straight.

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    Let’s start with 10 points

    Actually, the Aztec is indeed an american indian. Indian being a generic term for what the dumb Euros thought the indigenous were. And Aztecs living in North America.

    -1 point

    “Claims not backed up by fact”
    Uhh, let’s see, mentioned Mexica, inaugural year for mascot, APA findings on indigenous learning, etc etc

    -1 point

    “not racist”
    making generalizations regarding an entire group of ethnic people with those generalizations (brutal savages who only embody fighting adjectives) being negative. Not on the extreme end of racism but obviously still has elements.

    -1 point

    “history and pride”
    screw your school, we have our own people’s history and pride that predates yours by hundreds and hundreds of years

    -1 point

    “10k students voted pro-mascot”
    So let me get this straight. Biased (mostly white) students vote to keep something that they are used to, something they’re proud of that has been around for decades and that’s your “evidence”? So if there was a Montgomery, Alabama high school with runaway slaves as a mascot citing their bravery, strong will, survivalist nature that would be okay? Hey, it’s true right, all facts! Plus they’ve had it for decades, what about school history and pride!? Everyone who disagrees is pansy PC goody 2 shoes! White people – let your cherished ethnic mascots go, it’s sooooo easy and the right thing to do

    5/10, your comment earns an F-

    Also, this is Murka, fi we want to be PC we can damn well be annoyingly PC

    [Reply]

  4. Steve on October 3rd, 2014 12:16 pm

    Were the Aztecs not brutal and savage at times? Human sacrifice being a part of their culture?

    Complaining about that association would be like those of Italian descent complaining that the depictions of Jesus on the cross depict the Romans as callous and brutal. Why would you attempt to igonre/whitewash that part of history? Simply to make those of native Mesoamerican descent feel better about themselves or something?

    Might as well just replace all the college mascots with Green Man. Don’t want anyone to have to think about uncomfortable historical contexts.

    The reality is that the Aztec Warrior, and Monty Montezuma before him, are homages to the warrior spirit of that civilization. Not unlike USC’s Trojans, or Michigan State’s Spartans. It does no disservice to those cultures by depicting a member of their warrior class in a positive association. And especially given how much time and effort was spent to make sure the Aztec Warrior was more accurate than Monty was.

    And you should probably not address people as “kids”. It’s condescending, and I doubt you’re old enough to be able to say that with a straight face anyway.

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    not all Aztecs were warriors. Why does not wanting our culture as a mascot amount to whitewashing history in your eyes? We’re not denying sacrifice, just saying hey don’t use our name. Lmao that’s completely unrelated.

    As for Spartans and Trojans…. well they are on the other side of the world (as opposed to Mexico), the ones referred to in mascot names are not those of modern cities but of ancient times (BC vs much more recently compartively in roughly 13th century), and the Greeks/Turkish don’t have a complicated history with the US unlike Aztec descendants.

    We don’t want your homage and just because you do does not give you free reign to use our culture and symbols and much more as your own mascot and school symbol.

    Even if you guys think we’re PC, why can’t we have a say in how OUR (as in not your) culture is represented?

    [Reply]

  5. charlie chase on October 3rd, 2014 12:51 pm

    You are joking about this jose?

    [Reply]

  6. Jose on October 9th, 2014 9:06 pm

    I am an alum of Mexican descent. When I was attending SDSU, MECHA (and a few other groups) tried to get SDSU to drop the Aztec name and logo as well.

    I completely disagree that this is racist and offensive. The old Aztec logos could perhaps offend some (which is why SDSU dropped them), but nothing current (the logo, mascot, or name) are offensive in any way.

    Again, I’m of Mexican descent myself. I visit Mexico frequently and still have family there. To me, this needs to stop. Instead, embrace the representation of the Mexican culture. It’s freakin’ awesome being an Aztec. What would you rather SDSU be nicknamed, the Seagulls? STOP!

    PS…If you wish to have a future in journalism, hit the books. Your peace is pretty bad. It’s you are confusing an opinion (yours) with facts. I don’t know why you think you are entitled to speak on behalf of Aztecs (real Aztecs, from Mexico, which you are not).

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    Cool to hear a fellow Mexican on the other side. Disagree but all good. I don’t think it’s crazy racist but still don’t like it.

    Unrelated, if you are going to criticize a person on their writing, make sure to use the right words. If you use say “peace” instead of “piece” while saying “Hey your writing sucks” you look miiiiiiiiiiiiightily stupid. Following it up with a grammatically incorrect “It’s you are confusing an opinion (yours) with facts. ” doesn’t help either….

    Just sayin

    [Reply]

    Jose Reply:

    You must really have no life (or job) to have the time to reply to every post. Congrats on the superior grammar, but it still makes you look like a bitter and unemployed jerk.

    [Reply]

  7. Jose on October 12th, 2014 8:31 pm

    I wrote a comment last week about how I disagree with the writer. I’m a Hispanic alumni and take no offense to the Aztec mascot/name.

    But it looks like my comment was erased and any negative feedback will be censored.

    [Reply]

    tired of white appropriation Reply:

    ugh… the “hispanic” label….. no such thing as “hispanic”

    le sigh

    [Reply]

    Jose Reply:

    Okay…of Mexican descent? Happy? Such a tool. Get a job/life/girlfriend/boyfriend, amigo.

    [Reply]

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