There was a column in the Minneapolis paper last Sunday that was a prime example of how far off the track we’ve gotten when it comes to political correctness.
The column told the story of the high school in Northfield where the nickname of their teams has been Raiders for many years. In 1956 there was a mascot design contest and now the design has been dropped and replaced by a block N with the words “Northfield” and “Raiders” above and below the N. The winning entry in 1956 was, the column said, “a leering, cutlass-flailing caricature with slanted eyes and a droopy mustache.”
“It just didn’t age well,” said Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann in the column. The column writer wrote that “Northfield didn’t see a problem with its mascot 65 years ago. They know better now.” And the superintendent said, “When we know better, we do better.”
The nickname of Raiders is what the teams at Hastings, Roseville and Cretin-Derham Hall, all Minnesota high schools, all have. I wonder what their mascots look like and if they feel the need to change? Roseville has a silver fox as its mascot (I immediately thought of singer Charlie Rich), Hastings has a raider and Cretin also has a raider. I wonder, are those mascots depicting a raider that is evil or nice?
As I thought about some of the high school nicknames I am familiar with in Minnesota, the political-correctness possibilities are endless. In Brooklyn Center, for example, the nickname is Centaurs. Know what the meaning of a centaur is? It’s “a creature from Greek mythology with the upper body of a man and the lower body and legs of a human.” Centaurs had a reputation in Greek mythology of being violent towards women.
In Thief River Falls the nickname is Prowlers. The dictionary I looked at has a definition of a prowler as “a person who moves through an area or place in a quiet and stealthy way in order to commit a crime.”
There’s a Catholic high school in Mankato called Loyola, where the nickname is Crusaders. The definition I found for a crusader is “a fighter for military expeditions by Christian powers.” Now why would a nice school like Loyola (I mean that - I scrimmaged against their basketball team 60-plus years ago and also became friends with the school’s football coach, even though I was a Lutheran boy at a Lutheran high school) have a nickname like that?
Last Sunday’s column mentioned the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school district and their nickname of Rebels. The school board had a discussion about it last spring after a petition from something called Change.org asked the district to replace the mascot there so it wouldn’t dishonor those who fought in the Civil War. Champlin Park also has that nickname. I wonder if they’re in trouble, perhaps next in line to be counseled.
I remember back in the 1990s when schools around the state were forced to change names that many thought, rightly so, reflected poorly on Native Americans. The Minnesota Board of Education had ruled in 1988 that the use of Indian names was “unacceptable.” Monticello went from Redmen, perhaps one of the most egregious ones, to Magic. Milaca went from Indians to Wolves (There was soon a gray wolf encased in glass in the lobby of the high school’s gym, no worry, I surmise, about perhaps taking the life of an animal that sends some politically-correct people into a frenzy.) Sauk Rapids went from Indians to Storm. Grand Rapids went from Indians to Thunderhawks. Brainerd got to keep its nickname of Warriors because it didn’t refer directly to Native Americans.
I know what people in Princeton, Minn., were thinking when the high school here opened in1896 and the nickname of Tigers was chosen, along with the orange and black colors. Princetonians, some of whom hailed from the East Coast, copied the Princeton University (located in Princeton, N. J..) colors and nickname, a nickname adopted at that university in 1879, 17 years before a high school was opened here in Princeton. But I wonder what the people in Marshall, Hutchinson, Farmington, Delano and at St. Cloud Tech were thinking when they chose the nickname of Tigers? After all, it’s estimated that between 1800 and 2009, tigers killed 373,000 people in the world, about 1,800 a year. And the people in Blaine went with Bengals, not knowing, possibly, that in the early 1900s in Nepal there was a Bengal tiger said to have slain 436 humans. And in nearby Pine City the nickname is Dragons, typically a fire-breathing giant reptile that “tends to symbolize chaos and evil,” one source reports.
As you can tell by now, the list goes on and on. And you might also think it’s ridiculous to think those high schools, and many others, should change their nicknames and/or mascots. I sure do.
But, in this world of being politically correct about almost everything, to the point of sometimes going well beyond reason, it appears that’s where we’re headed if some people have their way. For example, in some places a manhole has become a “personnel access unit.”
Luther Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has written about sports in the area for the past 54 years.