The Roseburg Public Schools Board of Education would like to thank everyone who participated in thoughtful conversations about the Roseburg High School mascot over the past several months. While our April 28 vote did not result in a decision to retire the mascot at this time, we appreciate the opportunity to hold these discussions and hear from a wide range of individuals.

Members of our community view this issue through different lenses, some primarily focused on the cultural and racial implications of the mascot and others focused on established traditions that they firmly believe are based on honor and respect. Throughout this process, we have witnessed how these conversations have helped people better understand one another, consider alternative viewpoints and shift perspectives. These issues are not easy for any community to address, but that does not mean we should ignore them or those who rally for change on behalf of marginalized groups. We must always view and conduct ourselves as learners, setting a positive example for our community’s youth.

Earlier in the school year, we voted to incorporate the naming of school mascots into our policy that addressed the naming of school sites and buildings. Prior to that, a process for the naming or renaming of mascots did not exist. Requiring a unanimous vote by the board on such matters helps ensure these decisions are not made lightly, that they are examined in depth, and that a decision to move forward is unified. It will be the School Board’s decision alone on whether this topic comes up for vote again in the future.

We may not have been unified as a Board on this particular decision, but please know that we remain unified in our desire to listen to and represent our community. We hope that this process has helped move our community closer to a place of open dialogue and respect for one another’s differences. Concerns about racism and inequality deserve the utmost consideration and attention. Our policies that prohibit discrimination of any kind remain vital to our district’s dedication to provide safe and inclusive learning environments. The Roseburg Public Schools Strategic Plan, which the Board adopted as its own, centers around providing equitable experiences for all students. Rest assured that this Board will continue its commitment to serve all of our students with this goal in mind. We appreciate your continued support and understanding.

Page designer/photographer Aaron Yost can be reached at 541-957-4219 or email ayost@nrtoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @aaron_yost.

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(4) comments

Mike

I’m white. Similar to where I live today in Oregon, there were few people of color where I grew up in Minnesota. The first African-American I ever spoke to was in my high school, one year ahead of me. He was the adopted son of two white school teachers who lived in the community. He was my friend. Thinking back, I can't remember if he was treated any differently than the rest of us kids. But he must have been. I say this because my father was a severe bigot. And at the time, I thought that was normal. That was just the way things were and very little has changed in my opinion. When I got older, I asked my father about it and he couldn’t explain his prejudice other than leave me with the impression he was afraid of “them n-words.” I didn't understand it because, in my eyes, my father wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything.

Over the forty year course of my work, I’ve lived in many places in the U.S. I’ve lived at least two years each in Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, LA (twice), Baton Rouge, New York City and San Francisco before finally settling in Oregon. I’ve lived with, worked with, and dated several different races and ethnicities. I’ve also witnessed various levels and forms of racism, most unnoticeable to people who claim they are not prejudiced. I find this both interesting because I don’t understand it and also disgusting.

“I’m not prejudiced. That’s what other people do.” In my opinion, that’s the belief of most white Americans and it breaks my heart to say that belief is especially prevalent among us Oregonians. Of all the places I’ve lived, some of the most common and sometimes horrible acts of racism I’ve witnessed have occurred here in Oregon during the last eleven years I’ve lived here. You may find that surprising considering how relatively few people of color live in our community. And maybe that’s why their different treatment is so noticeable to me. And maybe that’s why people who don’t care or don’t think it’s a problem are the problem.

mworden

I've always had a positive opinion about Roseburg and the people who live here, even though my child of color and our family experienced repeated traumatic episodes of casual and overt racism while she was a student at RHS. The cruelty came from other students and parents. The school and teachers did their best. The kids were mostly a bunch of smart alecks and, you know, stupid teens. The parents -- no excuse for that stuff at all. In my opinion, the problem is not the school per se; it's the wider culture in this area that allows racial ignorance and fears to flourish.

The question of the mascot has meant personally revisiting those traumas. Some of the comments made by supporters of the continued use of the mascot demonstrate the kind of meanness of spirit and ugly attitudes that encourage displays of casual racism. I'm looking at Roseburg through a dark lens at the moment.

Casual racism in Roseburg is not represented by white hoods and burning crosses, nothing so obvious. It's anonymous messages and plain stupidity, like an anonymous poster here telling Jessica Bascom to go back to K Falls, where she came from. She came from Roseburg. One or two of those kinds of messages are just an annoyance. But when overt and casual racism mount up day after day after day it takes a toll. Some of it so sexually gross and disgusting the auto-ban feature would not allow it to be repeated. It happened so many times.

I had no big investment for or against the mascot. I expected it to change. I didn't plan to become part of the discussion. But some of the really rude and racially insensitive comments people made here and in the community motivated me to share my family story. If the Indian mascot promotes even a small amount of unconscious racial insensitivity in the developing minds of teenagers then it's really outlived it's usefulness. It needs to go.

The mascot issue will resurface. Some day Roseburg will decide to be on the correct side of history and racial kindness. Some day.

Please choose wisely when you vote for school board candidates in the coming election. Let's go forward, not backwards.

melrosereader

And how about the school board starts by repealing the rule that says changing the mascot requires a unanimous vote? Geez! Even the bar for adding an amendment to the US Constitution is not that high (2/3 in the House and Senate to pass plus 3/4 of the states to ratify).

Mike

There are several supporters/board members for Citizens for Tyranny that are running for elected positions. There is also at least one spouse of a person who attended the January 6th capital riot and claimed repeatedly on facebook that Antifa caused the insurrection.

Like mworden said, choose wisely.

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