The Resolution to Remove San Diego State’s Aztec Warrior Mascot Is Being Put to a Vote

(Photo by Nathan Rupert/Flickr)

UPDATE, April 20, 2017: The council voted against the resolution, 14–12, so for now the mascot stays.

The following resolution, which will be voted on Wednesday by San Diego State University’s Associated Students Council, is calling for the university to no longer feature its Aztec Warrior mascot (H/T to Remezcla for providing a good summary).

Here is the complete text:

A Resolution to Retire the San Diego State University Mascot and Moniker

AUTHOR: STUDENT DIVERSITY COMMISSION

WHEREAS, people of all cultures, ethnicities, and religions have a right to be treated with dignity and respect; and WHEREAS, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that: “It prohibits the discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal assistance;”1 and

WHEREAS, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, programs and activities that receive Federal funds must operate in a non-discriminatory manner; and

WHEREAS, the State of California’s Education Code Title 1, Division 1, Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 3 [220] states: “No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of…nationality, race or ethnicity…or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance or enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid;” and WHEREAS, the State of California’s Education Code Title 1, Division 1, Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 3.5 [221.2] states: “(a) The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is antithetical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all; (b) Certain athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames that have been used and remain in use by other teams, including school teams, in other parts of the nation are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected; (c) Many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use; (d) No individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname;” and

WHEREAS, Executive Order 1097 from the Office of the chancellor of the California State University system states: “The California State University (CSU) is committed to maintaining an inclusive community that values diversity and fosters tolerance and mutual respect”, and further goes on to state that “The CSU strives to be free of all forms of Discrimination, including Harassment, because of a Protected Status. It is CSU policy that no Student shall be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, any CSU program or activity because of any Protected Status,”2 with examples of Protected Status including race or ethnicity; and

WHEREAS, the United States Commission on Civil Rights, by Resolution dated April 13, 2001, called for an end to the use of American Indian images and team names by schools: “The stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other groups when promoted by our public educational institutions, teach all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society. Schools have a responsibility to educate their students; they should not use their influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or people;”3 and

WHEREAS, in 2005, the American Psychological Association called for “the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations,” based on “a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people;”4 and

WHEREAS, native symbols and mascots have been used, but then later acknowledged as inappropriate and retired by institutions of higher learning including the following: Dartmouth College, Eastern Michigan University, Marquette University, Seattle University, Southern Oregon University, Southwestern Community College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Oklahoma; University of Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State University, and the University of North Dakota; and

WHEREAS, more than 100 organizations across the nation have endorsed the discontinuation of Native American mascots, including: National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Education Association, Oregon Indian Education Association, the Society of Indian Psychologists, , the Anti-Defamation League, , United States Civil Rights Commission, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Jewish Committee, Museum of Tolerance, National Education Association (NEA), California Teachers Association (CTA), University of California Student Association (UCSA),; and

WHEREAS, San Diego State University’s institutional identity is, at present, comprised in large part of the “Aztec” moniker and the “Aztec Warrior” mascot based on a racialized stereotype of Native Americans; and

WHEREAS, the research featured in a San Diego State University graduate student’s thesis, entitled, Fail Montezuma!: The Last Vestiges of an Obscured Yet Stubbornly Persistent Culture of Racism at San Diego State University, reveals the history of how white supremacy, racism, and ignorance in general shaped the formation of SDSU’s present-day historically inaccurate institutional identity, and how that institutional identity causes some students and faculty to become “accidental racists” when they perform acts of “redface” in the name of “school spirit”;5 and

WHEREAS, Associated Students has inadvertently promoted the use of “redface” and other derogatory stereotypes of Native Americans that portray Native Americans as a violent people (“savages”), an example of which can be found in an accepted 2014 Homecoming Commercial competition video submission; and

WHEREAS, San Diego State University’s Policy file, in section 4.4 states: “The university shall cultivate a campus climate that promotes human dignity, civility, and mutual appreciation for the uniqueness of each member of our community. Because the university’s educational goals are founded on the values of intellectual honesty, appreciation for diversity, and mutual respect, it is critical that our academic and co-curricular programs, scholarships, courses, workshops, lectures, and other aspects of campus life reflect diverse perspectives. Freedom from discrimination, harassment, and violence against persons or property is a basic right and is requisite for learning…. By the same token, the campus community shall denounce and confront acts of intolerance, abusive behaviors, and the beliefs and past events that have separated us as a people; and

WHEREAS, in 2005, the NCAA adopted a policy to prohibit NCAA colleges and universities from displaying hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships and San Diego State University eluded the ban by committing an act of intellectual dishonesty, specifically when then-President Stephen Weber said “the Aztecs are not a Native American or American Indian culture…However, the Aztecs are central to the cultural heritage of Mexico,”6 thereby claiming that Mexico is not part of North America; and

WHEREAS, between 2010 and 2012, San Diego State University employed the use of a separate mascot, Zuma the Jaguar, as a “sidekick” to the “Aztec Warrior” to entertain children at football and basketball games, and so precedent exists of employing an alternate mascot identity;7 and

WHEREAS, San Diego State University’s Diversity and Inclusion Pledge calls on students, faculty and staff to pledge “To embrace the diversity of all individuals respecting such attributes as their sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, class, citizenship, marital status, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, physical ability, mental ability and expression; To strive toward social justice for all people in order to create and sustain a safer, more productive, and inclusive campus environment; To refrain from using derogatory terms or statements that are harmful and disrespectful to others; 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; To educate myself about cultures other than my own; To engage in and contribute to the diverse world around me; To actively honor this pledge within my everyday life;”8 and

WHEREAS, Native American students, faculty, administrators and staff are members of “our community;” and so

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that San Diego State University immediately acknowledge the history behind its institutional identity, how it was shaped by white supremacy and racism, that Mexico is on the continent of North America and so Aztecs are native Americans, thus this institutional identity is completely incongruent with its professed ideals and principles, and that San Diego State University and all its auxiliary and affiliated organizations will put an end, “with all deliberate speed,”9 to the intellectual dishonesty of historical inaccuracy and cultural misappropriation of the Aztec civilization and culture through ceasing the use of the term “Aztec” in any and all future naming, promotional materials, events and efforts henceforth; and that the “Aztec Warrior” mascot and moniker be authentically and immediately retired.

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the San Diego State University president create a planning group or committee of San Diego State University students, faculty, and staff to phase out over three to five years all current names, symbols, signage and references which stem from the misappropriation of the “Aztec” and Aztec culture in 1925 (such as the names of residence halls, Calpulli Health Center, events such as Templo del Sol, conference rooms and halls such as Templo Mayor and Montezuma Hall, and “Aztec” branded programs, including but not limited to: Aztec Nights, Aztec Proud, Aztec Mentor Program, Aztec Achievement Awards, Aztec Dance Marathon, and others).

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that San Diego State University choose and accept a new, non-human mascot, such as an animal indigenous or well-known to this region of California10 during that planning group or committee.

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the “Aztec” statue (aka “Monty”) be immediately retired and that the reproduction of said statue in front of the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center be immediately retired.

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that San Diego State University prepare educational material which outlines the truth of the history behind this institutional identity, and why it had to be retired, and offer it for free to the public.

  1. The United States Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/crt/fcs/TitleVI-Overview.
  2. http://www.calstate.edu/EO/EO-1097-rev-6-23-15.html.
  3. Statement of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols, http://www.usccr.gov/press/archives/2001/041601st.htm.
  4. Summary of the APA Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots, http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots.aspx. The former president of the APA, Dr. Ronald F. Levant has stated, “The use of American Indian mascots as symbols in schools and university athletic programs is particularly troubling because schools are places of learning. These mascots are teaching stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians. These negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.”
  5. Ozzie Monge (Master’s thesis, San Diego State University, 2016). Specifically, the history of slavery, rape, beatings, killings (including infanticide), destruction of language and culture–in short, genocide as is defined by the United Nations Convention on Genocide in 1948–that took place within and around the mission system is made bloodless, romanticized and is effectively whitewashed by the campus architecture and institutional memory. Further, the thesis reveals how it was the generally held ignorant belief that Aztec civilization inhabited the region of San Diego, “because this was once Mexico,” that led to the adoption of the “Aztec” moniker, which has the consequential effect of erasing the presence of the actual First People of the region, the Kumeyaay, who have been on this land for time immemorial. The thesis also reveals how SDSU’s continued use of the “Aztec” moniker has led to the perpetuation of ignorance about Native Americans in general, resulting in the performance of racialized misrepresentations of Native American stereotypes by faculty, staff and students alike, a practice which continues to this day. The most recent evidence of this problematic behavior, among many other examples, being the use of an image of students in racial drag, or “redface,” on the official Office of Admissions web page. Other recent examples include images from Associated Students web pages and activities, sports events, student parties and the GoAztecs.com web site. San Diego State’s invocation of the “Aztec” has nothing to do with an actual “Aztec,” and is misappropriation, misrepresentation, denigration and mocking of Native American cultures – actions which are rooted in the harmful ideologies of white supremacy, historical inaccuracy, and racism.
  6. Brent Schrotenboer, “NCAA puts limited ban on Indian mascots,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 6, 2005, http://legacy.sandiegouniontribune.com/uniontrib/20050806/news_1s6mascots.html. It was determined that because there was no organized tribe or group of Aztec people, the ban would not apply to SDSU. However, the descendants of the Aztec continue to exist today in Mexico; they are the Nahua people. “Colleges and universities may adopt any mascot that they wish, as that is an institutional matter. But as as national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive of terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control.”
  7. Brent Schrotenboer, “SDSU fires cuddly mascot,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, March 29, 2012, accessed February 24, 2017, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/aztecs/sdut-sdsu-fires-cartoon-mascot-zuma-2012mar29-story.html.
  8. Diversity and Inclusion Pledge, http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/lead/pledge_diversity.aspx, last accessed February 24, 2017. On the website, there is a box that states, “The Diversity & Inclusion Pledge signifies your individual commitment to diversity and inclusion at San Diego State University. Diversity is more than being aware of the differences of all people, but embracing them as well as actively creating a campus that supports and understands the diversity of its students. By signing this pledge, you reinforce a lifelong commitment to diversity, inclusion, social justice and action.”
  9. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2), the Court determined that the Brown (1) decision of 1954 shall be implemented “with all deliberate speed.” The Court held that the problems identified in Brown (1) required varied local solutions. Chief Justice Warren conferred much responsibility on local school authorities and the courts which originally heard school segregation cases. They were to implement the principles which the Supreme Court embraced in its first Brown decision. Chief Justice Earl Warren urged localities to act on the new principles promptly and to move toward full compliance with them “with all deliberate speed.” In other words, the Warren Court determined that schools must implement the rulings as quickly as possible, with no intentional delays.
  10. Animals indigenous or well-known to this region include: the mountain lion (also known as the puma or cougar), red-tail hawks (from the Raptor family), rattlesnakes, and foxes.
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