Schwarzenneger OKs ethnic slur: Public schools rejoice

It is more than a little ironic that on the same day the nation celebrated and honored its First Nations with the long awaited opening of the National Museum of the American Indian, Governor Arnold  Schwarzenegger gave his approval to California public schools' continued use of an American Indian ethnic slur for sports team nicknames.

While Schwarzenegger cannot help the fact that his father was a Nazi,  his endorsement of the institutionalized use of an ethnic slur by publicly funded schools was no more excusable than was his inviting Nazi sympathizer and collaborator, Kurt Waldheim, to attend his wedding reception.

Taking the politically easy, if cowardly route, Schwarzenegger avoided accepting his responsibility and doing the right thing by saying decisions about such matters should remain in the hands of local school districts.    He also contended that addressing the institutionalized public school use of an ethnic slur, " takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest levels."  

On both counts, Schwarzenegger couldn't have been more wrong.

It is well known, for instance,  that the "local decision-making" argument was commonly used by racial segregationists of the 1950s.   Moreover, the bloodiest and most fragmenting conflict in our nation's history, the American Civil War, also had such thinking at its roots. Such a rationale essentially guarantees that the status quo will be maintained and the concerns and rights of those who are politically under-represented and historically disenfranchised will continue to be ignored.  It is precisely because of this potential for a "tyranny of the majority" that civil rights laws need be created in the first place so that those who stand to be victimized by a lynch mob "might makes right" mentality might be protected.  This potential for abuse of the few at the hands of the many is also why it is the moral, ethical, and legal responsibility of those in positions of authority, such as Governor Schwarzenegger, to uphold the rights of those who are less capable of fending for themselves.

Sadly, yet tellingly, when Schwarzenegger stated that addressing this profound educational and civil rights issue, " takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest levels"  he failed to realize (or acknowledge) that the example his actions set, like those of rabid school district teachers and administers who also advocate the continued use of American Indian related sports team tokens, is the greatest, but most regrettable, lesson of all.  The message sent by such role-models,  not only to students but the broader community at large, is that it is acceptable to use a hurtful ethnic slur while ignoring the reasonable concerns of those most impacted by such uses.  It similarly conveys the belief that perpetuating small-minded selfish interests through strong armed methods is preferable to advancing larger, more universal principles regarding basic respect for the rights, dignity, and feelings of others. 

Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that Governor Schwarzenegger did not respond to an email question asking his opinion on how modern day Jewish people might feel if contemporary German soccer teams chose names like the "Munich Kikes" to "honor" and "show respect" for the tenacity, courage, and strength of the very same people that country attempted to exterminate during World War II.  The analogy between such a preposterously offensive suggestion and the reality of what continues to take place in thousands of public schools across the United States, California included,  is unmistakable.

Neither did the power lusting, Austrian born Governor offer a reason why California public schools should not be held to a standard applied by the California Department of Motor Vehicles which, in April 2000, chose to forbid the use of the word "redskins" and its variants on vanity license plates.

As always, actions speak louder than words and those of Governor Schwarzenegger, his legislative cronies, and like-minded school administrators, teachers, students, and citizens speak shameful volumes.


CNN:  Politician wants Schwarzenegger to lose citizenship 
California governor 'not worthy' to be Austrian
Saturday, January 22, 2005 Posted: 12:38 PM EST (1738 GMT)





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Text of veto message:    

SEP 21 2004  

To the Members of the California State Assembly:  

  I am returning Assembly Bill 858 without my signature:    

Existing statute already affords local school boards general control over all aspects of their interscholastic athletic policies, programs, and activities. Decisions regarding athletic team names, nicknames or mascots should be retained at the local level.    

At a time when we should all be working together to increase the academic achievement of all California's students, adding another non-academic state administrative requirement for schools to comply with takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest levels. For these reasons, I am unable to support this legislation.    


Arnold Schwarzenegger  


American Indian Sports Team Mascots

American Indian Sports Team Mascots 2004
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