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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.