I believe the group of Rutland area locals who have come out in support of the Rutland Raiders name, mascot and logos are certainly not racists. They identify with the recent history of shared camaraderie, loyalty, team and school spirit — all under the banner of “Rutland Raiders” or “Rutland Red Raiders.”

However, what is being overlooked in this embracing of school spirit is the truly racist origins of the name and mascot, origins dating all the way back to the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. I urge everyone who thinks “Raiders” to not be racist, please read Andy Cassarino’s editorial in the Rutland Herald, July 21 (just go to rutlandherald.com and search “Cassarino mascot”). What you’ll find is a very well-researched history of the name and mascot “Rutland Raiders” and “Rutland Red Raiders.” His final paragraph of that article is as follows:

“The writers who used terms like ‘Red Raiders’ highlighted the racist stereotype of Indigenous people as savage and removed from society. The Rutland High School Raiders was born out of racism. Insisting that the term “Raiders” was originally intended to honor Indigenous people, we are erasing the origins of the mascot. — Andy Cassarino, RHS Class of 2014, lives in Manchester.” This is but a summary. Reading the entire article gives one the full perspective.

Another excellent editorial on the subject, also in July 2020, was written by a former RHS student, and mixed-race Ojibwe, Amanda Gokee (go to rutlandherald.com and search “Gokee mascot”). Her final paragraph is:

“The mascot still sends the wrong message to all of its students and because of that, it is harmful to all of us. It does not represent the values I learned at RHS, about respect and equality. Native youth must be held as valuable members of the community. They must be taught to be proud of who they are. Students at RHS should learn that our school stands on Abenaki land. Now is a time to imagine a mascot that will bring us together, a mascot that we can be proud of, instead of one that perpetuates harmful and inaccurate stereotypes. We have a responsibility to do better. The time to change the mascot is now. — Amanda Gokee lives in Rutland.“ Again, a full reading of the editorial is needed to appreciate the perspective.

I think we just need to recognize the “Raiders” branding clearly has racist roots and needs to change. Now, former and current RHS students are being brought on board in the exciting prospect and challenge of creating a new name, logo and mascot — one the majority of Rutland area people can support and be proud of. Let’s support them. I, personally, can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Jim Haley lives in Pittsford.

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