Let’s all say goodbye to the Bedford Road Redmen team logo and say hello to an education system that enacts anti-racist and anti-oppressive teaching methods and policies.
In a move that brought tears to the eyes of those passionate about the cause, the majority of Saskatoon Public School Division’s Board of Trustees voted in favour of changing the Redmen name and logo of Saskatoon’s Bedford Road Collegiate on March 4.
This marks a significant change in the Bedford Road neighbourhood as the team name had been around since the 1920s. There has been — and still is — a strong connection to the name for the Bedford Road community. That being said, this is not the first time the team name and logo have come under review.
In 1996, 2005 and 2011 the team name and logo were discussed for revision by SPSD, but there was never enough momentum to spark a change.
Because strength within the Aboriginal community continues to grow in Saskatoon, it’s not surprising that the change was finally implemented — and only 28 days after it was brought forth by a delegation who presented to the SPSD, highlighting research that suggested the logo and team name are not positive for students.
The primary argument against logos like the Redmen mascot is that they are not healthy representations of indigenous peoples, and these images maintain a deep connection to a racist discourse. As noted by Dr. Diane Miller from the College of Education in an interview with CTV news in Nov. of 2013, “It is time to stop pretending that stereotyping is an honour. It is racism.”
Students in the College of Education are now required to take classes in anti-racism and anti-oppression. Rightly so, the College of Ed wants to produce teachers who will treat all students with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Ryan Matthews, a first-year teacher candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, said that “Although the results were positive there is still the issue of confronting discrimination against a culture coming down to a vote. It sends a message that racism is only a problem if a majority says so.”
Matthews is right in pointing towards this problem, especially because the SPSD board of trustees passed the motion made by trustee Linklater to retire Bedford Road’s team name and logo with an eight-to-two majority. Two out of 10 trustees who represent thousands of students in Saskatoon voted against a motion that attempts to deconstruct institutionalized racism.
Trustees Kevin Vaugh and Donna Banks were the two naysayers who voted against the motion. According to an article in the StarPhoenix, Banks didn’t want to vote in favour of the change because the Redmen name means so much to so many people. As a result, the article reported that Banks’ heart “told her to vote against the change.”
It is this strong sentimental connection to the Redmen name that has made the change difficult for many to accept — but according to those who were avidly seeking the name change, this sentimental connection is inherently rooted in racism .
Wendy Li, another teacher candidate from the U of S, is excited about the change but wonders why it took so long to happen.
“There have been people in the past that expressed concern,” Li said in an e-mail. “If the College of Education is wanting us to be anti-racist and anti-oppressive, why haven’t teachers in the past tried to change the mascot?”
Li brings forth a compelling point in that hundreds if not thousands of teachers, students and superintendents alike all accepted the name and logo throughout the many years it has been in use. Because the logo has been under debate before, there of course have been those who noted the racist and oppressive nature of it, but no one was able to bring about change.
It does take a lot of active work to achieve change in a society that is quite set in its ways. I commend the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students who were active in the fight against the Redmen name and logo.
The future looks better for incoming educators and students, though there will always be work to be done in creating anti-racist and anti-oppressive learning environments.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor