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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

Hail to the Chiefs

ROOSEVELT High School, located in Wayne County downriver from Detroit, struck a sour note when it decided to take its marching orders from a special-interest group and hide its native American nickname when it performs in President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural parade on Tuesday.

The Wyandotte, Mich., student band will not carry the banner that proclaims them the Marching Chiefs when they perform on the national stage in response to a letter from a group called "Religious Americans Against Indian Nicknames and Logos" complaining about the nickname.

Many schools and colleges have rightly changed their mascots in recent years because they perpetuated negative and offensive stereotypes. Miami University of Ohio, for example, made the right decision a few years ago when it decided to dump the Redskins and adopt the Redhawks as its mascot. Roosevelt's nickname, on the other hand, does not appear to be offensive in the least, and school officials should have ignored RAAINL's request.

Instead, they are making matters worse, sending a mixed message by keeping the Indian-head logo on their sleeves but leaving the offending banner behind when they head for the nation's capital for the inaugural parade.

Band director Mark D'Angelo told the Detroit Free Press that the school just wanted to avoid negative publicity, but ditching the Marching Chiefs banner but not the patch on their uniforms was more likely an attempt to pacify the anti-logo group while not upsetting students and parents who would be outraged if the mascot was exiled forever.

Such a weak response sends a bad message to students as well as groups that tend to take political correctness too far.

If school officials agree that "Chiefs" is offensive, get rid of the banner and the arm patch before Inauguration Day but do so permanently and be willing to take the heat from parents, students, and alumni. If they think the logo is an appropriate representative of the school, politely tell RAAINL to take a hike and proudly display both the patch and the banner before the national audience.

The path school officials have chosen is, in fact, no choice at all.

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