MINOOKA, Ill. (CBS)– Pride, or prejudice?
Minooka Community High School is embroiled in a controversy over its mascot. Some students say it is offensive, and the school is making a mockery of Native Americans.
But others say it would be disrespectful if it were changed.
CBS 2’s Jermont Terry took us to a school divided Tuesday night.
The central high school campus in Minooka is known as the home of the Indians. And with all that is going on across the country, two students believe it is time to get rid of what some consider a racist mascot.
The school colors of orange black and white are plastered throughout the Minooka Community High School with pride.
“I enjoy all my teachers,” said senior Ava Bezaire. “I feel like they really value my education.”
Yet Bezaire and fellow senior Jimmy Holmes do find one symbol to be offensive and insensitive.
“I just think that since our school is a majority of white students, I don’t think that it’s right for us to be culturally appropriating Native Americans,” Bezaire said.
The high school still uses the term “Indians” and even allows teachers dress up in Native American garments for rallies – all for the sake of school spirit.
“It’s not respectful to Native Americans, really,” Holmes said.
So the duo started an online petition to change the mascot, and gained momentum with 7,000 signatures in a week.
“We weren’t expecting it to grow as quickly as it was, but I think that a lot of people in the community do want to change,” Holmes said.
But many others want to leave the name and log as is. An opposing online petitions started days later garnered more than 3,000 signatures.
They are mostly alumni fighting not to let someone take their heritage away.
“Our schools are built on Indian grounds,” one supporter wrote. “If anything, it would be disrespectful to change.”
But Bezaire said, “If we truly want to honor the Native Americans that were living here before us, we should teach Native American history in school as its own class.”
Bezaire and Holmes say with the ongoing talks about racism in America, they feel now is the time to push this agenda.
“I feel like people are more open to discussing racial injustices just with everything that’s been going on,” Bezaire said.
“I just think the community is more open to conversation about racial injustices,” Holmes said.
The online petition bears no weight currently, but the students plan to take the petition to the school board later this summer in hopes of swaying the board.
There was a push by students more than a decade ago to change the name, but it failed.