Aztec mascot debate could make a return

by Maddy Perello, Contributor

The Washington Redskins have been a controversial mascot yearly, but this year a federal judge ordered the cancellation of the trademark. Though it will be a lengthy appeals process, the team could be forced to change their name.

A similar debate came up last year at San Diego State when the Queer People of Color Collective proposed a resolution to change the Aztec mascot. The resolution was rejected 25-1 by the Associated Student’s University Council in 2014.

With the push to change the Redskin mascot, the Aztec debate could rise again, but there are obvious and fundamental differences between the two.

Redskin is recognized by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an offensive term. In fact, the slur comes from a 200-year-old practice of skinning Native Americans and exchanging the scalp for cash. How could that not offend today’s Native Americans?

“It’s derogatory, it’s dehumanizing, it’s degrading and it’s high time this was addressed and changed because it gives the wrong message to the world,” Oneida Nation tribe leader Ray Halbritter said.

Just as there are no teams named after derogatory and dehumanizing terms that have long defined minorities in America, there shouldn’t be a team called the Redskins. The name disenchants not only Native Americans, but other activists as well.

Members of the U.S. Senate have spoken out against the name, including Harry Reid. And some news outlets have stopped printing the team’s name.

In contrast, the SDSU Aztec has undergone modifications for political correctness and cultural sensitivity. Previous to 2003 the mascot was Monty Montezuma, a spear-carrying, red-faced, aggressive portrayal of an Aztec fighter. In December of that year a university referendum revamped the mascot to the Aztec Warrior, who carries a conch. In 2005 the NCAA declared the Aztec Warrior an acceptable mascot.

“It’s not meant to be derogatory. I’m proud to be an Aztec and I’ve never walked around campus and heard people say, ‘I hate being the Aztecs,’” said Zackary Albrecht, a former member of the University Affairs Board who researched last year’s referendum.

Changing the Aztec mascot unnecessarily would result in an identity crisis for the university. Both current students and alumni align with the Aztec Warrior. Though the same argument could be made for the Redskins, that derogatory mascot demands modernization. The Aztec is a culturally sensitive and empowering leader for SDSU.