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Friday, March 20, 2015

Lions, Panthers, Rams and Raiders. Those are the mascots for the four high schools we cover here at East Niagara Post.

The Lockport Lions, Newfane Panthers, Roy-Hart Rams and Barker Raiders. As high school mascots go, they're all perfectly adequate. Two animals that roar, one that charges and a human that "arrrrr"s.

I went to high school at Niagara-Wheatfield Senior High School. We were the Falcons. Then I went to Ashland University. We were the Eagles. Pretty basic stuff. Nothing controversial — which I'm just fine with.

Earlier this week, the Lancaster School Board voted unanimously to drop their 60-year tradition of calling their sports teams "Redskins" following pressure from other school districts who announced they would boycott sporting events against the Lancaster team.

Specifically, lacrosse teams from my Alma Mater (Niagara-Wheatfield), Akron and Lake Shore school districts said that they would refuse to play a team named "Redskins." All three school districts have significant Native American populations. Many Native Americans feel the term is a racial slur.

So in the interest of playing lacrosse — and hopefully in the interest of not offending people — the Lancaster board made their decision.

But not everyone seems to agree that it was the right decision.

About 300 students walked out of school in protest on Thursday, holding signs like "School board speak with forked tongue." They were upset that they were losing their heritage. Lancaster High School does not have a significant Native American population.

Now, when I was in high school, I would have protested a ham sandwich if it had gotten me out of class. So I can understand how 300 kids would walk out in protest. However, my parents would have kicked my ass. So I can't understand how 300 kids would walk out in protest.

Except ...

It seems that many of the parents are with their kids on this. They feel the district should have continued to use a derogatory term to identify their sports teams. It worked when they were young, so why wouldn't it work now? They feel some people are just being "politically correct" in wanting to change the mascot. And the last thing they want to be is politically correct.

Not everyone is offended by the term "Redskin." Having never been Native American, I hadn't given it much thought until these past few years when it became a national conversation due to the Washington Redskins. But if people find it offensive, why would anyone fight to keep it?

Look, this is still the United States of America. We have the right to be jerks if we want to — to a degree. You don't have to talk to the cashier at the store if you don't wish to. You don't have to tip your waitress. You don't have to smile and say "hi" just because someone else does. And technically speaking, you can use derogatory terms. But why?

It would seem to me that a "civilized" culture such as ours would make an effort to not offend people. I mean, we're the best country on the planet, right? Does that mean we don't have to be nice? Because that's the feeling I get sometimes: "We don't have to be nice because we've got the bombs."

There's nothing wrong with political correctness, or as I like to call it, "being compassionate." But hey, Lancaster parents, if it pains you too much show kindness to others, then by all means, you have an opportunity to tell the world who you are through your new mascot name. I suggest the Lancaster Bullies.

+Scott Leffler tries not to offend people. But it happens anyway. Be offended on Twitter by following him @scottleffler

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