Not Your Mascot: Why Native Mascots Are Harmful (Ep. 7)

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Episode 7: Not Your Mascot: Why Native Mascots Are Harmful

SHOW NOTES

In today’s episode we chat with April Fournier, who is an Early Childhood Educator and an Indigenous rights Activist. April discusses team names and mascots, specifically names and mascots that are racist and that objectify a group of people, in this case Indigenous People. April talks to us about the Washington NFL team that needs to change its name, the negative impact of having team names that are racist and hurtful and why this practice needs to change. April gives recommendations on how you can start to pay more attention and get involved in helping meaningful change happen. April and Nadia do some role playing on how you can bring up these topics on your team if your name or mascot are problematic. April also talks about making mistakes and how you move forward from something that you’ve done to a group of people, a teammate or a coach that is hurtful.

Find April Fournier:

  • On Instagram: @aprildgr8

  • A few of April’s favorite Instagram accounts to follow are:

  • @redhouseseries

  • @_illuminatives

  • @ndncollective

  • @indigenousrising

  • @niwrc

  • @iiycfamily (and many more, follow me and find them all, lol)

  • On Twitter: jumpymcg207

  • Online: https://www.aprilforportland.org/

  • The work:

  • Indigenous Mascot

  • American Psychological Association position on retiring native mascots, as recommended in 2005!!!! (15 YEARS AGO) https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots

  • National Congress of American Indians position and evidence for changing the mascots: http://www.ncai.org/proudtobe

  • Indigenous Trauma

  • National Indigenous Women's Resource Center- https://www.niwrc.org/ An organization dedicated to ending and preventing violence against Indigenous women and children.

Strong Athletic Podcast Episode 7 SHOW TRANSCRIPTION

(00:00)

NADIA KEAN

Hey everybody. Welcome to the Strong Athletic Podcast. And more specifically, welcome to the first episode of season two. This is your host, Nadia Kean. In this podcast we study the science and art of coaching and being coached. We talk about why people get into sports, why they stay and also why they choose to leave. We put more focus on people who are on the fringe of sports, the ones that are less likely to have people paying attention to them, wanting them to stay. When coaches lack resources that they need to coach and athletes lack the resources that they need to learn sports can go from being empowering and fun to really frustrating. The Strong Athletic Podcast is a safe space for coaches and athletes to come to where they can learn more about coaching and learning and athleticism so that they can thrive in sports. In Season Two we’re going to continue with giving you feedback and methods for how you can coach better or learn better, and we’re also going to dive deeper into reasons athletes and coaches might not feel comfortable in their sport or what might be prohibiting them from learning or succeeding.

In today’s episode, I talk with April Fournier. April’s an early childhood educator, an Indigenous rights activist, one of the captains of Team Indigenous Rising, and also one of my absolutely favorite people to talk to about coaching. In today’s episode we discuss team names and mascots, and specifically names and mascots that are racist and that objectify a group of people. April talks to us about the Washington NFL team that needs to change its name, the negative impact of having team names that are racist and hurtful, and why this practice needs to change. April gives us recommendations on how you can start to pay more attention and get involved with helping to make meaningful change happen. We actually (laughs) do some role playing on how you can bring up these topics on your team if your name or mascot are problematic. April also talks about making mistakes and how you should move forward from something that you’ve done to a teammate or coach that’s hurtful.

We recorded this episode on July 4 and since that time there have been developments to the story and we’ll give you an update on what those changes are at the end of the podcast.

(Music by the Little Bicycles)

(02:09)

NADIA KEAN

Hey everybody, this is Nadia Kean, the host of the Strong Athletic Podcast and this is the first episode of season two. Welcome. And if you’re joining us for the first time, I really appreciate it. And if you’re joining us for the umpteenth time, thank you. Today, I have an extremely special guest and so I would like for you to introduce yourself.

APRIL FOURNIER

Thank you. My name is April Fournier. I also am known in the derbyverse as Jumpy McGee, so it just kind of depends on where you know me from, whether it’s the political-educational arena or the derbyverse. I go by both, I answer to both. Also, mom frequently happens both from teammates and my own children. (Both laughing)

NADIA KEAN

Awesome. Is that the last name that you were born with or is that your partner’s last name?

APRIL FOURNIER

That is my maiden name. So, yeah. That is actually my dad’s last name. So my dad is French Canadian and Irish and then my mom is Diné. And they met when my dad was in the Airforce. They met actually out in Arizona.

NADIA KEAN

Oh, okay.

APRIL FOURNIER

And he brought my mom back to Maine and Maine is where I’ve grown up.

NADIA KEAN

Oh, okay.

APRIL FOURNIER

But there are a lot of Fourniers around here.

NADIA KEAN

Oh, are there?

APRIL FOURNIER

Yes. (Laughs) In the Maine area, yeah. So, it’s pretty common out here.

NADIA KEAN

So, I think this is a really good time for us to talk about some of your focuses that have to do with sport but they don’t necessarily have to do with the playing of the sport. I would say that of all of my friends who give a shit and all of my friends who actually try to make change happen, that you’re one of them. I think that there’s a difference between being really angry about things that are going on in the world and also diverging that anger to action. Do you recall that time I called you after having a fight with that random guy at the bar? (Laughs)

APRIL FOURNIER

I do. (Laughs)

NADIA KEAN

So, I’ll tell y’all this since you weren’t there. I guess April wasn’t there either. But, my sister and I were sitting around an open fire at a bar and the people around us started asking us what we did. And I said, “I own a t-shirt company called Strong Athletic.” And then they asked me what it was for. And I said, “Well, you know, we like to support women in sports and queer people in sports". And the guy to my right, just like, expressionless face, not ironic at all was like, “Oh. Why do women need support in sport?” And I looked at him and I was like, “Are you serious? Is this an actual question?” And he was like, “Yeah. Women have equal opportunity and equal access in sport.” And I absolutely don’t agree with that. And so I told him that, and he was like, “It’s all about supply and demand.” And basically he was insinuating that people only want to watch cis men play sport. And I flipped out. And I was like, “Shake my hand.” And this was pre-COVID. (Both laughing) And I was like, “Shake my hand. Look me in the eye. Tell me your name.” (Laughs) And he told me his name. And then I was like, “Tell me your name again. Shake my hand. Look me in the eye." And I was like, “I never want to forget this moment. I never want to forget this moment.” (Both laughing) And everyone was watching this interaction. And it went from happy times at the bar to just me looking like I was about to kill this guy. And I was just so serious. And my sister was like, “Uh, Nadia… I think we should go.” And I was like, “Yeah. I think we should go.” And I was like, “Look me in the eye. I never want to forget this moment.” (April laughs) But I remember one of the things that pissed me off so bad about it was that I wasn’t redirecting my anger. So I was really, really mad at him, but I needed to take actionable steps to actually make it so that his theory of supply and demand was not true. And so I remember calling you and talking about the difference between being angry about something and trying to actually change it. April is going to be a guest on the podcast a lot this season, so just get used to hearing her voice.

APRIL FOURNIER

Get comfy.

(05:52)

NADIA KEAN

Yeah, get comfy. (April laughs) But the reason I wanted to talk to her today was because you are really helping to change the narrative and change storyline that is offensive. I’d like for you to put it into your own words. And also, I want you to tell everybody what the date is and what the date means to you and what the date doesn’t mean to you. So, with that being said…

APRIL FOURNIER

You know.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah.

APRIL FOURNIER

That’s great.

NADIA KEAN

You’re on.

APRIL FOURNIER

Awesome. So, today is July fourth, friends. And so I think many of us here in the States associate that with Independence Day. For a lot of us also here in the States, it’s not a holiday that we celebrate. And what I mean by that is when we look back on how this nation was born and all of the things that have happened since that day in 1776 when they were signing the Declaration of Independence, one of the things that they list actually in there is calling my people and my ancestors “merciless indian savages,” which is great because that’s been immortalized in the founding documents of this country and it’s never been removed. So, it’s still just sitting there if you go visit it in Washington. I’m sure you can find whatever line it is. But this country was founded on the oppression and eradication of the people who already lived here. This group of white men decided that this was how they wanted the country to be, and they wanted to create these freedoms from England, and this country was theirs for the taking and it was their right to continue to grow and prosper. But it wasn’t everybody to grow and prosper. It was a very specific group of people that got to grow and prosper. So, women didn’t get to grow and prosper. Africans that were brought here to work the land for these original founding fathers were not given the opportunity to prosper. And, the Indigenous people that already existed on this land for many, many years before anyone else landed here were also not given the opportunity to prosper.

And so, when we talk about Independence Day, and especially when we look at what’s happening in the country this year and right now, there are still very clearly inequities in every city across the US. Even the cities that we think are most progressive, we still see things happening with the police and how they clash with any citizens of color.

We see right now the COVID epidemic that’s happening is disproportionately affecting communities of color, especially my reservation and my people, the Diné in the southwest. They are one of the highest rates of infection in the US, and they are not getting federal funding like it’s been promised. The money has been slow to come and so the rates of infection continue to go up. Because on a lot of parts of the reservation, there’s not even clean, running water. And we know that with this particular virus, having clean water to be able to wash your hands, to disinfect things, is one sure way to stop it. But if you don’t have clean, running water, then the chance of the infection passing from person to person grows exponentially.

So when we think about freedom, and everyone, you know, “We’re free.” Well, we’re not entirely free. And there’s a lot of people that live in this country that are not free. And we continue, even after what happened with George Floyd, and all of the things that the media shows on a daily basis, we see that it’s not changing. And when you are able to watch a video of law enforcement kneeling on someone’s neck for nine minutes, murdering him in real time, and the other people that are supposed to be helping just standing by and watching, if that doesn’t just immediately demand change from the most powerful forces running this country we know that we don’t have equity. We don’t have freedom. And there are a lot of things that have to change.

When you are thinking back after you’re listening to this podcast and thinking about what July fourth means to you and whether it’s barbecues and fireworks and, you know, “Oh, our country was founded…” I really, really encourage you to do a little bit of research and do a little bit of reading and listen. There’s lots of really great podcasts. There’s lots of really great articles about the real history of America. And it is ugly. It’s not pretty. And there’s definitely still a lot of people that are not benefitting from the powers that have been put in place.

NADIA KEAN

Thank you for that. And also, I really appreciate… It’s the teacher in you. Right? I appreciate you encouraging us to go out and actually… Maybe we 100% agree with you or maybe we’re 100% skeptical, but you’re asking us to better educate ourselves so that we have a clearer understanding of exactly what it is that we’re celebrating.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. And I think as a teacher, one of the things that I’m most really committed to and interested in is making sure that my children and this next generation learn these real histories in school. In many states, and I think for all of you listeners out there wherever you are, you can look up on your state webpage or your school district webpage to find out what your history and social studies curriculum are, and is there any sort of movement or initiatives that are coming up around adapting Indigenous studies into that curriculum and helping your students understand what the origins of the land that they currently occupy are, and who those first occupants were, and what is happening with them now. Because I think what we find is that’s not often taught.

There’s a very one sided version of history that we’ve all heard from a very young age. And I think as we start to have some of these very difficult conversations, they should be difficult conversations because truth should be able to be discussed. But there’s just so many generations of misinformation and one-sided information that it’s hard for people to change and challenge their own perceptions and challenge their own histories. And I think some of it is a little bit of fear of change, of course. There’s even maybe a little bit of shame for what people’s ancestors and relatives had done throughout history. And I think the more we can kind of overcome that and have more of these conversations, just like anything that is super uncomfortable to talk about, the more that you talk about it, and the more that you say it, and the more that you speak those words into existence, the easier it gets to talk about it the next time. It’s probably not ever going to be super, super comfortable. But every time you talk about it, it gets a little easier. And the more people that do that and engage in those conversations, the easier it gets for us to talk about it as a society.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. I totally think that you're right. And also, try to have a conversation without feeling offensive or looking for and arguing a point in which you can argue your case, if you even have a case. And we’re talking about the actual real experience of actual real humans. You can’t tell somebody that they’re wrong or their experience is wrong, or that their takeaway from it is wrong.

APRIL FOURNIER

Right, right. Yeah. Absolutely. I think one of the things that I have inherited from my mom is this great sense of patience. And when I have conversations, I try to always count to three if I hear something that really inflames me. Because I am also a passionate person, so my first instinct is that “rawr.” I want to jump on you and tell you why you're wrong. But that's not, in my mind anyway or how I approach things, how we can have some super productive conversations. Because if your “rawr” is met with my “rawr,” then we're not going to hear each other at all.

And I think a lot of that also was attributed to, I'm a special educator. That's what I do for an occupation. A lot of my training is around understanding behavior as a form of communication. We're trying to get these different needs met. Whether it’s, “I want your attention because I need to tell you something.” Or, “You've denied me access to this thing that I really want. And I really, really want it.” Or, “I'm trying to escape this really uncomfortable situation, so I’m going to act in this way.” So, if we can kind of take a pause and take a breath and see behavior as a form of communication, and then identify, “Okay. So I see that this person is uncomfortable with this conversation, so they're trying to escape from it. How can I best manage that conversation?”

And so I think it's so hard because we all feel very strongly about the things that we’re very passionate about. And changing people's beliefs is an incredibly difficult thing. But what we can offer is, I can offer you my perspective for what my lived experience is. I can offer you resources for where you can learn a little bit more about why I'm coming from the perspective that I'm coming from. And I can offer you a little bit of grace and patience as we have some of these really challenging conversations. And we might not ever come out of it seeing eye to eye or being the best of friends, but if we can come out of it with a little more perspective on each other's positions, that can plant at least a seed that might then grow into a change or influence for somebody’s beliefs.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. That’s interesting actually, that you just used that plant analogy. Because what I was thinking is that it sounds like you're committed to having these conversations for as long as they take, and that you're not necessarily expecting to change somebody’s perspective overnight.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. Absolutely. I think the funny part is… So I live in Maine. And we live in the southern part of Maine which is very different from the rest of the state. So, Maine is predominantly white. It has been recently or it may even be currently the whitest state in the US. When you get outside of Portland which is the largest city of the state and is really the most diverse, you get into different regions that for generations it has been accepted to use very racist language. It's very acceptable to see the current president and support everything that he says. Like, “He’s 100% right. Why would you disagree with that?”

And so, when we have kiddos, then, that are coming into preschools and getting ready to go into kindergarten that have been influenced by these generations of beliefs, having conversations with parents who maybe have never had other parents that are immigrants or other parents that are people of color, that have ever been in their universe. So this is their first exposure, one, for their child to have another child that looks very different from them, but also a family that maybe speaks a different language or has a different culture or wears different clothing. That's the first exposure they've had to this. And so trying to help them find, not necessarily just a tolerance, but an understanding and, “Hey. I want you to see this as an opportunity to increase your worldview a little bit, and understand that this family has a lot of perspective and wonderful things they can offer to you and your children.”

But, yeah. There are meetings that we've been in as school employees where there are terms that just kind of get thrown around where you're just like, “Wow. It’s 2020 and we’re still saying some of this stuff?” It's just really, really hard. It's again taking that one, two, three. Okay. I could come at this as “rawr,” which immediately is going to put that person on their defensive. Or I can come at this from, “Hey. So, let's talk about what you just said and let’s investigate that a little bit.” And I think when I have invited conversation in that method it’s been far more effective than the explosiveness that I may want to jump in.

NADIA KEAN

So, you won’t be looking somebody in the eye and shaking their hand and saying, “Tell me your name. Tell me your name. Look me in the eye.”

APRIL FOURNIER

I really appreciate that approach. I have not done that yet. I don’t know. Maybe one day that will be my button like, “No. I remember Nadia did this. I am totally gonna do this ‘cuz I want to remember you.”

(18:38)

NADIA KEAN

Oh, geez. Yeah. Well. Okay. So let’s keep on moving forward. So you right now, I would say that you have a personal mission in your part of a massive movement. Can you tell everybody about that?

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. Absolutely. So, one of the things that I am very passionate about is the removal of Indigenous mascots from sports. I'm shocked, really, as an adult that we still have a national professional team in our nation's capital that is one of the most racist and awful names that you can use for an Indigenous person anywhere. And it's just been kind of an acceptable thing where the other owners, and the other players, and everyone has kind of just been like, “Well. Maybe let’s just not talk about it. And when people bring it up, we’re just going to kind of sweep it under the rug and not really look at it too much.”

But I think one of the things that has started to gain traction and gain movement, not necessarily on a national level, but it's in smaller pockets. And so sometimes I think you have to have these smaller little brush fires, if you will, that start to ignite in different places, but then build towards a bigger blaze. And I don't necessarily want to burn the team down, but I'd like to maybe burn all the merchandise down. And so one of the things we’ve done here in Maine, and I’ve written some testimony and sat on a couple of different panels about making it state law that our public schools and universities would eliminate the use of Indigenous mascots. And so, we have done that as a state which was amazing. It happened last year.

The next thing, really for me, is working with WFTDA within the roller derby community and just really working as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and looking proactively in the stable of all of the member leagues. What do the logos look like? What are the team names like? Not necessarily just from an Indigenous mascot perspective, but from other cultural appropriations. What is really not okay and has just kind of been generally accepted for a while even though it maybe made some people uncomfortable? I think we really need to and have the responsibility to look at that as a sport. If we want to be this revolutionary sport that we say we want to be then we have to actually put our money where our mouth is and do the work, and have the hard conversations with these leagues, and say, “I’m sorry that you’ve spent thousands of dollars in your merchandise in creating this image. I’m sorry but you need to change it. And if you don't change it, then you don't get to participate in this thing until you do.” And I think that has to be a real consequence.

And so now we’re seeing that on a national level with the Washington team where because of all of the social justice action happening on a national level. It takes money, unfortunately. It's a terrible system that we have. But money talks, really. And so now all of the people that were investors in PepsiCo and Nike and FedEx wrote in to these boards and said, “You need to change this. And I have money invested in your company, and I'm going to pull my money if you don't push to have this changed.” Really in the last 48 hours we've seen Nike remove all of the Washington merchandise from their online stores. And we’ve seen FedEx issue a formal statement to say, “So, we really would like you to change this.” They have the naming rights for the field. And so they are a pretty big player. And then you also have Pepsi who has come out and issued a formal statement like, “We are asking the team to change this.” And so that’s billions and billions of dollars that the Washington team stands to lose if they don't make that change. Again, it's terrible that it's not just from an ethical perspective that, “Hey. We should change this because it’s really a terrible thing to call anybody.” But it takes that threat of money walking away to make them make that change.

And I think they are, in my mind, kind of the kingpin. Once that falls, then I think you'll see the Indians in Cleveland and the Braves in Atlanta and the Blackhawks and all of these other Indigenous mascot teams also start to change. But this is kind of the big one. And so I think what you also are likely going to hear should that happen is, “Well, we did this survey of Indigenous people, and 90% of the people surveyed said they were fine with it.” Well, the survey was, I think, of 500 people. So that is hardly a representative population. And if you also look at other surveys out there, there are surveys that have gone out to thousands of people, and thousands of people overwhelmingly support the change in the name.

So not only do many people want that change, but then you also look at the research that supports how harmful Indigenous mascots can be to youth. And so when you take a people and create this character of them and say, “You are no longer a person. You're no longer a human. You're now an image. You're now an object.” It allows others to then see these people as an object. And when we see things as an object, we objectify them which unfortunately then leads to violence and lots of harm that then happens to these people because they're not real people anymore. They're just characters. And if they’re a character, then it’s fine to do all of these terrible things.

And so there’s an increased incidence of violence, especially against Indigenous women when they are objectified in that manner. And so there's the national movement for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Really trying to combat that because it's also something that's just not seen as a crisis from a national level. And so when you connect all of these thoughts of, “Okay. So we arrive on this landmass and we immediately try to exterminate the peoples that are here because we don't see them as equal to us.” And then fast forward years and years later, “Well. They're on the land that we want. And so we're actually going to forcefully move them to a different spot that isn't really livable. You can't really grow anything there. But we're going to force them to walk to these places and bring disease with us. And then hopefully we’ll maybe eradicate them that way.” And then fast forward years later, “Maybe if we objectify them. Or don’t give them the same voting rights. Or we take away their children and try and change and force the Indian out of them.”

There’s just so many years and years and years of abuses that are all connected to then objectifying and creating an Indigenous mascot. And so you also might hear people say, “Well, it's honoring an Indigenous person. We are honoring this warrior. We’re honoring this person.” It's not. It really, really isn’t. It's objectifying a people and trying to force them into this little box and say that this is a representative of these people. It's incredibly harmful.

So if listeners, you want to look up any of the research, the American Psychological Association has some really good stuff around the research that actually supports the harm the Indigenous mascots do. There's lots of really great articles out there from I think the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. So there’s lots of different groups that have done studies upon studies that have really great information that really support why these are harmful and why they need to change.

(26:41)

NADIA KEAN

A couple things came to mind. For instance, "We did a poll and 90% of the people are okay with it.” Okay, well who are those 10% and why does their voice not matter? And also, how did you even find these people to poll? I've been taught the moment somebody tells you you’ve offended them, you’ve offended one person. And it’s not like you say, “Oh. I’ve only offended one person in a group of 50.” It's like, “Oh. I've offended that person. I need to pay attention.” So that's one thing that comes to mind. And then also the, “We’re honoring you by using your image.” The last time I checked you should ask somebody how they want to be honored. You know? It's nonsensical. So it seems like they're dead arguments. And I do agree with you that it's unfortunate that money has to be the driver. The whole system of oppression is about money. Who has it? Who doesn't have it? How can I keep my money? How can I keep them from getting my money?

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. And I think it’s so tricky because this is a lot. It’s a ton of work, really, to do any of this stuff. So, whether you’re writing letters to your state legislators, you're trying to get commentary in school board meetings or in city council meetings, or taking time to travel and go protest at these different places, it’s all unpaid work. You’re taking time away from making money. You’re taking time away from family and all these other things that you do to try and influence this incredible social change.

Listeners, if you can ever throw money to people that are really doing a lot of this on the ground work, that's where your consumer dollars should really be spent. And yeah, we would love that Washington changes their name and they come up with something different. It might occur to you, “Oh. I'm going to buy one of the new shirts or merchandise to support this change.” That just goes to the billionaire who really didn't want to change it anyway if you look at the press release that they put out. It’s awful.

Instead, look at the people that did the work on the front lines to make that change, and use your consumer dollars there. Support those different causes. A lot of them are nonprofits. A lot of them are just social justice workers that that's what they do outside of their normal job. So, I would definitely, when you’re considering where to spend those consumer dollars, think about who the money’s really going to benefit.

NADIA KEAN

And we can include in the show notes some of those organizations. And we can also include some of those articles that people can find to read about the research that's been done ‘cuz I think that would be incredibly helpful.

APRIL FOURNIER

Perfect.

(29:19)

NADIA KEAN

Say that you are on a team, so a softball team, or a football team, or a derby team. And you know that the name of your team or the imagery that you all use is problematic. How would you recommend that somebody goes to the leadership and starts to have that conversation in a way that will ideally lead to conversation and change?

APRIL FOURNIER

I think that's probably one of the hardest things that many people have to do is that first step. Because I think for everybody the unknown can really be scared. And so especially when we have built these relationships in our social circles, having to bring up something that might be uncomfortable and might make people maybe a little bit angry and frustrated with you, that’s the hardest thing to do. So I think for me, that first step is really kind of ripping off the Band-Aid and having the conversation. You shouldn't have to have lots of facts, really, to say, “Hey. This thing is really harmful and I think we should stop doing it.” But our human brains sometimes really get stuck on data and facts. When we can have those things to support our points, it just makes the argument a little bit stronger and makes that conversation a little bit easier to have.

NADIA KEAN

Can you please say that again just for the people in the back? Please. Can you just repeat yourself with what you said, where you said you shouldn't have to have all these facts and data?

APRIL FOURNIER

Yes. You shouldn't have to validate why something makes you feel uncomfortable. You should be able to say, “This thing makes me feel uncomfortable and we should stop doing it.” And we should have communities that are supportive enough of each other to say, “Oh. I'm sorry that it makes you uncomfortable. We're going to stop doing it.” But that's not kind of the way that our brains work. And that's not the way a lot of our communities work. So we have to sometimes unfortunately rely on facts and data and such.

(31:11)

NADIA KEAN

I called you a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about Campfire Kids. So, the organization I was part of. And I had told you that as an adult I realize that we just stole so many concepts that weren't ours to steal as a white-owned organization. And a lot of it was like, “Oh, you all are so special. You're part of this really special spiritual thing that has to do with an Indigenous background. Oh, this is such a special ceremony. Or you’re wearing your ceremonial gowns. Put on your beads.” And now as an adult, I'm fucking pissed off. Because as a twelve year old, as a fourteen year old, we thought we were doing something that was special, but really we were appropriating other people's culture.

APRIL FOURNIER

Right. Yeah. I think it's so ingrained in our history as a nation to, “I'm just going to borrow this from here. And I'm just going to borrow this from here so that I can make this thing.” I think summer camps are probably one of the worst culprits of it.

Should we role-play like I'm the organization and you're the person that's bringing up the problematic mascot or problematic name?

Yeah.

Okay, great.

Hey, April.

Hey, Nadia.

How's it going? You asked to speak to me.

Yeah. I have something on my mind that I feel like I need to share. It's a little hard for me to talk about but I hope you can hear me out. But the image that we use for our logo, I feel, is really harmful to Indigenous people. It's in my mind's not ours to use. And I've done a little bit of reading about Indigenous mascots. And it's really not okay. So I feel like we need to change it and it needs to happen soon.

It will be really expensive. And nobody will know who we are if they see a new logo. And also do we have to change our name?

Yeah. I think this is an opportunity for us to really be a leader and show that we care about other communities outside of our own. It should, if it costs money, I think that's okay.

APRIL FOURNIER

If we have to change our name, I think that's okay. I think we can really tell our community that we’re super strong by making this decision.

NADIA KEAN

Well, we have other Indigenous people on the team and they’ve never said anything.

APRIL FOURNIER

Well, it shouldn't take a committee to come to tell you that something is wrong. I'm telling you it bothers me. I’m not going to speak for others. I can only speak for myself. But I think what I'm saying is valid and important enough that we should consider making that change.

NADIA KEAN

Well, there’s that top team in the WFTDA and their name is pretty much the same as ours, and so is their logo. They haven’t done anything.

APRIL FOURNIER

Right. Well, we can’t make them change because that’s not us. We can only control us. So I think if we make our change, we can maybe also tell WFTDA that we made this change and we think that they should maybe talk to this other team about making a change too.

NADIA KEAN

Well, I think we should have a league vote.

APRIL FOURNIER

We can certainly ask the league if they have ideas for what the new name should be, but it doesn’t have to be a group discussion. This is a decision that we can make as a leadership team to just say, “We don't feel this is right and we need to change it.”

NADIA KEAN

Sweet. Anything else we should say during our roleplaying?

APRIL FOURNIER

No. That’s just very, really to be real with you listeners, that is very similar to many conversations that I've had. So, even though it was a quote/unquote “role-play,” it’s very similar to a lot of conversations and how it kind of goes. So, there’s definitely some pushback. In my opinion and just in my experience, you have to be a little bit persistent. And you have to be direct. And you have to sometimes push and say, “You know what? It’s not a choice.” This isn’t, “Well, if we meet these other qualifying things we’ll make this decision.” The beautiful thing about when we’re running our individual teams and doing this sport is ultimately we have autonomy and control over the decisions that we make as teams and as leagues.

So if you are deciding to continue to persist in using a harmful name or logo, you're actively making a choice to oppress or marginalize a population. And that's not okay. If you have league members that are coming to you to say, “This is harmful to me. This bothers me.” Rather than try and come up with a thousand reasons why they're wrong or why you can't change, try counting to three, hearing all of their message, and then figure out how you can make that change.

(35:46)

NADIA KEAN

Thank you for that. In roller derby, we like to honor the people who founded the sport. I'm glad that they founded the sport. But we almost make it feel like they're infallible and that they can't make mistakes. So, that the rebirth of roller derby, the current version that we’re all on right now, started in 2001. Although those people were smart and made some good choices, it wasn't necessarily a group of people that knew everything and knew exactly the right actions to take and what was offensive, what wasn't offensive.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. I think there's definitely been just a community shift where voices that you didn't typically hear from in the past… Others are stopping talking so that those voices are having an opportunity to be heard. And I think there's also a level of confidence and determination that those marginalized voices are also starting to feel because the world is changing. We're seeing evidence of that with the number of protests that are happening in just cities across this country. Like yesterday, and I think probably it may even still be happening today, there were protests at Mount Rushmore blocking the president's access to get there to do this ridiculous rally that he was having.

But there are these populations that just have been fighting of course all along, but just are really starting to get the attention and the amplification that they deserve to say, “Hey. Things are still not okay. And we are not okay with what’s happening and we’re demanding that those things change.” And there's actually some power and some momentum behind what's happening, which is I think now allowing space for change to actually happen.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. I agree with that. I think that a lot of people are asking, “Why now?” For myself personally, “Why now will I start paying attention now?” You're absolutely right. The momentum. And also I can't believe I haven't been paying better attention and closer attention, and I haven't been doing more. And so if not now, then when?

But to speak about the founders of our sport, we almost encapsulate their ideas of how they founded the sport and say that this is the best way, this is the only way. And it's almost doing them a disservice, the memory of those founders, by changing it. I don't know why people take such offense when they didn't even create something themselves. Like the Washington team. People are offended for founders that they don't even know. Why? I don't know why they're taking ownership of a concept. Right?

APRIL FOURNIER

We found that phenomena here in Maine. So, one of the last places to change their school mascot was Skowhegan, which is up north. And the argument against it was just, “This is just our community history. I have always been a warrior. And I've always… When I graduated 20 years ago, I was this. And that's our community.” And so there's just this really interesting sense of ownership and belonging to this icon, this character. And that's the problem. Right?

So, when you objectify something you then allow people to tie to that object. Like, “So this is my identity. I'm a warrior. I've always been a warrior. You can't take that away.” That doesn’t erase any of your high school experience. It doesn't erase any of the relationships that you built, which friends. It doesn't change any of the accomplishments that you had. What it allows for is this next generation, your kids, to create a new community that's meaningful to them and what they see as a representation for what the community has evolved into.

Yeah. It’s really interesting how people really just have that sense of identity with a mascot and just dig in like, “No. We can’t change that. That’s us.” Well, no. You’re you. Your performance is you. You just happen to have this logo on your shirt while you’re doing this thing. That doesn’t change your performance. It doesn’t boost your performance. It doesn’t take away your performance. You didn’t win or lose because of that image on your shirt. You win or lose because of the abilities with your team. So, yeah. It’s a really interesting thing that people just grab onto. Like, “It can’t change. That changes the whole thing.” No. It doesn’t change any of that. It just means that moving forward you’ve built something new and better and evolved as your community has evolved.

NADIA KEAN

It is true. And also, kids that go to school there next, they’re not going to be forced to be part of those racist ideals.

(40:50)

Okay. So say that somebody is listening right now and they’re like, “Oh shit. I didn't know that this was a problem. But I'm learning right now it is. What can I do? So, what would you encourage people to do to help with this?

APRIL FOURNIER

So I think one of the things that has happened really in the last 20 to 30 years is technology has taken off. Right? (Sirens blaring in distance) So we have…

NADIA KEAN

Is that on your end or my end?

APRIL FOURNIER

No. It’s my end. But technology has really taken off. And so when you have this explosion of technology, and the 24/7 news cycle, and we're carrying around computers in our pockets, there’s now this great distraction that we can look away from things where we used to get, you only got five or six channels on TV and all of your channels went to news at 11 o’clock and in the morning. So you were exposed to information at certain points. You had the newspaper and magazines. But then you didn't have all this other quote/unquote, “noise.” So you didn’t have a cell phone that had all of these notifications that come up every sometimes 30 seconds or social media or all of this other stuff that creates static that pulls your attention away from the things that are happening around you.

So I would liken it to when I go to Boston. I've been to Boston hundreds and hundreds of times for lots of different reasons. I know the way to get there, one because experience. I know how to get there. But also there's all these green things that are hanging all over the place that actually tell me where I'm going and what's coming up. But we become reliant on this device that gives us directions. It tells us where we should be going so we don't even start to look up at the things that are coming up in front of us. So you end up with distracted drivers, and accidents, and again noise that distracts you from what you already know and the things that are already in your environment and things that you have had around you and had experience with. I think that's what happens right now, is we have all of this noise and static that distracts us.

So, the first thing I think that I would tell people to do is if you have started to notice like, “Oh, god. I really… Mmm. I didn't know that. I should probably pay attention.” Eliminate some of the static. So, if you're getting lots of notifications and you find yourself on your phone for hours and hours and hours, unplug a little bit so that you don't have all of those things that are making your brain go a hundred different directions. ‘Cuz it's really hard to focus on one topic or one movement or one piece of education if you're getting pulled in a hundred different directions and your attention is being diverted every 30 seconds. If you have ever tried to read a news article… So I have four kids and two dogs in my house. If I am reading something, I tend to block out everything else. And so my kids will be trying to get my attention. My husband will be talking to me. But I'm so focused on what I'm reading because if I don't engage that behavior, I'm not going to actually take in any of the stuff that I've just read. So I could read a news article, but if I’m then checking a notification on my phone, or then answering a question for my husband, or then telling my kid to go do whatever I told them to do 5 minutes ago, I'm not going to take in that information. So I think that the first piece of advice I would have again is remove some of the distractions that are going to divert your attention away from really taking in the information. Because if you're learning something new, you really have to give a lot of attention to that new information coming in. So if your brain’s going lots of different directions, it's not in a place to learn and retain information.

The next thing I would say is don't rely on the marginalized community that you’re learning about to educate you. It is your responsibility as a learner to seek information. Certainly if you get stuck or hit a dead end, maybe reach out to some communities that are set up that might be able to provide you that information. But be a good fisher, if you will. Cast your line a couple times and go search for information. There is so much out there, which is also sometimes a problem because you can also get some misinformation. But find some really good resources. And you can go to lots of, if you’re within the derby community, you can go to the Team Indigenous social media pages. We always have lots of links and educational articles that are coming up. Team Black Diaspora has a lot of information that they post. Jewish Roller Derby has a lot of information they post. Queer Skate Alliance. Derby Without Borders. There's lots of resources just within the roller derby community that are doing this really heavy work and posting a lot of this educational material. So, I think be respectful and honor their time by doing your work first. And if you really get stuck, certainly reach out and ask for a little bit of guidance. But don't rely on someone within that community to educate you. That's really your responsibility. I can't tell you how to learn. I can't tell you what to learn. I can point you in the right direction. And you have to be ready to receive that information and ready to learn that information.

And then I think the last thing is make sure that you are giving yourself some time. This is not something that you can read an article in 30 minutes and all of a sudden you are a social justice expert. For example, I’m a special education teacher. I focus a lot on early childhood interventions and behaviors. And that has taken me eight years to get expertise and education in my field to where I am now consulted for a lot of the work that I do. But it wasn't something that I just learned with a 30-minute article. Cool. Now I know how to manage autism. It is years of experience, and review, and education, and trial-and-error, and successes and failures that have helped shape me for what I am. So if you are really truly invested in this work, understand that it's going to take some time. There's going to be some successes and failures. You're going to do things really, really well. And then you are going to fuck up. And it's okay that that happens as long as you are able to own that and apologize to the people that you’ve harmed and learn from that and move forward. It's not going to be easy. But the best part is if you’re really committed to doing it, we can certainly use more allies in the field with us.

(48:01)

NADIA KEAN

I appreciate those three points. And it's also good to hear them said out loud. And also, the final thing that you said is that we could also use some more allies. If somebody wants to be an active ally in this movement, for instance say that they want to help get the Washington team to change its name, what would you recommend that they do? They’ve read about it. They understand the problem. They understand why it's problematic and harmful. And they want to actually help, feet on the ground, make it happen.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah, that’s a great question. First, I think seek the communities that it directly impacts to see what work they're already doing because I think you don't want to be the white ally voice that jumps ahead of the Indigenous voices that are saying why this harms the community. So definitely do some research for who’s already out there doing the work, and then help amplify those voices.

Certainly in addition to that you can write letters or commentary or use the “Contact Us” feature on the Pepsi company website, the FedEx website, the Washington website, the NFL website, on social media. Find again those other groups that are doing this work and reshare, like, repost, follow, encourage your friends to follow.

And then I think very similar to right after George Floyd's murder, maybe take a pause on things that you share from your own life. ‘Cuz yes, we all love your dog and I love to post food pictures, that's just something I like to share. But right now I won’t do that because everything that I share because of the algorithms and the way the social media works, it clogs up somebody else's feed where they might not see a share from the groups that are on the front lines trying to get supplies or get funds or get help for those different initiatives. So, I think honor the work that people are doing by maybe being silent for a little bit and sharing a little bit less about the you-centered things, and really look at what are the more global, more community-related things that I can give voice to doing that time especially if you are someone who has a lot of influence, a lot of followers, a lot of social capacity. You are the ones that really would benefit the movement sometimes the most because you have that platform and you have that space. So being able to then use that space for others to amplify their messages is the best way, I think, for allies to really help to.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. And so if I hear you correctly, amplifying other people's voices. And I think that a lot of people feel like silence, they don’t understand how to utilize silence if that makes sense.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. Yep.

NADIA KEAN

Utilizing your social media platform and helping to spread a message. And so could you give an example of a good way to do that and a not so productive way?

APRIL FOURNIER

Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, going back to the George Floyd incident and the subsequent days of what happened on social media afterward. So there was this, I don't know where it originated, but, “Hey. Let's have everyone change their profile pictures to a black box and then not say anything.We're just going to say Blackout Tuesday.” And so what it did was essentially fill up everybody’s social media feeds with, “Oh. Now this person changed their profile picture.” And thousands, amplify that by thousands. And so instead of actually sharing meaningful, usable content, it was a bunch of black boxes. And especially for those that have the most followers, that then trickles out. And then more people were like, “Oh. Well this person who I'm influenced by is doing this, so I’m going to do this,” without actually checking into, “Well, what does that actually mean?” And so I think it's understanding when you see kind of that very popular thing that's happening, maybe do a little bit of research to make sure that it's coming from a valid source, that it’s actually going to help somebody, and that it's not just going to do the opposite like that did.

So a better way to do that would be, especially in this instance if we're talking about the Washington team, go to some of the Indigenous influencers and look to see what are they posting. So right now, one of my favorites is IllumiNatives. And they have just really great artists that are working with them that are creating some really awesome graphics for ending the use of the name. So being able to go to their page, I just kind of check them each morning to see, “So what do we have for today?” And so I re-share the things that they've created. If you're re-sharing pictures, friends, make sure that you are also giving credit to the people that have created those images because it's really easy to copy and paste a picture and then just… I’ve done that before where I’m like, “Oh. I love that.” Copy. Paste. Throw it up on my social media and then move on with my day. Forgetting, oh gosh I should have definitely made sure that one, I sorted the site where I got it from and but also the artist if that’s available. So, just really make sure that you’re doing that because you want to make sure that you give credit where it’s due for the people who are doing the work. Really making sure that you are looking for those who are the biggest influencers and legitimate resources within the movements, and amplify those voices.

NADIA KEAN

Is it okay to make mistakes?

APRIL FOURNIER

100%. (laughs) Mistakes and disagreement are some of the most valuable ways that we can learn. Because if we don't ever stumble, we don't ever make mistakes, then we don't ever see opinions outside of our own.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. For sure.

APRIL FOURNIER

I know I am always grateful for when my boss tells me at work, “Hey. So remember that report you were supposed to file with the feds because it helps our grant funding? You didn't file it on time so we might be not getting the grant funding. I’m going to see if I can fix some things.” So, I appreciate getting feedback to know when I messed up because when I don’t get that feedback, I’m going to keep operating in the same manner. So I think if we look at feedback as an opportunity to learn rather than dwell on, “Oh my gosh. I’m the worst person ever. I totally messed up this thing.” It’s just flipping the script. It’s saying, "I messed up but I can learn from this opportunity. And so I really want to learn from this opportunity.” So instead of crawling into a hole like sometimes I feel like I want to when that happens. Instead say, “This is an opportunity for growth for me.” And friends, this is not an attitude that just developed overnight. (Laughs) Believe me. This is not something that as I turned 18 I’m like, “Yes. I’m a well-formed adult that knows how to navigate all these social situations.” It’s not. It’s really, truly years of trial and error and successes and failures and learning and growing. And growth is sometimes very painful. But if you can take it in the mindset of, “I'm doing this thing. And I'm growing. And it's a good thing,” I think you’ll find that it is less painful when you do fuck up. ‘Cuz inevitably you're going to in one fashion or another.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. For sure.

APRIL FOURNIER

So, take it as a learning opportunity and you’ll find it’s at least a little less painful. It might still be painful. But it might be a little less painful.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. We should definitely do a podcast episode about how learning can be uncomfortable.

APRIL FOURNIER

Oh, yes. Yeah.

NADIA KEAN

‘Cuz I think we all just think of learning as this wonderful, beautiful process where you just find things out and it’s just like, “Oh. Enlightenment.” But I think that sometimes really meaningful learning is uncomfortable.

APRIL FOURNIER

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. For sure.

(55:58)

NADIA KEAN

Do you want to add anything before we wrap up this conversation?

APRIL FOURNIER

I think the only thing that I will leave is that we are in a really exciting time in our country for lots of change. It’s a scary time because there’s lots of growth happening. There’s lots of change happening with powers that be. There’s uncertainty. So, it’s not only this social change that’s happening, but we’re also fighting a global pandemic. All of this stuff is happening while we’re very isolated from our friends and our support systems that we normally would have around us to kind of help us in a physical sense to get through a lot of these things. So I just really encourage everyone to make sure that you’re making time for self care while you’re doing all of this growing. And also, be kind to yourself through the growth process because it’s different for everybody. While we’ve been in this pandemic, in my brain was like, “I’m gonna have all this time to learn the drums, and do all these weavings, and read a bunch of books, and learn all these new skills. Because what else am I going to do?” Not taking into account the just emotional and traumatic toll that this massive global event took on my brain. It took probably about five or six weeks just to come of this feeling of, “Gosh. I keep trying to read a book and I can’t read more than a paragraph.” Or, “I keep wanting to do weaving, but I can’t focus enough to do more than a couple rows.” And, “I want to write a story but the ideas just keep slipping away because my brain is just trying to make sense of it all.” So, really I think in this time there’s so much change that’s happening, be really kind to yourself and be really understanding with yourself if you can’t make all those changes happen or if you can’t jump into all of these movements. Not everyone has the mental wellness, fitness, ability to go join protests. And not everyone has the health to be able to go out and be exposed to lots of different people. I think a lot of people do want to join in this time and these movements. And sometimes you just can’t because of life. Being able to be nice to yourself and say, “It’s okay. I’m going to do what I can do. And I’m going to trust that it’s enough for right now.” It’s fine to push yourself. And it’s fine to just really try and do what you can. But also be kind to yourself. It’s a lot that we’re all going through collectively in humanity right now. So it’s okay to just be doing what is your best. And trust that others are bringing their best too.

NADIA KEAN

Well, I appreciate that. I think that’s a really good thing to leave us with. Especially the very last thing that you said which is trust that others are also doing their best. So, I want to thank you for coming onto the show today.

APRIL FOURNIER

Of course.

NADIA KEAN

And also helping us kick off season two, which I’m very excited about. April is going to be on the show a lot because we have a lot of discussions about coaching, and talking to athletes, and helping people learn more. April has a lot of very good insight on it and a lot of tactics that are gonna be super helpful for you in your coaching program. And so I want to make sure that you hear about them from her and that you learn certain processes that she recommends, and also that you take things into consideration which you might not have even had on your radar, which might be slowing down the learning process between you and the athlete.

So that is in a couple weeks to come. But for now, I hope that you will consider imagery and the names of teams and the artwork that we use. How, like April said, you don’t need a whole bunch of data, you just need to listen to one person or a group of people who are saying, “Hey. This is offensive. This needs to stop.” And please help April and everybody else that’s working on getting teams such as the Washington team to change their mascot and change their imagery. And I don’t think I should actually be the last voice on that, so (both laughing) that was my call to action, but I kind of almost… April, it’s more appropriate for you to have a call to action. So…

APRIL FOURNIER

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. My hope is by the time that people are listening to this we’ve had another 48 to 72 hours pass and gosh, now the Washington team isn’t even a team anymore. But, I’ll leave you with a story for our league, Maine Roller Derby. We had a home team called the Calamity Janes, which I never really gave it much thought, which kind of shows you how we can all continue to be educated. I had been with the league since 2012 and it was actually a fan who wrote to us and said, “Had we ever really looked into the name and the person who was Calamity Jane, ‘cuz it seems to me we’re a state that just passed eliminating Indigenous mascots. You might want to take a look into her history.” And so, we did.

So, it was one person who raised her voice. We didn’t ask her to qualify anything. But we did a little bit of research and found Calamity Jane does have kind of a complicated history with the expansion of the frontier and working with Wild Bill Hickok and his traveling show. And just there’s a lot of history that can’t be really validated, but there’s enough of those anecdotal stories about her interactions with the Plains tribes that created a pause for us to say, “You know what? It’s not worth it to continue to perpetuate this image and continue to use this name if it’s really even just affecting one person.”

So, we did take that person’s recommendation to heart. We did not do a league poll. We didn’t do all of this information gathering. We as the board said, “We’re changing the name. And that is our decision. And we will now ask the league for their recommendations for what the new team should be and what the new logo should look like.”

And so now, our new home team is the Ship Wreckers instead of the Calamity Janes. And that really happened over just a couple of months. So it didn’t take a lot of time. We worked with uniform sponsor, Monster Muffin, who gave us a really great discount to be able to replace the uniforms. And it was never for our league a question. Everyone didn’t expect to have no cost associated with changing jerseys. Everyone was like, “Yeah. Of course. Why wouldn’t we do that?” So I think the more communities we can get to that place like, “Why wouldn’t we do that?” The more that we’re going to see systemic change across our sport. It’s possible, guys. It’s really not that hard. It’s a choice. And so I encourage you to listen to the voices that are bringing up and choose to make that change.

NADIA KEAN

Aren’t y’all lucky that somebody did bring forward what Calamity Jane was about? Because it could have been years before anybody really looked into it or found out.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. It was a gift I think for us just to have that awareness from our community and have someone say something.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. For sure. And it also shows the integrity of your league to be like, “Oh. We didn’t know. Let’s change it.”

APRIL FOURNIER

Yeah. Absolutely

NADIA KEAN

Well. Thank you, April. How can people find you if they have questions for you?

APRIL FOURNIER

I am on all the social media platforms. So you can just find me there.

NADIA KEAN

Okay. Yes. And we can include that in the show notes on how people can find you. And April, do you have an ask of Strong Athletic?

APRIL FOURNIER

I am super psyched to be working together on this season. And I think the more conversations we can have, the more change we will help effect in our community.

NADIA KEAN

Yeah. I am very, very, very excited. I haven't been this excited about the podcast in a long time. So, I'm really, really happy.

APRIL FOURNIER

Yay!

NADIA KEAN

Lucky me. Okay. We’ll say, “Bye.” But then we’ll say, “Bye.” (Laughs) Okay. Okay. So everyone, that concludes our discussion. Thank you so much for tuning in. And if you found this episode meaningful to you or you learned something, please share it with your friends because what April is looking to do is not something that's going to happen overnight. And it's something that's bigger than all of us. And it's extremely important. So, please just share the information and help to make meaningful change happen. So with that, we will leave you. And we will see you the next time. Okay? Alright. Bye.

APRIL FOURNIER

Bye!

NADIA KEAN

Bye. See ya.

(01:04:51)

Alright, y’all. So as promised, the update is that today is July 13 and the NFL team from Washington DC that April spoke to us about has decided to change its name and also change its mascot and essentially rebrand. So there have been no announcements about what the name will be, but we do know that it is going to happen. So work like April’s, it's hard work. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes emotional labor. But sometimes it does actually result in progress.

(Music by the Little Bicycles)

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