The high school mascot is a powerful symbol.
Entire communities identify themselves by the casually chosen emblem of their local secondary school’s athletic squads. Monroe residents proudly declare themselves to be Purple Hurricanes.
Baptists and Methodists alike in Loganville show no shame in acknowledging their identity as Red Devils. Winder’s supporters bark loudly to show themselves Bulldoggs, ridiculous second “G” and all.
And then there’s Social Circle, whose long-time symbol is suddenly embroiled at the edge of a national conversation over the very appropriateness of its name.
Social Circle High School’s mascot, after all, is the Redskin.
It’s not a recent name. Unlike Walnut Grove High School, whose student body voted to make its Warriors mascot a Native American icon when the school opened only a decade ago, SCHS has gone by the Redskins since the 1950s.
“To our knowledge, the Redskins is the only mascot that the school has ever utilized,” Carrie Booher, assistant superintendent of Social Circle City Schools, said.
In the deep South city of Social Circle, long before the civil rights movement and long after the native tribes of the state had been driven away at gunpoint to distant reservations, the name raised no eyebrows.
In 2020, it’s a different story.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins, whose owner Dan Snyder long promised to never change its name despite pressure from various organizations, is finally working to change its logo and nickname after stadium sponsor FedEx and other monetary sources such as Nike threatened to withdraw support should the name stay.
Redskins is considered a slur by many and the name has become a lightning rod of controversy for sports teams.
It’s not just the Washington Redskins looking at a new name. Various high schools around the country are changing their names or at least considering it. Anderson High School in Ohio is changing its Redskins name, as is Paw Paw High School in Michigan, which has already chosen the new name Red Wolves.
Other teams are potentially looking to change similar names, either on their own or under pressure from local petitions, such as the Redmen of Parma High School in Ohio, the Wamps of Braintree, Massachusetts (named after Chief Josiah Wampatuck of the Mattakeesett tribe), and various teams called the Indians around the country, including possibly the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball.
All of which puts pressure on Social Circle’s high school to follow suit, especially after a local petition began circulating on Change.org to “Change the Name of the Social Circle Redskins.” The petition had drawn more than 700 signatures as of Friday.
“Redskins is an offensive term used to describe Native Americans, and has been for decades,” the petition reads. “With the Washington Redskins working on changing their name, I think if the members of our community came together, we could do the same, and choose another mascot/emblem as well.”
The petition goes on to say the current name is unwelcoming as it is.
“I want people to feel welcome at our school, regardless of race, and that can’t happen with an offensive term being so openly displayed on our schools fields, merchandise, website, and more,” the webpage reads.
The Redskins name is not common in Georgia: only one other school uses the moniker, in southeast Georgia’s Bryan County near Savannah.
Social Circle not only uses the name, but it’s logo is a Native American head, similar to the Washington Redskins logo, showing a man in profile wearing a traditional war bonnet — a war bonnet used only by the tribes of the Plains Indians in the West, none of them with Georgian connections.
Although numerous Native American tribes once called Georgia home — including the Apalachee, Choctaw, Cherokee, Hitchiti, Oconee, Miccosukee, Mukogee Creek, Timucua, Yamasee, Guale and Yucci — none of them used the traditional feathered war bonnet best known from old Western films and logos such as Social Circle’s.
Social Circle is not shy with its current logo, either, which is emblazoned in full not only on the football team’s helmets, but on the gym walls of the high school and even above the entire city on the Social Circle watertower beside the high school.
Social Circle school officials, however, say the controversy has yet to reach their ears beyond the echo chamber of social media.
“We are aware of the discussion on social media both in support of changing and in support of keeping the mascot,” Booher said. “At this time, the school system has not received a formal request to change to the mascot.”
Should that occur, a conversation over the usage of Redskin might happen, but so far Booher said it’s only been idle talk. She encourages anyone who wants official action to reach out to the district through official channels.
“Any parents or students who have concerns about the mascot should contact the Superintendent,” she said.
Superintendent Robbie Hooker can be reached at the Social Circle City Schools Central Office at 770-464-2731.
Until then, the Redskins name remains part of Social Circle High School. Now it’s the public’s chance to speak out, one way or another, about the future of the nickname.