SOCIAL CIRCLE — In the nation’s capital, the Washington Football Team — formerly the Washington Redskins, now in search of a new name — has ended the years-long battle over its controversial mascot and logo.
In Social Circle, the fight is only heating up.
In the wake of the NFL team’s decision to retire the Redskins logo, a wave of similar moves has engulfed other athletic teams with Native American imagery across the nation, and Social Circle High School is now caught in the maelstrom. Dueling petitions emerged online, one advocating for a change to the local school’s Redskins logo, another pushing to keep the name and logo.
Last month, at the monthly meeting of the Social Circle Board of Education, five different people spoke before the board, asking them to change the logo.
This month, the counter-revolution arrived.
Of the eight people who spoke during the board’s public participation portion of the agenda during Thursday night’s SCBOE meeting, six were in favor of keeping the Redskins logo and they pushed back hard on the idea that their beloved SCHS mascot could ever be perceived as derogatory or racist.
Mike Davis, a longtime Social Circle resident, gave a long litany of examples of historic records where Native Americans referred to themselves as redskins without any animosity or degradation intended.
“We see the word ‘redskins’ used in the most respectful of ways in the highest forms of diplomacy,” Davis said. “I see no reason not to proud of the Redskins name.”
Jamie Harrison, an SCHS graduate, said the word has always held positive connotations within the local community, and pointed to surveys finding that more Native Americans approve of the word for the use as an athletic mascot than do not.
“For generations it has been our beloved mascot,” Harrison said. “Redskins is a powerful name representing unity and has never been used in a derogatory way in Social Circle. As an alumni, I am and always will be proud to be a Redskin.”
Roxie Garrett had similar feelings for her local alma mater and its enduring mascot.
“The Redskins name has been with us for 70 years, which is about when I went into the first grade, so I’ve basically always been a Redskin,” Garrett said. “It is a symbol of pride and honor and is not a racist name.
“Whoever has tried to change the name does not share that pride in our name. They claim to speak for a group they do not represent. This country needs to stop living in the past.”
Serah Ashley spoke of her Creek ancestry and said she does not feel her Native American legacy conflicts with her identification with the Social Circle Redskins.
“I am a native of Social Circle,” Ashley said. “I am Native American. I am a Creek. And I am a Redskin.
“My roots run through this land. Please hold onto to the name of the Redskins. It’s a symbol of strength, courage and pride.”
Keith Bramblett said Redskins was a unifying name in the community, especially for the athletic teams.
“I may be long past high school, but I am still a Redskin,” he said. “Our community united around it. It was our tribe. Be a part of, not apart from.”
John Gardner said changing the name was not only unnecessary but would be an expense the school system can ill afford now.
“I am not originally a Redskin,” Gardner said. “But living here for 20 years, I am proud of this community. Racism and inequality are not taught under the Redskin name. It has never been demeaning in my eyes.
“One thing that hasn’t been talked of much is the financial aspect. Paint, scoreboards, uniforms, letterhead, they all cost money. If you ask the taxpayers if they want to foot the bill to change the name on all those things, I know they’d tell you no.”
After six speakers in favor of the name, Adoris Gibbs returned to continue her push to change the name.
“I am advocating for an end to a knowing disrespect of a living people,” Gibbs said. “The supporters are defending an inanimate object.”
Gibbs said the misleading polls and personal please in support of the name did not outweigh the hurt the name causes to other Native Americans who continue to advocate for an end to the Redskins logo.
“There is a disregard for the truth on this issue,” Gibbs said. “We do not have the luxury of time on this. Let us not miss this moment to make a positive change. I want to appeal to you for action.”
Kiisha Gibbs also spoke against the current logo, arguing her time as a teacher and coach at the Social Circle schools did not mean she could overlook the problematic nature of the Redskins name.
“I am Social Circle,” she said. “I am proud of Social Circle and have fond memories of this school system. But I choose to separate a feeling from a fact. If we allow something that disrespects some, what else will we allow? We must educate our children to do better.
“Seventy years ago is different from today and this name has a history marred in blood. You are charged to do what’s best for the system. We have an opportunity to change this.”