ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — An emotional discussion over the future of Anderson High School’s mascot will continue after the Forest Hills School board made no decision to keep or remove its mascot. Members met virtually Tuesday night to talk about retiring the long-debated Redskins name amid growing pressure to remove racially-insensitive imagery across the country.
“In order to empathize with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it and not how you imagine their experience to be,” board member Demetria Choice said.
For nearly two hours Tuesday evening, school board members shared their concerns and those of the public about an issue that has divided the district for years.
“How can we tell a group of people of a different culture that something is not offensive when they deem it so?” Choice said.
“Focusing on this discussion now is disappointing to me,” board member Patty Taylor said. “I do not believe it is once again time to discuss the Redskins issue.”
This fight is nothing new to Native American activists Jheri Neri and Guy Jones. Both were at the meeting when the board ultimately decided not to make a final decision on the mascot in 2018. Both say this time feels different.
“I think I’m hearing a lot of emotional testimony from board members,” said Neri, Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition executive director. “I think that it’s very encouraging.”
They think recent calls to remove imagery and change offensive names helped prompt this discussion, including a letter from the NAACP.
“I’m encouraged in seeing that the predominantly white board is asking the questions as to how do we go about and change this,” Neri said.
The meeting ended with no resolution on the mascot issue. Concerns over timing, money and resources that it would take to retire and remove the Redskins name – the same arguments from two years ago – remain.
“That hope that I felt from a few of the board members, that flame kind of diminished a little bit, but there’s still that ray of hope, and that’s something that we didn’t see in 2018,” said Jones, founder of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans.
The board meets again on Thursday. It’s not clear if a final vote on the Redskins name will be made at that time.