Dahkota Brown was there for both California R-word victories — when California’s legislature became the first state in the country to pass a bill banning the use of the word “redskins” in public schools on September 10, and on October 11 when Governor Jerry Brown signed that bill into law.
Brown, 17, an activist and Native American high school student helped make it all happen.
Brown, who spoke with ICTMN about this victory, said he hopes the other 49 states will follow suit by passing similar legislation.
What message is the state of California sending to the rest of the country?
I think that the real message is telling every other state that there is definitely evidence that the use of this racial slur as a name is absolutely wrong. And our California legislature agrees with that. I think [this is] California leading by example, realizing that maybe it’s time for a change and that these racist mascots aren’t right.
Why is this word “redskins” particularly offensive?
It’s demeaning. It’s hurtful. It dehumanizes Natives just like any other [similar] mascot and name.
What do you say to people who argue, “It’s just a word, get over it”?
They definitely have a right to voice their opinions, but the fact is that this word has caused harm—basically the word represents genocide in my eyes. The pain and suffering this word has inflicted on so many people [should] be enough reason to be changed.
How do you respond to people who say, “But this is our school tradition”?
You can still have those traditions without a racist mascot. Those ‘traditions’ that people hold—their ignorant and racist traditions—shouldn’t matter more than the traditions of an entire ethnic group.
Out of all the 50 states, why do you think California is the first to do this?
California does have the largest Native population of any state. I have to give a lot of credit to Assemblymember Luis Alejo, who authored and carried the bill, who put in a lot of work making those connections with the various tribes and the other legislators, and [he] just really pushed hard for this bill.
Five to 10 years from now, where do you see the word “redskin”?
I think that it’ll be completely gone. … As far as the Washington football team goes, I just don’t see them having very much time left with that mascot. I imagine that the racial slur will be gone out of our school systems and will be gone out of our sports teams.