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Mascot conflict can have positive outcome

The Indians sports logo demonstration at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., Sept. 29 was really about the exercise of white privilege and power. White privilege refers to unearned benefits and opportunities to which white individuals have access as a result of their race and that remain inaccessible to racial minorities. Examples of privilege include easier access to advanced educational opportunities, health care, and the ability to set social norms. The costs of racism to whites is defined as negative psychosocial consequences that whites experience as a result of racism include irrational fear of people of other races, limited exposure to people of different races and cultures, guilt and shame. These costs are in no way comparable to the substantial political, economic and social costs that American Indians continue to face.

A good local example was the demonstration that took place at the University of North Dakota before the ''Fighting Sioux'' football game. The Indian sports logos are the Trojan horse into racism and it should not be surprising that the NCAA wants to do something about it. Racism is based on ignorance and ignorance is based on fear. I observed how few non-Indians came over to be supportive of an American Indian issue that gives UND a bad name.

We all need to collaborate. Collaboration means a win-win style on both assertiveness and cooperativeness. Working toward collaborating involves an open and thorough discussion of the Indian logo conflict and arriving at a solution that is satisfactory to both sides of the issue. A combination of different perspectives can be formed into a solution. Collaborating takes sharing, open and trusting behavior for the benefit of both sides. In the long term, it can lead to improved race relations, better communications and effective performance. While both sides of the Indian sports logo view conflict as negative, conflict can be a positive thing. A positive view of conflict, in contrast, leads to a win-win solution for everyone.

The four steps to dealing with conflict include valuing diversity and confronting differences, seeking mutual benefits and uniting behind cooperative goals, empowering people to feel confident and skillful, and taking stock to reward success and learning from our mistakes.

Poor conflict management ''poisons'' a community or organization and those who work and live within it. There area lot of compassionate people and good leadership on both sides of the Indian sports logo issue in Grand Forks. We need to talk about this in the openly and freely.

Michael Eshkibok

Ojibwe/Odawa doctoral student at UNDGrand Forks, N.D.