In Whose Honor?: Diversity and inclusion in the post-Redskin era

by Elizabeth Jenike, IT Services

Each year, the IT Services Diversity Committee hosts a film festival to celebrate our differences and start a dialogue about how we can come together as friends, coworkers, and citizens to support each other. Last year, the film was “A Class Divided,” a documentary about a popular social experiment conducted by an elementary school teacher in which she told her class that people with blue eyes were “better” than people with brown.

This year, the film festival got closer to our Miami roots. The film shown was “In Whose Honor?,” a documentary by Jay Rosenstein that was first broadcast by PBS in 1998. It follows the story of the use of Native American imagery and culture in collegiate and professional sports—and how that impacts the actual Native Americans.

Ron Scott facilitating discussion while sitting on a table in front of a classroom

The main school profiled, the University of Illinois, received some criticism for its mascot, Chief Illiniwek, from a graduate student named Charlene Teters (a member of the Spokane tribe from Washington). Her emotional reaction to seeing the Chief (a student wearing an authentic eagle-feather headdress and deerskin robes) during halftime at a basketball game was the beginning of an arduous journey of getting the Chief removed from the school’s sporting events—a monumental task made even greater by the people who supported the use of the Native American mascot. To say the very least, they didn’t take kindly to her protests.

In the end, however, Charlene’s cause was vindicated: In 2007, Chief Illiniwek was officially retired as the UI mascot.

This topic hits close to home for Miami. Until 1997, our athletic teams played beneath the banner of the Redskins. A student-produced YouTube video described the process by which the Redskins symbol came about and was subsequently removed by the school. What’s more, the newly forged Myaamia Center on campus continues to strengthen the relationship between the University and the Miami tribe.

The Diversity Committee invited Ron Scott, associate vice president of institutional diversity here at Miami, to facilitate discussion around the film and talk about some key takeaways.

During the discussion, Ron stressed that one of the main lessons of the film is that inclusion isn’t just about marginalized groups: “Real inclusion is about all of us,” he said. “The struggle of one is the struggle of all.”

Therein lies the beauty of hosting events such as the film festival: We all have different voices, sometimes different opinions, and it’s critical that we come together and not only speak our truths, but listen to the truths of others as well. Only through effective dialogue can we address some of the most important issues facing society today. Digging in our heels isn’t going to amount to much—just more division.

In Ron’s words: It takes being able to say “I’ve learned something today” to bridge these gaps.

Here’s to a successful 2018 film festival. We’re looking forward to next year!

Visit our IT Services Diversity site for more information and pictures from events we've hosted in the past.

For discussion: Festus Ojo shares his creative work

During the discussion with Ron Scott, Festus Ojo, application developer III in IT Services, shared a piece he had written to exemplify the ideas being tackled. He originally wrote it for his Facebook site, The Courage Club. With his permission, we reprint that piece here:

The Quest.

No matter what life brings you, don’t stop believing in what can be. What makes us and what breaks us lie within the vicinities of what shapes us.

The connection that binds us together, the experiences that frame us, the stories that tell whom we are and what we’ve become, and the pursuit that drives us are all ingrained in the kinds of friendships and relationships that we create, the community we build, and the passion that lies within us.

In the quest of pursuing the best of what life can bring to us, at different points in life, we are all faced with uncertainties; we are swamped with decisions; we have pleasant moments, we have undesirable challenges. Every phase brings with it an experience. Some are great, some, ordinary, others, disappointments.

No matter what the past and the present hold, don’t stop moving forward. Don’t stop to take a chance for the change that can significantly impact your world.

Yes, You Can.