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Mascot ban raises constitutional issues


I read with interest a recent story in the Los Angeles Times about Oregon banning Native American mascots. As a lawyer, I considered the constitutionality of this measure. The image of the Banks Brave depicted looks more like Dog the Bounty Hunter than an actual member of one of our venerated First Civilization tribes.

The mohawk is East Coast or modern punk, the feathers are plains and the war paint and earring do not appear to be authentic. (However, I admit I am no expert on tribal war paint or jewelry.)

In order to ban this image, the state school board would have to prove that it is an actual Native American. The Banks High School image is clearly not.

If the board is relying on the phenotype (the external manifestation of one's genetic make up) to determine which images may not be included as school mascots, then their proscription is not race-neutral as is required to pass constitutional review.

It would not be constitutional to allow images with Euro-centric features and names such as Vikings, but disallow images with non-white features. In fact, it is pure and simple racism.

Moreover, the measure allows for the mascot to be 'The Mongols,' 'The Zulus' or 'The Aborigines' but not named after local civilizations in which Americans take enormous pride. Mascots are chosen because we associate them with heroic qualities. Too bad the Oregon State School Board does not exhibit the same level of tolerance which was exhibited by our Native Americans.

I'm sure Portlandia soon will have a hilarious episode on this topic.

Aimee Libeu, Summerland, Calif.