California State University, Long Beach, has decided to do away with its “Prospector Pete” mascot amid concerns that it’s connected to genocide — and some students and faculty at the university are recommending that the school avoid using any person or people-inspired replacement to avoid offense.
The university made the announcement that the mascot would be retired on Thursday. The Prospector Pete statue, which is currently located outside of the school’s liberal-arts building, will be relocated to a “less prominent” place, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“As our diversity grew and more voices were heard, we came to know that the 1849 California gold rush was a time in history when the indigenous peoples of California endured subjugation, violence and threats of genocide,” president Jane Close Conoley said in a statement. “Today, the spirit of inclusivity is reflected in our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community.”
“Today’s Beach is not connected to that era,” the statement continued.
The Times explains that the idea of Prospector Pete originated from the campus’s founding in 1949, with the founding president — Pete Peterson — saying he had “struck the gold of education” with the establishment of the college. Many students, however, don’t see it that way. Rather, they see it as a sort of relic of racism and of the genocide of Native Americans that occurred during the Gold Rush era.
“Multiple scholars have cited the California Prospectors, also known as the 49ers, as culpable in violent and genocidal acts against the indigenous people of California,” states a resolution from the school’s student government. “Prospectors in California perpetuated colonization, white supremacy, racism and exclusion ideals not only against indigenous American communities, but also women, people of color and non-Protestant communities.”
The Times reports that Cal State–Long Beach plans to take input from students, faculty, and alumni in deciding on a replacement — and adds that “students and some faculty have suggested the university avoid modeling a new mascot after a specific person or group to prevent appropriating a culture or offending others on campus in the future.”
In other words? We have officially reached the point where people are suggesting that any human mascot of any kind may be offensive. Using this logic, a lot of mascots have got to go. An obvious one would be “Rowdy,” the Dallas Cowboys’ cowboy mascot. Cowboys are, after all, a “group” of people. In fact, the warning that mascots not be modeled after a “specific person” might threaten at least one animal mascot, too: The Baltimore Ravens’ “Poe.” After all, even though he is a bird, he is named after Edgar Allan Poe, who is indeed a “specific person.” The Steelers’ “Steely McBeam” would also certainly have to go, as perhaps would the team name, as “steelers” is certainly a group of people — there’s nothing offensive, of course, about the occupation of “steeler,” but “steelers” is still a “group” of people nonetheless.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid celebrating the offensive, but there does come a point where efforts to avoid offense can tip the scale from good intentions to complete insanity. This effort to avoid any human-inspired mascot, to me, seems like a clear sign that that scale has tipped. This is, of course, unless there is something outrageously offensive about Poe or Steely McBeam that I’m missing — but I really, really don’t think that that’s the case.
This story was previously covered in an article in Campus Reform.