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Fail Montezuma!: The last vestiges of an obscured yet stubbornly persistent culture of racism at San Diego State University
Last vestiges of an obscured yet stubbornly persistent culture of racism at San Diego State University
Kamper, DavidNericcio, William AnthonyBrooks, Joanna
xiii, 96 pages : illustrations (some color).
By any measure, San Diego State University boasts a very diverse student body. In fact, SDSU has been the recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, a national honor, for two consecutive years (2013-2014). In spite of this distinction, SDSU still maintains a moniker and a mascot that were born during an era when the ideology of white supremacy was the accepted social norm. The school's appropriation of Aztec culture in 1925 and the manner in which the students and faculty chose to use it demonstrates the ignorance that led to the consequentially racist misrepresentation of not only Aztecs, but of Indigenous people in general, with the most visible example being the school's mascot. The mascot itself perpetuates the "noble savage" stereotype, reducing Indigenous people to anachronistic objects suitable for use as a good luck charm during sporting events; this is completely antithetical to SDSU's achievements in diversity. Many fail to understand why the mascot is racist in nature. This may be due to the fact that the word "Aztec" itself is not as racially charged as the word "Redskin" or any other derogatory racial slur. However, when the history behind the selection of the Aztec moniker is examined within the context of the social climate in which it was chosen, it becomes clearly evident how racism articulated itself during the nascent formation of San Diego State's identity. Combined with the erroneous and romanticized (mis)understandings of the geographic region and its history, racism influenced the choices made by students, faculty and administrators, which led to the original appropriation of the Aztec culture in 1925. The role that white supremacy and racism had in taking the "Aztec" name, as well as the inevitable introduction of a mascot based on a racialized stereotype that choice dictated, has been obscured by San Diego State (whether this was intended or not I leave for the reader to decide). My intention is to reveal the actual history behind the choice of the moniker and mascot, bringing into the open the facts which have been, over time, obscured, forgotten and perhaps even intentionally hidden.
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Arts and Letters
San Diego State University
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2016
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