Briana L. Urena-Ravelo
6 min readFeb 9, 2017


So I just came back from Paw Paw with my friend Marie-Claire.

We had each gone to previous set of recent meetings regarding the R*dskin mascot discussion, I to the first and Marie-Claire to the second. We were there for it all-the testimonies from the likes of the amazing Monica Padula, a leader in this fight, and other too kind, gracious and dignified members of the Anishinaabe community including elders, the miles of racist, harassment, intimidation and revisionist nonsense of the Paw Paw community parading as “the other side” (on par with those on defense against such abuse, because that makes sense), and the abuser language-heavy, biased skew of the school board and their decision.

I was honored to receive a call to come out to support from local Anishinaabe folks to be a body in that terrible space so they know other people of color are there for them and I gladly came. I am grateful for the words and grace the Anishinaabe consistently showed to the undeserving members of the Paw Paw community in their testimonies, and I know many others were as well. I will not forget what they have taught me and asked of me. I will not let my support of them end here.

A sign I made for the final meeting this evenig

That said, it was Paw Paw school board member Aaron Mitchell who, in naming his very illuminating thoughts regarding what he saw and heard in the proceedings, really perfectly cemented why, despite the the amazing, invigorating power of the Indigenous people resisting in such a hostile space, I still felt like shit each time I was there.

After he whined about how his district and city was (rightfully! accurately!) being accused of white supremacy, he literally said “We have no institutional racism at Paw Paw” . A grown-ass full adult human man who is on a school (education! learning! books! facts!) board doesn’t understand what “institutional” or “racism” means. He thinks that his institution, solely because it is in his community, is not racist (because if it is your thing that you love it can’t be bad, because only other people do the bad thing), and it just skipped the city or something. Paw Paw exists in a magical vacuum, somehow. A grown man on an all-white school board in a majority white school district doesn’t think the accusation fits.

And in his comments were reflected every comment made by the white people on the pro-mascot side, of all ages and backgrounds and varying types of members of the community present there, their crowd numbers easily four or five times the amount the Indigenous people and their supporters had. The disparate treatment and the self-victimizing and biased language of the other board members & continued usage of the R*dskin slur and the referring to native people by that word by everyone even as they were supposedly “listening to both sides”, the erasing of Indigenous peoples and voices, danced in my mind, too. Then, I witnessed as the verdict was made and the meeting adjourned and the police (over-present and overbearing), board members, and R*dskin proponents all easing into each other in a sea of knowing smiles and hugs and waves.

At that point, what do you do with that level of loyalty to violence, a political congruency in disparate treatment, of joined ignorance? What do you do with that degree of ingrained, unwilling, unerring display of power and whiteness? I looked at the wave of whiteness and I honestly was so heartbroken. I couldn’t imagine actually being an indigenous person in that space. I know two of my Native friends who I went with the first time did not have the wherewithal to return only to receive more abuse.

Yes, most of the school, the people, the state agrees with the racism of the mascot and the racial slur R*dskins. But that doesn’t make it less racist. The choice might have been “democratic,” at least as far as such an unbalanced system can be so, but it was still white supremacist. It doesn’t matter how much one tires of the accusation, a fact is a fact. (Blood is still red and the sky is still blue even if the reality of it bothers or annoys me. What’s more, it is arrogant and childish for me to think that being bothered and annoyed is reason enough for fact to cease being so. It continues to be so regardless of my feelings towards it. I know better than to whine about truth no matter how much hell it might give me). The support of the mascot and the slur are yet a question of indoctrination and dominance and colonialist narratives that say those doing the stabbing dictate what pain and suffering is, not those actually hurt. That is the framework of this country-the tyrannical minority of whiteness against the majority peoples of color through the establishing of a power dynamic that places whiteness as the authority on top and Black and Indigenous people in particular as the other, suspect and unreliable and savage- and it is under such that Native peoples are yet dehumanized, belittled, erased and oppressed.

Having a board of of white people decide on something deeply personal to indigenous peoples is laughably offensive and wildly nonsensical on so many levels. But no one spoke to that, or spoke to the fact that the board and community members all have ingrained ignorance and unchecked biases in their thought process and perspectives on the issue, that there is a violent arrogance (shout out Saul Williams) in the assumption of authority on an issue that has nothing to do with white people as it is not their history, face, body or place that is being assaulted. No one spoke to how priority was being given to SPORTS and not people. No one spoke to the micro- and macro-aggressions continuously happening in the space, the stereotypes, the fetishization, ecetera, ecetera. There was so much horrifying gross shit that people of color, specifically Indigenous people, understood was happening in the space. But those in power-white people-didn’t. Because they didn’t have to. Despite Mitchell’s unverified whiny opining to the opposite, the problem of white supremacy is very present and runs deep in the veins of that community.

Another interesting comment that stood out to me was from a Paw Paw community member who, in an excellent display of the white supremacist mental gymnastics consistently occurring in those meetings, after proudly naming there is no law saying they cannot use racial slurs as mascots, became incensed that people in the crowd apparently were not showing the rightful respect for the flag or the nation, totally forgoing the fact that that is actually a right protected by the state he feels so passionately about.

But yeah dude, you’re right as far as I’m concerned at least. Between what is occurring in Paw Paw (and in all other places where the fight against these racist depictions still continues), at Standing Rock, in reservations and reserves across North America, in the white house, with immigrants and refugees, in Black communities, and dozens upon dozens of other places, no, I’m not particularly loyal to the such a nation as this, its colonialist mentality or a racist people, nor will I ever be.

Ya’ll may be centuries-deep in being joined at the hip in racist settler fuckery, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. I know where my allegiance lies, and it isn’t with that shit.



Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: