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Deemed Racist, 'Red Raider' Is Gone; Barnstable Ponders New Mascot Ideas

The Barnstable School Committee on Wednesday decided to move forward with replacing both the name and image of the high school mascot, the Red Raider.

The committee originally voted in August to replace the mascot in response to complaints that Native American mascots are racist, but member Joe Nystrom asked the committee to consider keeping the name “Red Raider” and associating it with a different image.

He said an unverified local story suggests the name may have originally honored Dennis Francis Thomas, who was killed in World War II.

“The story is that … the football team took up the name ‘Raiders’ in honor of him as a Marine Raider,” he said.

But Nystrom conceded he had no proof the story was true.

In response, other School Committee members said the name can no longer be separated from Native American symbolism, no matter its origins.

“If we keep the name ‘Red Raider,’” member Barbara Dunn said, “it’s offensive to some. We are not being an anti-racist district. We’re not welcoming all.”

A turning point in Wednesday’s meeting led Nystrom to reconsider his point of view.

Member Kathy Bent made a pointed comparison to another term that has become unacceptable over time.

“The word ‘retarded’ means delayed,” she said. “But that word cannot be used in today’s society because it’s been tied to people in a negative way.”

Nystrom called that a “fantastic analogy” and said he was reconsidering. In the end, he never made his intended motion.

The School Committee took no action, which means the search for a new Barnstable mascot — both name and image — can continue.

The school district’s Community Engagement Subcommittee is getting ready to issue a survey to intermediate and high school students asking them about three possible mascot options, according to Dunn.

The subcommittee, which she chairs, gathered suggestions from a community survey earlier this year.