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Who gets to decide?
Very often that is the real question.
I had a very good friend, Terry Evans, who was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. He was the first one to teach me about who gets to decide.
The lesson came when Summerfest kicked the midway out. The midway appealed and what it came down to was whether Summerfest had the authority to kick the midway out. It did. There was no ruling on whether the midway a good thing or not. Only, on who gets to decide.
The question of who gets to decide is an important one now in the battle over Native American nicknames for a wide variety of teams at the professional, college and high school levels.
And the Wisconsin Legislature has now gotten into the act, passing a measure that clearly would make it harder to force a school district to change a school team’s nickname. The bill would, among other things, require a complainant to gather and submit signatures from 10 percent of the residents of the district.
The merits of this battle are what tear people apart.
People say the nickname "Warriors" for example, is not a derogatory term, and in fact is a praiseworthy term.
Others say any nickname of a racial group has a negative impact. They say, "what if we had nicknames like ‘minstrels,’ or ‘Dagos’ or ‘Wops’ or ‘Heebs’?" The derogatory nature would be clear.
The question we are left with, it seems, is who gets to decide.
Can a school district pick any nickname and use it, no matter how offensive? Would any of the above nicknames be okay if the school board said it was?
How about an Indian tribe that says, for example, that "Redskins" is a pejorative term and should be changed?
I am unsure of this, if we use the "who gets to decide" rule. I know a guy who used to be on the Brown Deer School Board who would have been perfectly comfortable using the word "Kike" as a nickname. So letting either group have the ultimate decision seems fraught with peril.
I think Warriors or Chiefs are just fine. I think Redskins is not.
So, it’s clear to me that who gets to decide won’t end this debate. Perhaps the only way these cases will be settled is by the democratic process of complaints, pressure and clear laws that say you can or cannot use Indian nicknames.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.