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Group Says It's Time To Retire Belmont's Red Raider Mascot

Sign in front of Belmont's South Point High School.
Ann Doss Helms
Sign in front of Belmont's South Point High School.

A group called "Retire the Red Raider" is lobbying the Gaston County school board to change the mascot for Belmont's South Point High School.

The raider in question is a red-faced Native American. A coalition of South Point students, teachers, alumni and community members spoke at Monday's school board meeting and sent out a 60-page "policy brief"saying the mascot is offensive, stereotypical and outdated.

South Point High senior Natalie O’Connor told the Gaston school board Monday she’s proud of her school but not the mascot.

"The image South Point uses of the Red Raider depicts an inaccurate and stereotypical generic Native American that does not honor local tribes, but rather encourages offensive cultural appropriation and mockery of Native American traditions," she said.

The board wasn't scheduled to discuss or vote on the mascot Monday, but the public comment period brought supporters as well as opponents.

Jason Rumfelt, a 1990 graduate of South Point High, said he believes the vast majority of the Belmont and the South Point community support the Red Raider tradition.

"Rest assured that we could pack this room with citizens who wish to speak on this issue, as we are all very passionate and united in our support for our school nickname and logo," he told the board.

There are dueling online petitions as well. The one callilng for elimination of the Red Raider had about 2,300 signatures Monday night, and the one supporting it had more than 3,400.

The controversy comes amid a national rethinking of symbols of white supremacy and racism. 

After years of resistance, owners of the Washington Redskins recently agreed to retire the name and logo.

In Gaston County, a struggle is raging over whether to remove a towering Confederate monument that stands in front of the courthouse in Gastonia.

Just across the river, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said he'll review the history of all school names and eliminate those with ties to racism and slavery. First up, he said, will be Zebulon Vance High, named for a governor who fought for the Confederacy and owned enslaved people.

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Ann Doss Helms covers education for WFAE. She was a reporter for The Charlotte Observer for 32 years, including 16 years on the education beat. She has repeatedly won first place in education reporting from the North Carolina Press Association and won the 2015 Associated Press Senator Sam Open Government Award for reporting on charter school salaries.
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