PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is pushing for Walmart to keep Paw Paw High School merchandise out of its local store, saying the school’s Redskins mascot is a racial slur.
The state branch of the ACLU says it sent a letter Wednesday to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, saying the company should consider that restocking such items “does not occur in isolation, but within a racial context.”
The ACLU of Michigan says the Southeast Michigan Walmart Supercenter temporarily removed Paw Paw Redskins merchandise from its Paw Paw area store after a recent complaint.
The ACLU of Michigan claims the debate over Paw Paw’s mascot “has exacerbated racial tensions at the school,” based on 2015 through 2017 records the organization says it obtained from the school through a Freedom of Information Act request.
While most of the examples provided by the ACLU of Michigan listed students using the N-word, two directly related to Paw Paw’s mascot. The ACLU of Michigan said in a note, the Paw Paw superintendent was approached by a resident who was punched in the face before a board meeting because she publicly announced she was in favor of changing the school’s mascot.
In another example, a parent asked the district about options for transferring her child out of the district after calling a school board meeting about the Redskins issue “openly hostile.”
The ACLU’s letter comes about a month after the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media reignited the debate by posting a billboard along I-94 saying the definition of redskin is very offensive. The previous billboard read “We are the Paw Paw Redskins” and boasted the school’s mascot logo.
After a contentious public meeting February 2017, the Paw Paw School board voted 4-3 to keep its longtime mascot.
The Saranac school district voted in 2015 to keep its Redskins mascot. In December 2016, Belding’s school board voted to drop the Redskins name.