Dr. Bruce Rose Slams Dartmouth High Logo Supporters [OPINION]
Dr. Bruce Rose wrote a bombastic letter to the community, which was published Sunday in The Standard-Times. The former president of New Bedford's NAACP chapter compared the support for the decades-old Dartmouth Indians mascot to the ridiculous idea "that slave masters were providing hospitality and full employment to the enslaved Africans by allowing them to work the fields and take up residence on the plantation."
I have to believe that Dr. Rose is likely to be aware that actual members of the Wampanoag tribe helped to design the logo of the High School's mascot. Aquinnah tribal Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais and her brother, both graduates of DHS, contributed to the creation of the mascot in place today. The goal and intent of the design were to create a dignified image of the noble, original inhabitants of our area to represent the school as they compete against other programs.
Now it is true that some within the indigenous community have aired concerns or even opposition to the "Indian" use anywhere and in any capacity but it is anything but monolithic. Some area tribesmen and women are supportive of Indian logos as long as they are not disrespectful or mocking in any way.
What is most concerning here is the prism through which Dr. Rose is looking. He thinks nothing of making quite ugly accusations of the town's school committee, which reads to me as he is suggesting a committee-wide covert, racist agenda for all who support the idea of keeping with the tradition of the logo in place.
"I think it’s worse than that. I think the school officials know damn well that the mascot is a disrespectful, disgusting portrayal of Indigenous Peoples, but they are not going to allow anyone or anything to suggest to them that they are offending anyone...even if they are," Dr. Rose stated as if he is the self-proclaimed arbiter of who is and isn't racist, even with problematically poor evidence.
Perhaps Dr. Rose needs a bit of a history lesson here as well. The British Empire seized control from the settlers here by 1660 but prior to it, Massasoit and English separatist Governor William Bradford had a relatively excellent relationship and shared a cooperative economy.
As more and more British and Dutch settlers raced to the Connecticut River Valley to make claims for the same land sold to each of them by the Pequot tribe, rival tribes the Mohegans and Mohawks hedged their bets and fought alongside British colonists against the Dutch-allied Pequots. Their collective political miscalculations are something they themselves own and, if we're being honest, they in part brought great calamity on to their own through them.
This is in no way excusing the injustices to the Natives committed by the British but it also must be mentioned that the rivalries between the tribes brought much self-inflicted loss of land and life through bad politicking.
Massasoit's second son Metacom – whom the English called King Philip – took over as a sachem in 1661. He was eventually murdered by a Pocasset tribe member, looking to gain favor with the settler's militia who were unsuccessful in bringing him to trial for the violent raids on the farms around what is today Fall River and Swansea.
The result of the 1675-78 "King Philip's War" was a catastrophic one for the region's tribes. There should be no denying this. The British killed or sold off tribal members as slaves for British Caribbean colonies. Estimates are believed to be between 60-80 percent of the tribe's population met with either terrible fate.
Dr. Rose cannot reverse history. He and many others should have their logic questioned when holding the United States of America, accountable for the actions and decisions of the British throne, 100 years before our actual existence as a nation in 1787 (Rose claims America has had three hundred years of self-rule).
He cannot cherry-pick the entire proper context of history to fit his narrative and omit other aspects of it that contradict it.
Dr. Rose certainly should be challenged for his attempt to demonize and "cancel" the members of the school committee who volunteer their time and try to make Dartmouth Schools remain a very good district for the education of our children. He should not freely slander the many others who don't possess any of the racism and ignorance that Dr. Rose assures us exists in their hearts.
If Dr. Rose has the desire to right the wrongs done to the indigenous people of this region, he could have been equally as loud and held the last governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick (whom Rose supported) accountable for the Commonwealth's casino licensing authority. It was this Patrick-appointed board which ultimately assured the tribe of being on the bottom of the list to get any one of the up to three coveted licenses.
Governor Patrick even sued the Aquinnah tribe on Martha's Vineyard to stop them from building a modest casino on their own on their land, something that two federal agencies endorsed.
Using Dr. Rose's own logic, I also question the credibility of his mid-2020 outrage after thinking about where he came from.
Dr. Rose was the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Mass at Dartmouth. UMD's mascot is the Corsair, defined as either a pirate along the South Mediterannean coast (Berber slavers) or a ship that was used by these same Barbary slavers in Africa, who captured, stored, and delivered millions of West-African slaves to their destinations in Arabia, Persia, throughout the Ottoman Empire and to the European colonies in the Americas.
Where is his series of letters, photos, and videos of his thoughtful speeches condemning his own employer's mascot which is either glorifying the choice vessel for slavers, if not specifically the slavers?
Forgive me for not buying his sudden epiphany of mascot righteousness. This former president of the local NAACP had no problem taking a check from the Corsairs but is quite willing to shame people and convince others of racist designs for defending a logo intended to compliment.
Now, if the local Native American community shows a clear, majority level of discomfort or distress over the logo's usage, then we must respect their wishes and find another symbol of bravery and capability and happily cede to their request.
Dr. Rose was right about the long list of injustices committed by European monarchies and eventually these United States. It is a very small favor to obey their will and find another school mascot – if that is what it comes to.
It would be a mistake, though, to bend to the mood of the moment set by members of the community who make baseless, ugly comments about those who have opposing but valid positions on any issue.
Editor's Note: This column was edited on August 20 to correct what originally read as a direct quote from Dr. Rose but was actually the writer's interpretation of Dr. Rose's letter as a whole.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.