A Whiff of Intolerance

Imagine entering a room. A pungent odor assaults you. The exact scent is unimportant. Perhaps a cigarette was just smoked. Or an adolescent applied too heavy a dose of Axe. Maybe a natural bodily function poisoned the air. Your friend exclaims, “Whew, what stinks?” In just a few minutes, though, you adapt, and the neurons slow their firing. Your still evolving brain seeks out new smells. The odor, however, remains and is remarked on by the next person entering in the room. It permeates the air you breathe, yet now you are blissfully unaware. It gets into your clothing, though, and after you leave the room, others notice you and comment on the foul odor. Only when you reenter the room, do you again experience the stink.

Several of our colleagues had a similar experience when travelling to the State Championship Boys Basketball game in Springfield. What should have simply been a celebration of the most successful boys’ basketball season in the school’s history was, instead, marred by a whiff of intolerance. As the game progressed, the enthusiastic Nashoba sideline erupted with the Chieftain chop as students simulated a Native American scalping a hapless victim. Friends from other districts reacted in shock, asking how they could teach in a district that allowed such cruel parodies of a Native culture. The stench of the failure of our district to confront the question of the Chieftain mascot and the practices and attitudes it encourages brought an awkward discomfort instead of a joyful celebration of the team’s success.

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