So I’m sorta speechless right now, because moments ago I learned on Facebook that the above image is the cover of my high school’s yearbook.
I attended Mahopac High in Putnam County, N.Y. Back when I was there in the late-1980s, the town was … well … um … not the most enlightened haven around. Warm? Sure. Laid-back? Yup. Lots of places for kids to ride their bikes? Most definitely. But Mahopac was also somewhat cocooned from the rest of the world. Though we were only about a 75-minute drive from New York City, it felt as if the bright lights were galaxies away. The Mahopac I knew wasn’t very diverse, wasn’t very enlightened. I had one teacher tell the class how blacks couldn’t ski—and how hilarious it was to watch them try. I had a kid scrawl JEW JEW JEW across my yearbook. Kids tossed pennies at me and my brother. A pal had crosses burned in his yard That sorta stuff.
But, in a way, I’ve always assumed Mahopac had to have evolved. Sure, there was this incident. And this situation. But there’s no possible way it couldn’t have improved. With time. With exposure. With experience.
Eh, maybe not.
As teams across America finally rid themselves of monikers like Redskins and Indians, Mahopac—and Mahopac High School—stubbornly refuses to do a damn thing. They’re the Indians, and despite some in the town demanding change … well, no. It’s not going to happen. Because, dammit, the Indians are part of Mahopac. Even if, eh, those people identified as “indians” were not, in fact, Indian. And even if it’s daily lesson to students that ignorance and insensitivity should trump (intentional word choice) kindness and understanding.
The yearbook cover is fucking shameful. It’s explosive, it’s dynamic—and it screams, “We are a bunch of ignorant, trashy yahoos who will not let common sense change who we are!”