TOMS RIVER – When Toms River High School South couldn’t hold a traditional graduation because of COVID-19, a small parade of people went through the sending area in June to celebrate the students. On top of one truck was an Indian, with the feather headdress and all.
This stereotype is wrong and outdated, according to the person who started a petition on Change.org. The person is anonymous, just going by the name “Alumni of TR Schools.” They are joined by about 1,500 signers as of this writing.
The petition demands Toms River Schools retire all racially insensitive mascots, which would be the Toms River High School South “Indians,” Toms River Intermediate School South “Seminoles,” and Washington Street Elementary School “Warriors.”
The district did not comment on this issue, nor did the Board President. A message sent to a Facebook group created in opposition of this movement was not returned.
Changing the names of outdated mascots is a hot topic right now. Howell’s Rebel Yell is being changed from a Confederate soldier to a Revolutionary War soldier, for example.
The Alumni said that changing the Indian isn’t a new request. There had been pushes to make this change in the past, but they have been ignored. Instead, they are using the passion people have for this now in hopes that their movement gains momentum.
“Toms River, New Jersey has been sending the wrong message to students, staff, and the broader community for generations through the use of these misleading and insulting stereotypes. Our students deserve better than being subjected to rallying around normalized racism and white supremacy. It’s time we admit that race is not a mascot, and that the glorified depiction of a ‘Fighting Indian’ is a dangerous whitewashing of history,” they said.
“It was even recognized that Toms River Township was in fact named after white ferry operator Thomas Luker, and not the mythical ‘old Indian Tom’ as the fight song for the Toms River High School South wrongfully proclaims,” they said.
“By addressing the issues of our schools’ mascots, we can take a huge step in eliminating racial prejudice in our schools and community. While school officials claim their intentions are good and that the namings are a sign of respect, tradition is no excuse for racism of any kind,” they said. “The education we received at Toms River Regional has taught us this much, so let’s stand together and right this wrong. Together, we can create the change that we want to see. We Are TR.”