Feb 10, 2015 - A Message of Support for #Damakota Youth Group from Miss Maryland Syanne Centeno
After reading the story about the Native American youth who was beaten for taking a stand against his schools Redmen Mascot, I was filled with both sadness, and anger. This young boy was standing up for his people, and was doing so in a positive, and peaceful way.To have a Redmen mascot is offensive to the Native American culture, but to have a school with this mascot within boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation is a slap in the face to the Indigenous People of America. Whether the public understands why this is offensive or not, we have to respect the fact that this term has a negative meaning in Native American culture.”Redmen” is a racial slur to the Native American people. We need to understand their feelings of humiliation when mock pipe ceremonies are performed. We need to understand the dishonor that is felt when they watch their non-native peers perform fake rituals in their sacred symbols. Our Native American brothers and sisters do not deserve to be disgraced, and degraded.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have permitted ourselves to REJECT or FEEL REMORSE for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”
This is the history that needs to be taught in order to prevent the racism and ignorance against Native American people.
With that said, bullying based on race occurs when there is a lack of understanding on culture and history, and when there is a stereotype and preconceived notion on a particular race. I myself was bullied because of my Puerto Rican latin roots, and because I looked different from my other peers. I was told to “go back” to where I came from, among other horrible things. The original Puerto Rican people (known as Taino indians) were also raped and attacked by colonial people.
Ignorance and intolerance causes unnecessary violence, and unfortunate consequences to all involved.
Consequences can range from a hostile society, to a lack of empathy in society. Being as severely bullied as I was caused me to develop Anorexia Nervosa, and other mental health issues. In turn, I attempted suicide growing up and ended up in the hands of different psychiatric hospitals. The Anorexia almost took my life, and left me with life-long illnesses such as Osteoporosis, and hormonal issues. These are just some of the real repercussions that the innocent have to pay as a result of intolerance and bullying.
To those youth who are experiencing intolerance and bullying, do not give up hope. The most successful, compassionate, and well-rounded people have developed through adversity. I can attest to this because I am one of those people. From suffering and dying, I became happy and thriving. Just like you, I stood up for what I believed in. When I was told to sit down and shut up, I continued my peaceful protest against bullying and intolerance as an adult. When it feels like no one is listening, is when you need to speak up more. Many times it felt like no one was listening, but I kept talking and eventually people had no choice but to listen. This caused change, not just within the lives of others’ but also in myself. I was thought to be a hopeless case, someone who would become a degenerate of society because of everything that I had experienced. Instead, I became a leader, and a Queen. Today I stand as Miss Maryland World, as the founder/president of my own nonprofit organization, as a motivational speaker, as a recognized, national community advocate, and so much more. You can rise above all of this and make change.
The greatest movers of the world, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, came from adversity. My most important piece of advice to you is, DO NOT GIVE UP.
Syanne Centeno is Miss Maryland World 2015 for the Miss World America and Miss World Organizations. Syanne is the Founder/President of the nonprofit organization, Warrior Princess Initiative, which lifts the spirits and confidence of children with life-threatening diseases. Syanne is also a national anti-bullying and eating disorder advocate and has spoken at several public schools, colleges, and even at the House of Delegates. Syanne has shared her story through local and national television, radio, and magazine outlets. Syanne has volunteered with organizations like The BULLY Project as a regional manager, and as a Resource Person for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).