Alaska school district’s new mascot struck down in less than 30 days for being offensive, racist

Alaska school district’s new mascot struck down in less than 30 days for being offensive, racist
Three Alaska high schools dumped its combined new mascot — Thunder Bears — because it is it being considered an offensive racial slur. A committee will reconvene to discuss options for the schools' mascot replacement. (Getty Images)

Three Juneau, Alaska, high schools elected to change their combined high school mascot to something called the “Thunder Bears” in February, but less than a month later, decided to dump the name.

“Thunder Bears” beat out other contenders such as the “Capital City Senators” and the “Orcas.”

Thunder Mountain, Yaakoosge Daakahidi, and Juneau-Douglas high schools, however, opted to ditch the Thunder Bear mascot because of the “potential” of it being considered an offensive racial slur.

What are the details?

KTOO-TV reported on Sunday that an internet search result from Urban Dictionary indicated that “Thunder Bear” was actually a derogatory term for those who drink too much, and oftentimes are of Native American descent.

This alternate, unofficial meaning was brought to the attention of the public for its reportedly inappropriate nature.

KTOO reported that a public meeting was held to discuss the status of the schools’ mascot.

While many from the community who were in attendance at the meeting supported keeping the schools’ mascot as the “Thunder Bears,” students ultimately decided that the mascot name was too offensive to continue representing the schools.

Katie McKenna, a sophomore at one of the schools, said, “I’ve seen some of the effects of the Thunder Bears decision initially already taking place in our school and it’s already been used as a slur.”

What is the issue?

Contrarily, Josh Quinto, a senior at one of the schools, said that the “Thunder Bear” has been the district’s unofficial mascot for years.

“It sounded silly, it was a joke but everyone liked the joke and it wasn’t meant to be racist, it was meant to be a fun joke between [Juneau-Douglas] and [Thunder Mountain],” Quinto said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re the Thunder Bears. Not the Bears or the Falcons — we’re the Thunder Bears!'”

According to the outlet, Quinto, who is Alaskan Native, “doesn’t understand the criticism surrounding the name.”

“To me this all seems kind of silly,” he said. “It reminds me of when there was the big joke about the Starbucks cup just being red, being offensive. That’s kind of how I’m seeing it as someone who knows how my parents and grandparents faced racism.”

KTOO reported that the committee will reconvene to discuss options for the schools’ mascot replacement.

Hopefully, the schools don’t take up the word “Orca” as their mascot backup plan — Urban Dictionary has several colorful terms for that innocuous-sounding word, too.

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