Here is another article in our series about things going on around Rochester.
After 112 years, Rochester’s oldest high school has officially retired its offensive mascot and team name. As of this summer, the school will no longer be known as the East High “Orientals,” following an outcry from students, parents, and teachers, as well as a vote from the school board.
This June, East High principal Anibal Soler Jr. announced that the school will change its mascot to the Eagles.
“You don’t really hear kids yell ‘go Orientals,'” Soler said. The principal added that oriental rugs are virtually the only instance he hears someone use the word appropriately, which can be derogatory in other contexts.
“That’s the only thing I can think of in terms of having an actual connection to an object is an oriental rug but by definition it means from the east,” Soler said.
The first evidence of oriental rugs, also known as Persian rugs, come from ancient Chinese texts dating from the years 224 to 641 CE; however, that hardly makes it appropriate for a high school mascot and pep rally cheers.
Racially offensive mascots and team names have been in the news for the past year because of high-profile controversies like the battle over the Washington Redskins.
“Asking how can we talk about how we’re about diversity and inclusion and then we have a name like ‘The Orientals?'” Soler asked. “We come up on Google sites as a school with an inappropriate name.”
Although a few alumni resisted the change, most of the school’s Millennial students were happy with the new mascot. The historic high school is also partnered with the University of Rochester, and college officials are helping the high school draw a new eagle logo for the upcoming school year. Plans are already in place to repaint the high school’s gym over the summer.
Soler hopes the change will finally put an end to the annual complaints from nonprofit organizations and other schools.