Inside the Classroom: When Friends Disagree

High school seniors Maya Fontenot and Keffus Falls III are friends, but recently disagreed about what counts as an appropriate mascot name.
They are friends, but recently found themselves on opposite sides of a controversial ban on culturally insensitive mascot names. Maya, 18, is a member of the Sechelt tribe. Keffus, 17, started an online petition to keep the Lamar Redskins mascot.

There are many tough issues in education today. To take a closer look, we are starting a new, occasional series. It's called "Inside the Classroom."

To begin, KUHF Education Reporter Laura Isensee recently sat down with two high school seniors here in Houston, Keffus Falls III and Maya Fontenot. Listen to their discussion above. 

 

Transcript for “Inside the Classroom: When Friends Disagree”

Maya Fontenot (MF): I hadn’t even heard of the issue until you put it up.

Keffus Falls III (KF): Oh …

MF: until you posted it.

KF: Right.

MF: And when I saw your petition, I said, ‘Wait there’s controversy over the mascots. OK, maybe it’s time to get involved.’ And that’s when I commented on your picture.

KF: I took a stand in the petition and said that while Lamar’s tradition has been going on for 75-plus years, I feel like before a decision should be made, such a drastic decision, that we should take more into consideration in this matter.

MF: I commented. I said, ‘I don’t want to bash your cause or anything but, listen, I don’t think you’re right on this. The term Redskin is offensive.’ And when I saw how many signatures were on the petition, I realized that I needed to take a stand.

KF: Then, hey, I saw her at the board meeting, and you know, crossed paths there.

MF: A week later you saw me …

KF: A week later yeah ..

MF: We greeted each other and, you know, I said, ‘Good speech!’  

KF: It’s not like we’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I don’t like you anymore!’

MF: Don’t talk to me …

KF: because you made a decision against what I was trying to make a decision on. 

MF: We were one of the few that stayed pretty calm and cordial with each other, because I know a lot of anger broke out after the decision and there was a fight outside. It was, it was … it blew up.

I wanted to ask you if I switched up the roles a little bit …

KF: Alright.

MF: And I decided, OK, well, I am going to come over to your people’s land, your ancestors’ land, and tell you that I want to name my school’s mascot after the Negro. And then I’m going to have “Big Black” as my mascot and he’s going to pick cotton on the field, maybe sing some black spirituals from slavery times in the stands and cheer him on. But we’re going to depict, you know, “Big Black” as really strong and he’s courageous, would you be willing to fight for me to keep that name?

KF:  That’s just, that’s just a very hard question to answer, because you have to take a lot into consideration. And I mean, in general, I feel like in this entire controversial issue that the opinion of one’s opinion is being valued over another.

MF: Replace everything that I said with Native Americans -- it’s the same thing.

KF: To that I have to agree with you. But if we are going to change the mascot of Lamar, shouldn’t we change just let’s say Lamar entirely, given that Mirabeau Lamar wanted the extinction of the Native American, I guess you could say, race in general?

MF: Yeah, Mirabeau Lamar wasn’t historically wasn’t a very good guy.

KF: Exactly! He wasn’t a good person, so I say change Lamar entirely – which I know they won’t do.

This is actually very eye-opening to me because I love learning different topics or different issues even from many different perspectives. I think it’s really good to not only acknowledge someone else’s opinion, but to learn about why they view it that way.

MF: And, Keffus, actually I wanted to share something with you that I’ve come to learn along the way, especially after seeing African Americans, you know, supporting the name of the Redskin. You and I are both African American. And I was expecting more minorities – not just Native people – to come to my aid and fight for me. Because when you’re fighting against the oppression of your people, then I would come fight with you. 

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...