Florida activist calls for New College board to be fired over 'racial stereotype' tree mascot

A“retired educator” and Democratic activist called for the firing of New College of Florida administrators over their proposed new school mascot, the Mighty Banyans.

Williams claimed that the mascot, a grimacing and flexing tree, is rooted in racist imagery and stereotypes against black people.

A retired teacher in Florida called for New College of Florida administrators to be fired over the college’s new mascot. 

In a June 18 op-ed for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Robin Taub Williams, a “retired educator” and president of the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Manasota, called for the removal of interim President Richard Corcoran and members of the Board of Trustees over their proposed new school mascot, the Mighty Banyans. 

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“To anyone with even a cursory knowledge of racial stereotypes, the new mascot should have set off alarms,” Williams wrote, noting that the student-created version looked much different. Instead, the Board of Trustees chose an altered mascot “that depicts a tree that has been anthropomorphized to closely resemble an angry, threatening brown individual.”

According to Williams, the mascot is “reminiscent of the historically offensive imagery” which originated from the “Tarzan” novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.“Though generations have passed, there is no getting around the reality that the ‘Tarzan’ literary series remains one full of vile racial stereotyping, with Black men portrayed as ‘primitive natives’ and ‘savages.’” Furthermore, Williams alleges that the mascot bears similarities to “race-oriented memorabilia” from the time of the Jim Crow South, which “served to ingrain racial stereotypes in the American psyche.”

Williams also singles out one member of the board in particular– conservative journalist and activist Christopher Rufo. Williams points Rufo out as the leader of the movement against Critical Race Theory. She also attacks the board for supporting Governor Ron DeSantis’s “war on African American history courses and the banning of anything related to diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

Williams concludes her argument by saying that “African American history and multicultural education are crucial” and must be taught at all levels of education in Florida. She then says that Corcoran and a majority of the board must be “removed from their positions of influence.”

Rufo had a one-sentence response to the op-ed. “My advice for white liberals: if you see a tree and immediately think ‘looks like a scary minority to me,’ you might be the racist,” he said in a statement to Campus Reform.

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Corcoran slammed the paper in a statement to Florida’s Voice. “It’s offensive and sad that the Sarasota Bradenton Herald would promote and elevate such sick and demented comments,” he said. “Unfortunately not their first time and certainly not their last.”

“The decision of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to elevate disgusting, racially-charged comments about our mascot isn’t surprising,” a New College spokesperson added in a statement to Campus Reform. “It is a blatant and ridiculous attempt to generate controversy. The Mighty Banyan is a source of pride for NCF, born from a student-created concept and adopted enthusiastically as a visual representation of the college.”

The Board of Trustees approved the “Mighty Banyans” mascot and design on June 1; it replaces the old mascot, “The Null Set,” derived from a mathematical term. The mascot was designed by freshman Anna Lazzara and is inspired by the large banyan trees that grow on campus. The mascot is an anthropomorphic tree grimacing and flexing muscles. It also retains the Null Set brackets as eyebrows.