Read the full article at the Detroit Free Press.

It almost causes me physical pain to say this, but the high school football team in Paw Paw, Mich., should be allowed to keep its racist mascot.

They shouldn't keep it, of course. The name "Redskins" is demeaning, offensive, and tied to horrible brutality that is America's past shame. It's the kind of reductionist stereotype that casts an entire group of people as not fully human.

Joseph Gone, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts, says he can't provide a complete history of the word's usage, but notes that American Indians widely believe it hails from the colonial-era practice of scalping Indians or bringing back body parts to earn bounties for killing them.

"There's no question 'redskins' has a longstanding context of usage that renders it completely inappropriate with a school-affiliated team, but the name is only one piece of it," he says.

There's a bigger problem, Gone says, in the idea of using humans as mascots.

"For a mascot in sports, you want to pick symbolic representations that imply aggression, the ability to overcome and vanquish your enemy. Some are animals, some are imaginary creatures, but American Indians are the only racial group today that continues to be invoked in terms of sports team mascots," he said — Notre Dame's Fighting Irish are represented by a leprechaun, and genuine Vikings are in short supply these days.

"These mascots of Indians usually dress like Indians are thought to have dressed 100 years ago, kind of a savage, a noble savage, a primitive, able to overcome rivals —  which you could say is quite ironic in the  course of U.S. history —  with spears and bows and arrows rallying sports fans to beat the rival team," he said.

And that's a problem, Gone says, because aggression and hostility are traits that first settlers and then the American government used to justify brutalizing American Indians.

"Not human beings worthy of full treatment or engagement," he said. "It legitimated that these aren’t full human beings we need to worry about treating fairly. So all of that is tangled up now in sports team mascots."

And while that's probably not what sports fans are thinking about, Gone says —  they're more likely to consider those traits admirable, in association with sports —  such depictions lock American Indians in a primitive past.