Cultural appropriation claims force Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to remove mascot

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has determined that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s mascot, “Izzy the Islander,” is “highly offensive” and “closely associated with colonialistic [sic] assumptions.”

The Izzy mascot was adopted in 2004 and initially created to showcase the unique culture of the islanders, but OHA considers this to be “racially insensitive.”

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is cancelling their mascot, “Izzy the Islander,” after deciding it portrays a harmful stereotype and cannot continue to represent the school.

After the university’s Faculty Senate requested an evaluation of the mascot from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, it determined that Izzy’s tattooing “wrongly appropriates traditional Pacific islander cultural knowledge and expression.”

The four-page report released by the OHA goes into detail to explain why the “TAMUCC mascot ‘Izzy’ inaccurately portrays and stereotypes Pacific Islanders.” It also said that “past iterations of ‘Izzy’ included a grass skirt, shell belt, a spear, and a shield, which are highly offensive characterizations most closely associated with colonialistic [sic] assumptions and cultural appropriations.”

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Chief Executive Officer for the OHA Sylvia Hussey served as the author of this report, which was officially released to the university last November.

Said the TAMU-CC Faculty Senate in a statement that was obtained through a Public Information Request by Kris 6 News, “The process to purge images of the Izzy mascot from the university website should begin as soon as possible… Additionally, an apology for the insensitivity of our mascot to pacific islanders should be considered.”

Izzy the Islander was created in 2004 during  TAMU-CC’s Izzy Recharge Project, the university’s mission to find a mascot that “better captured the essence of the Islanders.” According to the college’s student newspaper, it described the emblem on Izzy’s mask as “a constant reminder of where he comes from and is an inspiration to keep looking forward to the future.”

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The OHA determined that the use of the “shaka, lei and other university traditions related to an “islander tradition” may also be seen as a form of stereotyping Native Hawaiian culture.” Although they also said the use of the shaka and the giving of a lei are not offensive acts on their own. 

“However, when combined with the characterization of ‘Izzy’, both may be seen as a form of stereotyping Native Hawaiians and their culture and indicative of cultural appropriations,” the report said.

The OHA said it understands “Izzy” never meant to portray “Native Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders in a negative light.” But, it continued, the mascot still represents “racial insensitivity, settler colonialism, and cultural appropriation" and the "OHA strongly urges that TAMUCC change its mascot and traditions to an icon more closely associated with the university.”

According to records obtained by Kris 6 News, President Kelly Miller wrote to the Faculty Senate shortly before the start of the new year, explaining that “Izzy’s image would be reduced and removed from the athletics website” and “a task force would be formed in the spring to redesign the mascot.”

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On December 10, a letter sent from the “Desk of Izzy” asked members of the college’s community to share their feedback on “who and what Izzy is to you.” The email asked everyone to respond by January 31, 2021. The results of that survey have not yet been shared with the public. The university said “it is too early in the process to report findings, the committee has been charged with addressing the concerns of OHA and those raised in the survey, while working to preserve our unique history and better represent the distinctiveness of our region.”

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