In the past year, there has been a noticeable shift in how our community is addressing social issues, bringing forth questions of inclusivity and tolerance, and in some cases demanding outright change. The recent proposal regarding the upcoming change in Westford Academy’s mascot, the Grey Ghost, is a prime example of this, and one that has caused a stir in our town.
Regarding our mascot’s ties to a Confederate colonel, Superintendent Christopher Chew proposed changing the Grey Ghost’s name to simply “The Ghost” in order to distance the image from this racist connection — a decision that our staff on The Ghostwriter strongly agrees with.
Although the Grey Ghost’s exact origins are somewhat murky, with multiple intersecting stories, it is troubling that it has ties to the Confederacy to begin with. No matter the intention, the image representing our students and staff has racist undertones and that fact creates discomfort.
A mascot should make all students and staff feel welcomed, no matter their background, and if the Grey Ghost fails at doing so, then it is not a good representation of our school.
Westford Academy is not the only high school to consider changing its mascot. A current Massachusetts bill addresses multiple schools with mascots depicting caricatures of Native American people and culture, calling for their removal because they are dehumanizing and contribute to violence against Indigenous individuals. This example shows exactly why connections like these can be so harmful, and is another reason why our staff believes The Grey Ghost should be changed.
One common rebuttal against changing the mascot is the phrase “You can’t change the past”, used as a defense despite its Confederate connections. Yet, this statement is missing the point. It is correct in the sense that we cannot change previous events, in this case that the Confederacy and by extension slavery existed, but that does not negate their long-lasting effects. The fact is that those actions harmed people of color, specifically black people, and continue to do so to this day.
Additionally, the black face of our mascot is an extension of how these issues have spread into our community, with accounts of WA students wearing blackface on spirit days in the name of “The Grey Ghost”.
There was also some initial backlash against changing the mascot when the topic first came to light, as The Grey Ghost has become somewhat of a staple in Westford culture. However, the ghost is not going away completely; instead, it is being given a new look. By adopting a new design and dropping the “Grey” from its name, our mascot will be able to distance itself from these racist connotations while retaining a sense of familiarity.
If Chew’s proposal is accepted and our mascot does change, it could serve as a chance for our student body to band together and create something that we can be proud of. What’s more, our school committee has begun working towards combating issues of race, such as supporting the DEI committee and raising money for more diverse literature, and this change, if implemented, will be another step in the right direction.
Considering The Grey Ghost’s underlying ties to the Confederacy, the school committee and Westford as a whole should support Chew’s proposal to change Westford Academy’s mascot, as well as continue to address and resolve similar issues in our school systems. When working towards meaningful change, decisions like these are important to building a more inclusive community.