Morgantown, West Virginia – The Mountaineer, the West Virginia University mascot and symbol of the state, has officially been recognized since 1934. In the last 84 years, there have been 69 Mountaineers representing our state and university and although they have all made West Virginia proud, there is a striking lack of diversity.
69 Mountaineers. 67 white young men. 2 white young ladies. 0 people of color.
Rosemary Hathaway, the author of “Mountaineers Are Always Free”, spoke with West Virginia Public Broadcasting about the lack of diversity for the role as the Mountaineer: “The women who were Mountaineers (Natalie Tennant – 1990 and Rebecca Durst – 2000) faced a lot of backlash and that could be intimidating for any minority student who is thinking of applying.” Apparently, only one black student has ever applied to become the Mountaineer.
I don’t know what the reaction would be, if people would be cool about it or if they’d think, ‘It’d be politically incorrect for me to say something, so I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.’ Or whether there would be an out-and-out racist response to it.”
West Virginians in general don’t particularly like change. We have strong opinions and it’s difficult to change our minds. The vision of the Mountaineer is that of a rugged, bearded white guy with a musket, not a woman and certainly not a person of a different race. But there’s no better time than now to change that stereotype.
There are many outstanding black students at West Virginia University who would represent the state proudly, and although this is merely a symbolic change and not a drastic change for race relations in West Virginia, I would personally love to see it happen.
Perhaps the change that we’re seeing in our country now will push us to see things differently and with a more open mind. Many of our student athletes are black and we are proud to call them a part of the Mountaineer family. It’s now time to embrace change and welcome our first black Mountaineer.
- According to the Mountaineer Mascot application: “Mountaineer Mascot selection committee and the Mountaineer Advisory Committee do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veteran’s status, religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin.”