Here at LetsGoDU, we normally don’t wade into U.S. political waters. Our readers span the American political spectrum and there are plenty of other places on the Internet better suited for political exchange.
However, when events in the political world are directly relevant to matters of identity and school spirit at DU, we will sometimes make exceptions.
Yesterday was one of those times, as the staff here at LetsGoDU was thrilled to see the CNN story that U.S. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has chosen “Pioneer” as her U.S. Secret Service code name. We know full well that she chose it to acknowledge the fact that she is the first Black woman and the first Indian-American woman to run on a major party Presidential ticket. If elected in November, she would also become the first female vice president, the first Indian-American vice president, the first Black vice president, and the first Jamaican-American vice president — a Pioneer indeed.
On another level, Harris’ choice of Pioneer as a code name serves as a validation of a major point we’ve been making for many years now – that ‘Pioneer’ is not an offensive term, especially when used as a verb for communicating boldness and innovation. If it were seen as an offensive term, Harris, who is now running as the country’s de facto premier diversity advocate, would not have selected it to describe herself.
Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst, said in a recent interview, “Over time, the [Secret Service] protectees have almost taken on the persona of the call sign that they had selected.” In other words, identity matters.
For years now, we have heard on our very own campus that the term ‘Pioneer’ is ‘offensive’, and we’ve watched how a small group of DU faculty and staff have tried to turn Pioneer into a negative, dirty word on campus — trying to remove it as our nickname, removing it from long-standing campus traditions and pushing the pejorative narrative that Pioneers can only represent the negatives around America’s western settlement.
Harris’ choice is just one more example which demonstrates that the term “Pioneer” is held in high esteem by most. Indeed, one has to wonder why some, particularly on the DU campus, continue to focus their energy on the very worst of people, things, and culture. On the DU campus, much of multiculturalism seems focused on assigning negative attributes to others, rather than recognition of social injustice and solid work to bridge the gap.
We embrace the definition of Pioneer as a wider one, and so does Kamala Harris. Her choice of ‘Pioneer’ for herself is a diverse, high profile boost to DU Alumni/fan efforts to reestablish the Pioneer name around campus. We will always stand behind our 95-year old nickname and are eager for DU to embrace its full, wider meaning.
It’s also high time for anti-Pioneer advocates to open their minds to wider definitions and help unify our community.
DU’s leadership is consumed right now with the critical COVID-19-related issues facing the university, and DU also has plenty of other substantive diversity issues that require their attention. Too much manufactured outrage and negative internal energy has been squandered fighting “Pioneers”. It needs to stop now.
The best way for it to stop is for DU leadership (Board of Trustees, Chancellor, Provost, Vice-Chancellors, and Deans) to stand up and reclaim Pioneers as a tool for unity at a time when DU needs it badly.
If Kamala Harris can claim Pioneer as part of her identity, DU can too.