WASHINGTON, June 8, 2013 – I’m going to start with a simple question. Is it racist to name a sports team with a term known to have strong racial overtones? Recently a broad group of activists began an aggressive campaign to change the name of the Washington Redskins. Not that this is anything new.
Over the years, the Redskins have been criticized for its name, but with the rise of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, the campaign has been growing.
The momentum is increasing as opposed to previous years, thanks in part to Native American activist Amanda Blackhorse, a critic of the name and a member of the Navajo Nation.
Recently, she wrote a scathing article for The Huffington Post blasting the Washington Redskins for continuing to use the name, saying:
“I personally believe that all use of Native-themed mascots and team names are inappropriate. I object to being lumped together with Bears, Lions and other wild animals and birds because that dehumanizes my people and me. I object to being lumped together with Giants, Vikings and Buccaneers, as though my people are mythical or alien. The use of Indian names and mascots steals and cheapens our Native American cultures, and promotes stereotypes. Whatever one’s views on Native American sports names and mascots, I think we all agree that “R*dsk*ns” is not acceptable under any circumstances.”
Amanda is a new generation of Native-American activists leading the charge to change the name. In the past such campaigns barely made the front page of most papers. But aided by social media and blogs, her campaign is being felt around the country and even on Capitol Hill, where recently members of Congress urged the team to change the name. Many, especially white people, who favor keeping the team’s name, seem to outright dismiss the racial connotation a name like “Redskins” carries.
I’m not a historian of any kind, nor will I attempt to dig up every conflict Native Americans have had with white settlers, but I know a racial insult when I hear one. Imagine the outcry if a group of Proetstant owners named a new hockey team the “Kike” Town Flamers. Any person who is Jewish would immediately see the racist intent behind such a provocative move.
Most people who aren’t Jewish wouldn’t fully understand the insensitivy, because they wouldn’t know the significance of the word. Or how painful it is. Few would know that the term “Kike” is a Yiddish word for circle. When Jews immigrated to the U.S., many went through Ellis Island where they would sign their names with a circle instead of with the cross due to it being associated with Christianity. The slur “Kike” was used as a racist word to describe the newly arrived Jewish immigrants.
Many white people view the Redskis name change campaign as PC propaganda. But, let’s suppose the tables were turned.
Let’s imagine a time… Far off into the future….
It’s many, many years from today and Washington D.C’s population is now 70% Latino and 30% of mixed races. The Caucasian race is not totally absent, however it’s too small to accurately measure. In fact, this trend is consistent all over the world, not just here. The NFL Washington Redskins have a contest to change their name. Not because it’s “insensitive” but because the team owners decide it would be a great marketing tool. Someone suggest the “Washington Honkys.”
Immediately talk radio personalities remind everyone about those pink skinned guys in suits who used to run this town. How powerful and important they used to be (before the robots took over, LOL). They would be a great symbol of a strong team of men. Everyone agrees, and no one fights it… oh yeah, except for a small group of history students and activist who think “it’s just plain wrong.”
History always has a way of repeating itself. Wrong is wrong. The name has to go; but if we keep it understand we’re paving the way for insensitivity in the future.
A future where white people won’t be the majority.
I end this with the question first posed: is it racist to name a sports team a name known to have strong racial overtones?
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