Tuesday, June 10, 2014

That Football Team from Washington D.C.

For a while now, there has been a simmering debate as to whether the mascot and nickname of Washington DC's NFL football team is offensive, should be changed, etc.

There are some who say it is a racial slur. Some say they don't care, and some say they like it. And among these some, frequently quoted, are "some" American Indians.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am (by family lore) part Cherokee. I don't know exactly how much, and I'm not unique in that regard. (Early settlers & Cherokee mixed it up quite a bit, apparently.) However, I am culturally "white" although I have a strong sympathy for Indian causes. I am also married to a wonderful woman who is a card-carrying member of The Confederated Tribes Of The Colville Reservation.

She, by the way, has little bearing on my opinion regarding this matter. For some time, I have wondered if the name of the team should be offensive.  (EDIT: By this I mean I am uncomfortable with the name, but I don't feel it is proper for me to impose my views on those I think should be offended.) After all, there are other names which invoke the American Indian, both professional and collegiate.  Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Florida Seminoles, etc.  Each has its own origin and history, and the Seminoles even have the blessing of the tribal leadership (although I've heard that some of the transplanted Oklahoma Seminoles feel their voices have not been heard.)

I could really digress here, into some of the caricatures of mascots and emblems... Chief Wahoo, the tomahawk chop, etc, but I'm trying to stay on topic.

NONE of the other professional teams, or college teams that I'm aware of, derive their name from a stereotypical physical trait of ANY ethnic group!

Blacks are not black, whites are not white, and Indians do not have red skin. I daresay that my skin is more red after a day in the sun than your typical ethnic Native American, but again, I digress. I will say that I think Washington's mascot is a handsome dude, and my primary irritation is the name, not the image. But others may disagree with me.

So here's a tangent, but I'll bring it back together again... I promise!  When speaking to complete strangers, or among mixed company, I tend to employ my "grandmother filter."  By that, I mean would I say something in her presence or not? How many times have you had a complete stranger just start throwing profanities & obscenities around with no thought of who is present? Perhaps you may think it makes me a wuss, but I gauge my audience. I don't cuss & swear until I know you better, and if you ask me to not do it, I try to refrain.

Likewise, at some point, I formulated an "Indian Filter" with regard to this issue. If I were walking through a predominantly Indian community, would I feel comfortable wearing a jacket with "REDSKINS" embroidered on it?

(Well, aside from the predominant fact that I'm a Steelers fan, the answer is NO!)

Would I feel comfortable going into a gathering place on or near a reservation, such as a bar, restaurant, community center, or even an IHS waiting room and start saying "How's it going, my redskin friends?"

Again, NO!

So as I was reading some threads on this issue, which go to and fro with opinions, some Native, some not, I was pleased to find this opinion which I will share from Deadspin.com:

EnduroDoug --> Kyle Wagner

Fucking litmus test time.

I'm in the midst of a round-the-world bicycle trip. I started in Seattle 80 days ago and sometime in my 2nd week, I found myself (with my wife) in a taco joint in Browning, MT — the capital of Blackfeet Nation.

I'm a Seahawks fan. Have been a Seahawks fan since moving to WA in 2002. But I grew up a Redskins fan in NJ. I stopped liking them after Darrel Green and Art Monk retired and Snyder signed Deion and Bruce Smith and, more importantly, took Jack Kent Cook's name off the stadium he paid for with his own money (according to my memory, don't quote me).

So I'm in this taco joint talking with these four Blackfeet guys about all sorts of shit, including football. The Seahawks just won the "Big Game" so it came up when I mentioned where I was from — that's right, SUCK IT — GO SEAHAWKS!!! — I digress. And one of them asked me if, when I lived out east, I had another favorite team.

I started to, instinctively, say the Redskins.

And then I realized where I was, who I was talking to, and said, the Giants.

THERE's YOUR FUCKING LITMUS TEST. THERE! I've got no white guilt. I think every other race/creed is just guilty as we are for all sorts of shit. Nobody's closet is empty. But I want Dan Snyder to go and stand in some bullshit taco joint in Browning, MT and tell a bunch of street walkers with their mangy ass collection of mutts, and the big-ass sticks they carry to beat off the dogs that ain't theirs, that he "owns" the Redskins. That would go over really well, I'm sure.

Here's a video that's supposed to air during the NBA finals in select markets:

Think about it. And if you're not willing to walk up to a person of apparent American Indian descent and call them Redskin (or Chief or Brave,) then perhaps it should not be done from the safety of your basement or amongst a crowd of 50,000 on any given Sunday.

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