Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Washington Redskins: Prelude to our Super Cool Project

Deadspin Readers, if you were expecting a look at the reading habits of Washington Cheerleaders, please click this. Will your favorite book be on the list? Probably not.

So you'll excuse if I don't use the word "Redskin" too much from here on out.

I grew up in Northern Virginia, and I love the Washington Football Squad, and delighted in stories of mother suing sons for Season Tickets, and I even got to see the 'Skins play back in 1991, during their run to the Super Bowl. I was present for their one home loss that season, to the hated Dallas Cowboys. It was the first time I felt a stadium fucking vibrate. It wasn't just loud, my seat was literally shaking my ass underneath me.

But we won't forget that at that game (and every other game they play) there was a small angry band of Native Americans demanding that the team change their name. And they are right.

Well meaning Native American and Honkies go on TV and say things like "Imagine if there were a team called the Bronx Niggers. Imagine the uproar!" And they are right, but wrong, too. The fact is, "nigger" is now somewhat accepted parlance in black youth culture, and in the meantime, no one would be crazy enough to try that stunt. The reason is that there are far too many black people who would boycott and the simple economic pressure would be the end of that. Native Americans are far too repressed to be compared to Black Americans, and it's a much, much more hateful term. It's like if there were a team called the Brooklyn Niggers, and the owner said, "No, it absolutely has to be the Brooklyn Watermelon Sucking Blackies."

I've known a few Native Americans, and they have never discussed how it became somewhat cool to refer to each other as "redskin". It's too hateful to reclaim, and too basic. It isn't some word of uncertain origin. It's origin is right there in the name. Just as Asian baseball players won't ever happily claim the nickname "The Yellow Peril". Indians, Chiefs, etc, are bad enough. But Redskin is on another level. There simply isn't a metaphor than can do the Awfulness of it All justice. The Washington Dirt-Eating Savages might be more respectful.

So as I write the stuff I'm going to write, you'll notice, possibly that I'm going out of my way to not use the Washington's football squad official nickname. I love the team, I love the way Jack Kent Cooke ran it, and I love a lot of the players. I hate, and I'm embarassed not just by the name, but the fact this country allows it to exist. The reason it exists, of course, is that Native Americans are so marginalized, and were so effectively cleansed back in the day (from 1470-1970) that even when they show up to protest the most hateful public name in sports, they could only muster a handful of protesters. Not that many Native Americans living on the East Coast these days. For some reason, they all live in the deserts of Utah, Arizona and Oklahoma.

OK, Sermon done, Serious data mining upcoming.


A.R.P. said...

I think that maybe some of these assumptions are a little too facile, are you invoking an authorial irony here?

Anyway, that said, let's just put a freakin' potato on the helmet (thanks to TK for that one) and call it a day. Dan Snyder will still find a way to capitalize off of it. I'm a super huge Washington Area Football Team fan, but since I've moved from the area people wincing at the name is much more noticeable.

Barnyard said...

first visit?

Big Blue Monkey said...

me not know what those words mean.

Me too stupid to know what authorial irony be.

Crunk Raconteur said...

I'm right there with you, man. I tend not to find much problem with names like Chiefs, Seminoles, Braves, or even Indians, but Redskins is just a little too far.

To my mind, there are really only two things that need to go, from a native-american/sports-team standpoint. One is the name "Redskins", and the other is even worse, the Chief Wahoo logo of my beloved Cleveland Indians (disclosure, I am a Cleveland native who now resides in the legerdemain of the Potomac Drainage Basin Football Club).

Proposed solution: Change the Chief Wahoo logo to the script "I" that is currently on the Indians' alternate caps, and change the name of the Chesapeake Watershed Region's favorite team to "Washington Warriors", a name on which the trademark is already Dan Snyder.

Anyway, excellent post.