Sunday, September 02, 2007

Our Annual Screed Against the Redskins

when this blog was just a month or two old, we called out the Washington Ownership for allowing their brand to be a horrifically racist name. It garnered 4 comments, with the vast majority of those four being, "Yep, it's a pretty horrific, racist nickname." Compared to our 25 comments on the Stars & Bars in NASCAR, it was at once agreeable, and uncontroversial.

No one even really tries to defend "Redskin" anymore. Why don't they? It's so incredibly fucking offensive that no one can figure out a way to defend it. So why does it still exist?

I'll tell you why.

1. People who live in DC don't think that much about it. As commenter A.R.P put 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." I grew up just outside DC, and you don't think about the fact that the most hateful racial word out there is being said on TV over and over again.* When you go to a game, you are briefly confronted by the truth, in the form of a half-dozen Native Americans holding signs, begging people to protest the injustice of the name. I don't recall a TV broadcaster launching an editorial, or a newspaper refusing to print the word. It's the name of the team, and that's it.

2. "Tradition". Possibly the Number 1 reason cited by fans of the team. They've been called the Redskins since they were brought into existence, and they were coached by such luminaries as George Allen, Vince Lombardi, and Joe Gibbs. There is power in a name, that echoes through generations, honest people will argue. Presumably, those honest people were up in arms when the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards. I was there in DC for that, and I can tell you that the biggest concern amongst Bullet fans wasn't that the team was turning their back on tradition, but they had picked a really stupid new nickname. That name change was caused by about a 2-4 year blip in DC's crime rate, when we found ourselves the most violent city in the nation. And that was worrying, but I (and people who are smarter than me) agreed that the name of the local basketball team was not the thing that made DC violent. DC fans accepted the new name, and moved on. "Bullets" was not offensive, it was never categorized as such. It was just deemed "inappropiate". That's all it took to change the name, a name that had been around for decades.

3. Owner Cowardice. Jack Kent Cooke may have been a victim/believer of tradition, and maybe he didn't give two shits about what minorities thought, but Dan Snyder has been in charge of this team for quite awhile, and he's been willing to do things that piss off any good fan, like signing professional asshole, over the hill Deion Sanders. Like forcing Mark Brunell down the throats of the DC faithful. Like making any number of personnel moves that pissed off the faithful, and yet, here, he is silent. He could right this wrong in a heartbeat, and hasn't. Why hasn't he? Because he is a fucking coward, a child, playing fantasy football with a real NFL franchise.

4. Players. Where is not just Mark Brunell, a true Christian, decrying this awful name he has had to play under? Where are Joe Theismann, John Riggins, and Art Monk? Where are they? They should be yelling from the rooftops how wrong this name is. They aren't, and the name continues.

Look, I'm not talking about Indians, or Braves, or the Fighting [Fill in the Blank]. I'm talking about Redskins. It is the most offensive nickname in sports, and if we just shake our heads and do nothing, than we are a bit guilty in allowing this name to continue.

Native Americans protesting outside the stadium for at least 20 years hasn't done shit. Maybe we, the bloggers, the underclass of the sports world, can actually bring about some change in this regard. Economically, the Redskins are healthy, that hateful racist nickname doesn't stop rich white people from attending their games.

I suggest and implore my fellow bloggers to highlight this sick nickname. Let's call The Washington Redskins what they are. The Washington Savages; the Washington Furious Injuns; The Washington Drunken Squaws. Whatever you can come up with. Let's embarass these fuckers.

The name was offensive and racist 20, 30, 50 years ago. Just because there aren't that many American Indians left on the East Coast to protest this name doesn't make it OK. This bill is past due.

Call Redskin Park at 703-726-7000, and let them know that name is no longer OK, if it ever was.

*some people may argue for other more hateful terms, like nigger, or faggot, or Kike. These words are never said during the last 10 minutes of your local news, ever. Redskin is clearly the only super offensive word said both on local TV and national TV. It is said without a hint of the prejudice it contains.


Anonymous said...

Hi, the term Redskin was coined by Indians; several different tribes. Indians used yellowskin, whiteskin and blackskin to differentiate between different people. The Washington Redskins haven't done anything to denigrate the name or concept of Indians. It would be nonsensical to name your team something that you despised, or wanted to humiliate. I doubt I'll change any minds, but I just wanted to throw in my two cents; I don't think it is a racially offensive term. Regards, ago

Lucy Rhode said...

If you are correct, Anonymous, I argue internalized oppresion. Until you cough up your sources, I will disregard your argument.

One of my DC colleagues and I recently spent a week together working on a project. We have very little in common and so when we weren't conducting "fake science," we talked sports. Eventually we got around to discussing his team -- Washington. I asked him about the nickname, and he immediately started talking about FSU. Buh? This happened repeatedly. So how about that nickname? But FSU!

Pacifist Viking said...

I agree. I've long found the word offensive, but eventually despaired and gave up, still using it to refer to the Washington football team. You've reminded me why I shouldn't, and I won't use that team name any longer on my blog.

TheNaturalMevs said...

I think we're missing an important point. They are called Redskins in honor of the Native American heritage, as the Cleveland Indians mascot on the hat, the smiling chief is in honor of Luis Sockalexis. It isn't poking fun of, even if it is politcally incorrect.

Andrew Wice said...

Delving into the etymology of the word "redskin" yields more questions than answers. I had been under the impression that Columbus had used the word to describe the Carib Indians upon first meeting them in the West Indies.

There are a few apocraphyl stories about its origin, but it is clear that the word was used by Native Americans to describe themselves in public communication with the whitefolks.

Regardless of the origin, if a particular group of people feel that they are being maligned by the name, I think that name safely can be regarded as prejorative and offensive.

I offer the same solution as I have in the past: to compromise between the offended & the traditionalists. Leave the name "Redskin" intact, but strip away all the headdresses and iconography. The team wears maroon and gold, so the "Redskin" will be referring to their uniforms (such as the Browns, or the White Sox).

I think that's an elegant solution.

Muumuuman said...

Mr. Wise,

You are in error my friend. Whatever a "Brown" is, it must be offended to be associated with the cleveland football team. And if I'm not mistaken recently many lion populations are decreasing, I suspect in protest of their association with Detroit. Also, unless the players will all be painted red, I think the name would be "RedJerseys" or something like that.

Andrew Wice said...

Do people with Giantism protest the Giants?

But seriously, the Cincinnatti Reds -- I haven't dug around, but that sounds like it started out meaning one thing, and now it's just that they wear red.

Muumuuman said...

It meant Red Stockings. The 19th century team moved to boston, and became the red sox. A new team formed again calling themselves the red stockings, which was eventually shortened to reds. In the 50's they actually changed thier name due to the red scare to the Redlegs.

Andrew Wice said...

Yeah, I know, I looked it up after I posted my comment.

But I didn't post anything about it because it was so boring.

Keep up the good work, buddy.

Big Blue Monkey said...

The word "Redskin" is seen as a perjorative by those who own the identity it is naming.

End of story. (Postscript of story: Most people, regardless of race or ethnicity, see the name as a perjorative)

The vast majority of Native Americans hate this fucking name. You can not honor them with it when most of them hate it.

(Yes, yes, not ALL. Most.)

the idea you can get rid of the iconography of the name, and the name no longer means what it means is one of the most crazy-ass stupid things I've ever heard Andrew argue (and I've heard him argue that Simpsons Season 10 is good).

If the vast majority of Irish-Americans decided that they were up in arms about "The Fighting Irish" or "The Celtics" those names would be changed in a heartbeat, regardless of "tradition". That won't happen, of course, because both Notre Dame and Boston are centers of Irish-American Catholic pride and tradition. That is a population proud of those names, and truly does see their heritage being honored. Washington DC is not a center of Native American power, and it certainly wasn't proud Native Americans who owned that team who chose that nickname. It was a bunch of white dudes, looking for something that was kind of like "Brave" but was different from it.

There is no comparison that can be made here that does justice to the insult that Redskin connotes.

The fact that Redskins exists as a name can be summed up pretty quickly: there just aren't that many Native Americans who have season tickets to the Redskins, or who own big mainstream media outlets, or even living on the East Coast of the USA anymore.

The etymology of the word doesn't matter, for fuck's sake. What does it mean now? What did it mean in 1933 when a football team was given it? Certainly not whatever transileration Anonymous and Andrew would like to assign to it from 500 years ago.

I've heard from some African-American scholars that the word "nigger" was originally given to a part on a cotton gin. Does it mean that now? Words have definitions, and words have meanings--they are not necessarily the same thing. I would have thought a writer of Andrew's caliber would understand that.

Go ahead and poll the Native American community, and ask them if they think of "Redskin" as an honorific.