Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hail To the Redskins? Not in My House!

A couple of weeks ago, Washington Redskins fans were treated to a couple of improbable "victories": one, an unlikely win over a much superior Denver Broncos football team, and two, a refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a lawsuit filed by Native Americans calling for the team to change ts offensive name.

The "'Skins" are habitual losers on the football field, at least in 2009. But they are even bigger losers in the arena of racial justice and sensitivity.

How, I ask, is it still possible, in the 21st Century, for athletic teams to sport openly racist names? I mean, if Charleston, South Carolina has an NFL team, could they conceivable be called the "Charleston Jigaboos"? Our would a new NBA franchise in, say, the State of Maine, dare to label themselves the "Portland Kikes"?

Ugly? Unthinkable? Ourtageous? Absolutely. Yet fans in DC, of all colors and ethic backgrounds, are very comfortable with a home team that sports a name demeaning to Indigenous people and their heritage.

We are so desensitized, so alienated from the realities of many oppressed people, that we have little collective consciousness of the painful implications of words. And here in the capital of the United States, it is all the more sad and ironic that many of the unconscious folks doing the demeaning are, themselves, people of African ancestry often demeaned with racial epithets.

Say the word "Nigger" to an African-American are you might have a physical confrontation to deal with. Yet, say the work "Redskin" to the same person, and you'll likely find yourself in a deep discourse about his or her favorite team.

Native Americans may not be a large part of the D.C. population. But they are fully human, and entitled to the respect that is habitually violated by this racist name. The Supreme Court should have realized this, and decided to ( at the very least) hear the argument made for re-naming this team.

So call me a hater, if you will- not because I dislike the players, but because the team is emblematic of the unexamined paternalism and racial stereotypes that still litter the collective mentality of this nation. And if the former Baltimore Bullets NBA team had the presence of mind to change their name to the Washington Wizards because of the issue of opposing gun violence, then the "Redskins" could, out of respect for native people and their history, do the same thing for their football franchise.

If this were to happen, I'd still be a loyal New York Giants fan, mind you. But I'd be more inclined to have some respect for the Washington, DC football team-regardless of their play cord on the field.

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