You can buy most anything emblazoned with the name and logo of the Washington Redskins these days: dinner plates, fuzzy dice, handbags, sunglasses, foam fingers, vinyl car mats.
That 80-year-old name, goes the canard that’s as worn as FedEx Field, honors Native Americans.
Car magnets, nail polish, dog toys, plush monkeys, feather earrings, golf towels.
Cultures reduced to a pile of logoed baubles and a stadium full of singing about “braves on the warpath” and a name that former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell lists as one of the four most derogatory words to describe a Native American. The equivalent, to some, of the n-word. An honor.
Campbell, the former Olympian who enjoys football and counts coach Mike Shanahan as a friend, poses a simple question to Redskins supporters miffed by his offense: “How would you like to change the name of the team to the Washington Darkies?”
Silence usually follows.
The debate over the name isn’t new. That doesn’t mean it’s without importance or unworthy of thoughtful, rational discussion. Last week’s daylong symposium on racist sports nicknames at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and a hearing next month in the long-running lawsuit to strip federal trademark protection from the name ensure this uncomfortable question won’t soon fade. Nor should it.
One symposium speaker recalled the worst thing he’s been called: “Dirty redskin.”
Another speaker: “I am not a mascot.”
The word passes our lips and keyboards without thought, something associated with Robert Griffin III and afternoons with family and The Hogs. We don’t want to feel badly about something we enjoy or admit that it may offend. After all, what would that say about us? That doesn’t change the word’s meaning or the deep hurt caused to many of the all-but-invisible minority supposedly honored. That the word is familiar and repeated doesn’t make it any more justified than slurs assigned to other groups; if someone is offended, we need to listen.
“I don’t think the owners understand that they’re not honoring us,” said Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians. “If they’re still saying that, please take it back. Honors like that we don’t need, we don’t want.”
Open a dictionary to “redskin.” Merriam-Webster: “usually offensive.” Oxford: “dated or offensive.” Random House: “often disparaging and offensive.” Collins: “now considered taboo.”
That’s the black-and-white truth, not an honor.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A collection of communities writers columns on Benghazi
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Looking at pop culture, politics and social issues.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc