It’s all so simple really, what’s at the bottom of the fight over changing the name of the Washington Redskin’s football team. The real deal point that hits home the hardest about the debate is the word racist. Not racism; it’s the full-on, take it personally, title of racist.
The idea that they have, for generation after generation, celebrated and cheered a term built upon the bloodied bodies of human beings is incomprehensible. It should be.
After all, regardless of the mouthpieces who speak in support of it, another truth is that the majority of those team fans are really just your average, basic, decent citizen and neighbors. They’re the same people who’d help you shovel your walk; they’d rush to help someone in an accident. They send donation after donation to help people devastated by wrath of nature disasters. They’re the same people you’d likely enjoy a coffee with at a local school or church event. Like most anyone, they will move heaven and earth to protect and cherish their children and community.
They will also do the same to protect that inner sensibility to remain good people. Good people are not racist. Therefore, that “R” word is the issue, but not really the term itself; it’s about the people who are changing their truth’s history of it.
The campaign to bring out that ‘truth’ is everywhere. Social media is fully covered by various groups in support of the talking points put out by the team’s organization. They include the origin of the term, the number of teams with the name, the original honor intended, and so on. The team has put up a page on their website dedicated to the issue. There are constant interviews given by their P.R. reps in radio, podcasts, TV, and newspapers.
The team owners created a charitable organization dedicated to the plight of Native Americans – although the altruistic intentions are vociferously debated given the timing of the new generosity and the requirement of highly visible team branding attached to what is given.
The information available for the entire issues’s history is ample and readily accessible, and yet its existence is denied over and over. The engagement of hundreds of Native American tribes and groups is almost wholly ignored. The organization at the head of the issue, the Change the Mascot organization is never referenced.
The irony in the labor to ignore the voices of Native Americans by declaring this is only an effort by white liberals serving a politically correct agenda is completely lost on them. They’ll state sadness and regret about the Trail of Tears, but if there is such a thing as opinion genocide, there is a good case for this being an example at work.
How do decent people seemingly willingly embrace racism?
To get an idea, we’d have to ask what it would feel like, within the dawning of the realization, that what Native Americans are saying, is true. What does the evidence of horrible realities behind nearly 80 years of mythical stories of supportive honor do to the average heart?
What does it mean and what does it say about everyone who ever supported the team? What does that make every celebrating and cheering owner, employee, player and fan over those nearly 80 years?
Despite a likelihood of racism within some of the mindsets, for the most part, for the rest, in a word, it would have to be: ignorance. We’re talking about mostly just ignorance. For over two centuries there has been a deliberate effort to hide the history of Native Americans with even more fervor than the attempts to silence them today.
The concerted work to erase the attempted genocide of the America’s Indigenous Peoples includes omitting and revising facts in school history books. Governments even today will avoid the word genocide despite loads of buildings holding their own records detailing:
- the creation of reserves, reservations,
- the breakup of families and the creation of residential schools to break the cultures and assimilate them,
- the demand to manage virtually every aspect of life on those reserves and reservations.
The most the average citizen learned about Indigenous people amounts to pemmican recipes, tipi making, and how they caused great harm to the poor besieged settlers on their land. This is just fact, and in truth, because of that even many of the Indigenous peoples have yet to learn their own histories.
So, it is in these cases, that we can say to people: we understand. We can’t condemn someone for racism unless they are informed and educated about the point of issue. To be sure, there has been a lot of informing going on and the aid of social media has been helpful in spreading the news even faster. There have been a good number of successful inroads because of this, but make no mistake, there is still a huge amount of ground to cover in North America.
For those informed and educated, but still insist on the old beliefs, I suppose the notion of change itself is even harder to embrace. There’s not much that can be done about that by us, but for all the rest, the truth of the words by slave abolitionist, William Wilberforce stands in this as much as all inhumanity:
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you didn’t know.”
Thank you, to Mike Wise – Washington Post Sports Writer, for sharing this piece at CSN Washington Post.
Thank you, to my readers who have shared their own experiences and/or views in reply to my previous piece detailing many of the specific arguments,