What's In A Name? The Redskins Controversy

We’ve all heard about the mascot name controversy by now. And after much contemplation and self-deliberation I’ve decided to weigh in on the subject.

Being a life long sports fan and traditionalist, and also being among the hundreds of thousands of Americans that count Native American as part of our ancestry ( for me it’s Cherokee ), I believe I have a modicum of validity ( emphasis on modicum ) to lend a somewhat pragmatic voice to this discussion.

Let me begin by saying I actually have done research on this and am prepared to give an informed opinion and not just the usual rhetoric that comes with such a divided topic.

First of all I am compelled to tell you that there is ample evidence that the word “redskin” did not begin as a pejorative term in our vernacular. It was in fact used in more than one speech by prominent Native Americans to describe their own people.

Having said that, I am also committed to tell you that the term definitely morphed into a disparaging and completely derogatory synonym for the word Indian. Much as the N word did to the African Americans. Both words began as innocent descriptions and then were stolen by white men with abusive intent.

Now,  I know I’m going to hear from those people who will say well why not bring up the mascots Indians, Braves, Fighting Illini, Blackhawks, etc. etc. etc. And I’ll very simply tell you the difference.

Native Americans do not now, nor have they ever, deemed any of those terms as derogations to their people. They are, in fact, terms of endearment. Anyone who clumps them together is giving a stupid and pretentious argument.

The word “redskins”, however, has been thought of as a disparagement to the entire Indian populace for a very long time. Once again, just as the N word has to Black people everywhere.

I am also of the belief that each race tried to capture these words and lesson their harshness by using them to self- promote or lift up their respective peoples. A decision I personally disagree with wholeheartedly. I would much rather try to rid our society of the words rather than have them justified in any form.

So, we could get into a long and drawn out discussion about the similarities and differences between the plights of the Native Americans and the African Americans but that won’t do anything positive for the current conversation.

I think what’s important to realize is what the common knowledge of the meaning for the word “redskin” is as it relates to this scenario. And that is where it gets tricky. You see, when George Preston Marshall, then owner of the Washington football franchise decided to keep the name Redskins when he brought the team over from Boston, he did so because his starting quarterback was a Native American.

His intention, as we all should know, was not to degrade the people, but to highlight the individual. That does not continue to have a bearing on whether the terminology is right or wrong however.

What is of the utmost importance is whether or not this particular terminology should be deemed acceptable by football fans everywhere. Or anywhere.

Whew! I guess I’ve confused all of us enough by now. Let me just say it this way. If you would not have the word said AT you, I don’t think it’s right to have it said to describe you. No matter the intent.

Of course I welcome all dissenting opinions. Feel free to let me know how wrong I am in the comments box. I promise I always read them to try and develop my own clarity on the subject matter.



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