“It is an offensive, derogatory name. A slur. Historically, it is a reflection of the oppression of one group of people by another.”
Such is the anger spewed toward the Washington Redskins, a National Football League team that recently lost its trademark registration.
Practically speaking, losing the registration doesn’t really mean a whole lot, particularly for a high-profile organization. It’s not as if they would have trouble prevailing in a lawsuit against, say, a bowling team in Washington, PA that happened to name itself the “Washington Redskins” and made a fortune selling tickets to events. It’s not like a judge would have problems figuring out why people are paying hundreds of dollars to go to a bowling alley.
Nonetheless, it puts additional pressure on the Redskins to change their name, lest they continue to be called “racists” for keeping it. Of course, some knee-jerk media outlets have jumped all over this, refusing to even print the word “Redskins” in their publications, as if it were the N-word. Not that Native Americans deserve any less support or Constitutional protection than do African-Americans, but for a host of reasons that would take up too much space here, “redskin” and the “N-word” are not quite the same thing.
Not to mention (though I will) that a number of predominantly Native American Indian schools continue to use the name “Redskins” for their sports teams, proudly wearing their teams’ uniforms, caps, sweatshirts, and jackets, and exuberantly waving their teams’ flags, often depicting the head of an Indian, not unlike the logo of the NFL’s Redskins.
Also not to mention (though I will, again) that the Redskins used to be called the Boston Braves but were renamed “Redskins” by their coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz. The team then moved from Boston to DC. Dietz championed many Indian causes, and claimed to be of Oglala Sioux Nation descent. Though widely accused of fabricating his Native American heritage for publicity purposes, the point is that whatever his motives, he named the team “Redskins” to revere American Indians, not to besmirch them.
Let’s say there is enough negative history about the word “redskin” in American history and culture to warrant a name change, if for no other reason than to show solidarity – and to atone for transgressions committed against numerous Native American Indian tribes through the years.
If that’s the standard, then the New York Yankees need to change their name, too. After all, “Yankee” is historically a derogatory term used by the British to describe American colonists. It was also used by the Confederates to vilify the North during the American Civil War, and, with just as much hostility, in the Reconstruction that ensued for decades. In fact, even today, some disgruntled Southerners (certainly few, though, and not representative of the whole South) still can’t get past the fact that they lost the war and refer to “yankees” in a less-than-affectionate manner.
And then, of course, there are scores of people around the world in English-speaking nations who thumb their nose at Americans and deride them as “Yankees.”
American children and adults alike sing “Yankee Doodle,” which originated by British soldiers to denigrate the Colonists, so that means we’ve found a way to overcome adversity by turning it into something positive. Just as hip-hop artists, predominantly African-American, refer to themselves as “niggas.” So, too, Native-Americans throughout the country, and fans of that team in DC, have nothing but warm, fuzzy thoughts of pride, love, and affection for their “Redskins.” No matter. The powers-that-be get to explain to us what we really think and mean.
Then so be it. Bye bye, Yankees. Time to go back to calling yourselves the New York Highlanders. Next on the chopping block: the New Jersey Devils (how utterly demonic!).
By the way, I abhor all forms of actual racism, or disparaging generalizations made toward ethnic groups. There is no group that has the right to use the term “Yankee” in a derogatory manner. Except one: Mets fans.