Let's be clear--Redskin is a pejorative. It's a fucking insult. If you call a Native American a "redskin", I recommend that you be very, very, very good friends with that fucker. Because if you are just casual friends, calling him or her that will result in you getting your ass kicked, or (at best) relegated to Dumb White Person Status. TV comedy has mined jokes about White people being overly comfortable with Black Friends, until they say something like, "Oh man, you are my nigger." And then there is a record-scratch noise, and the friendship takes a detour. Go ahead, friends...track down your casual Native American acquaintance and call him or her "Redskin." Oh wait--you don't have any Native friends, or acquaintances, or co-workers? It's not your fault. It's called Genocide, and it happened well before you were born. But just because there aren't any Native Americans in your workplace, or on your list of Facebook friends, doesn't mean they are not out there. They are! They watch TV. Unless they are on one of those Reservations that still doesn't have reliable electricity.
In the past 12 months or so, it seems that some bigger-time type bloggers have come around on this issue in pretty big-time fashion (welcome to the argument, Deadspin!) Which is great. Though they do sometimes get the origin wrong. No offense to Deadspin's Barry Petchesky, who is doing great work over there, but this intro sentence is not accurate: "Because the Redskins are relevant again, the periodic controversy about their use of a racial slur as a team name has flared up again." The controversy is not periodic; it is always there (like I said, we've been talking about it here for the past seven years). The fact that the Drunken Savages are relevant means that white people are paying attention again--"relevant" is a subjective assessment. Native folks never stopped paying attention.
Anyway, let's knock out the 2013 Screed by destroying some stupid ass column, OK? Thanks again to Deadspin (this time Tom Ley, who also does great work. Deadspin is good again, y'all. It was bad for awhile, but it is good again) I was made aware of this Washington Times editorial.
And let's be clear - the Washington Times is barely a newspaper. It is the conservative daily polemical of the Unification Church, aka The Moonies. But it is treated like a major paper, and people who have worked there have somehow graduated into real journalistic gigs, so...let's get to it. The issue that has raised the hackles of the conservatives (and when did "conservative" become "automatically defending racist shit", anyway?) is a DC Councilman named David Grosso putting forth an obviously non-binding resolution condemning the use of the word "Redskin". Which is, again, a word no non-Native person should use, ever. Grosso's suggested replacement is "Redtails", which would honor the Tuskegee Airmen, and allow the continued use of the Redskin feather. OK? You all caught up now?
The editorial begins with:
"We should put aside concerns about crime, decrepit schools, perpetual parking and traffic chaos and an unending series of corruption scandals in the District of Columbia government. The D.C. Council is poised to decide what a private business should call itself."
Non-binding resolution. The DC Council has no power to make a private business rename itself. It is a suggestion. Also, crime, decrepit schools, perpetual parking, traffic chaos, and corruption scandals can't be fixed with a name change. "The Washington Redskins" can be. The problem of the Washington Redskins can be fixed in, quite literally, seconds. Dan Snyder says, "let's change the name" and the name is changed. Boom. Done. No massive rebuilding of infrastructure needed.
David Grosso, an “independent” at-large councilman, says he will introduce a resolution demanding that Dan Snyder change the name of his Washington Redskins to the “Washington Redtails,” presumably to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the black fighter pilots who wrote tales of heroism across the skies above World War II battlefields. The tails of their planes were painted red, and they terrorized the enemy like a linebacker going after a running back.
This paragraph is just to highlight the little tricks the Washington Times works - David Grosso is a self-identified independent. By putting "independent" in quotes, the Times suggests that he isn't really one, that he is some shadowy liberal, because only liberals give a shit about this stupid human rights bullshit. It is also curious that they say that Grosso chose Redtails because he meant "presumably to honor the Tuskegee Airmen", when that language is taken directly out of his resolution. There is no "presumably" about it. That's exactly what he wants to do. Love the choice, hate the choice - don't pretend that isn't what he is doing. It is exactly what he is doing.
Hold on to your hats, it is about to get real stupid.
Mr. Grosso, a composer yet, says the team’s popular anthem can be easily modified — “Hail to the Redtails” — and “you can still keep the feather.” Hooray. But if “Redskins” demeans Indians, why wouldn’t “Redtails” demean fighter pilots?
Let's ignore the fact that you don't have to be a composer to replace one two syllable word with another. Read that last sentence again. It is almost a parody. If Stephen Colbert said it, you would laugh with him, about what a ridiculous caricature of conservative thought it is. And yet, here it is, for real - they mean that. They don't get the difference between a fighter squadron being identified and celebrated by the color of their planes and millions upon millions of people being identified, killed, re-educated, raped, forced abortions and sterilization, forced to live in a desert with no water, and in general being discriminated against over and over again. There is literally no difference, in their mind.
Mr. Grosso might not know that “Redskins,” as they have been called for 80 years, was actually adopted to honor its second coach, Lone Star Dietz, who was descended from American Indians, before “Indians” became “Native Americans” (which is what most of us are).
Something being called something for 80 years is not a good enough reason to keep calling that something by that name. Ask the NCAA about that one. They have cracked down on Native American mascots, and you know what? The NCAA is doing just fine. And if you honor one man with your nickname, but insult hundreds of thousands of current Native American Indians, you know what? The balance ain't great.
This issue bubbles and squeaks from time to time because certain politicians are more concerned with getting their names in the newspapers than with the pain of the masses who are not offended by a name honoring the bravery and fighting spirit of the original Americans.
Read this again - the pain of the masses who aren't offended. Goddamn, I sure do want this editorial board to meet Suzan Shown Harjo.
Let me ask this question - what's the 2nd most offensive name in professional sports? Is there a close second? Can you think of a team name that offends you, even if the Redskins name doesn't offend you? If you can't think of one, guess what? The Redskins have the most offensive name. They have the ONLY offensive name in the NFL. Why is this an issue? 31 teams found a name that doesn't make Native People upset or some white people cringe. No other team in the NFL has this issue.
And listen - white people have always loved honoring the "bravery and fighting spirit of the original Americans". That's nothing new. Frank L. Baum, of the Oz books, wrote something painfully similar, more than 100 years ago:
History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in later ages of the glory of these grand Kings of forest and plain...but we at least do justice to the manly characteristics possessed, according to their lights and education, by the early Redskins of America.
That's the mindset from which Redskin sprung. Does it sound racist? Maybe it does, because it is painfully racist. Baum, by the way, was advocating the extermination of the Native American.
Back to the editorial:
A manufactured controversy over the name of a football team is a convenient way to direct attention away from scandal and sordid behavior. He should leave the management of the Redskins to those who actually know what they’re doing.
Manufactured controversy? FUCK YOU, Washington Times editorial. Really, fuck you. Up and down. Read something, ANYTHING, about life on the Reservations. Will changing the name of a football team change the radical poverty on the reservations? No, of course not. But it will signal to Native Americans that White America isn't going to insult them just for the hell of it. That is starting to take Native America seriously, and that they aren't cartoons, or mascots, but FUCKING PEOPLE. That would mean a lot. And it is a simple fix. Why would anyone fight it?