The Washington Redskins Name Should Change

The Washington Redskins football team has a name that is considered racist by Native Americans, who, coincidentally, have the highest rate of suicide in the United States. While I’m not a Native American, I hear their complaints and agree it should be changed because it offends them. I also recognize that my opinion doesn’t mean a thing – because I’m not one of them.  Only their opinion matters.

They’ve desired a change for decades while the team, under different owners, has always refused. The excuses the team and fans are using seldom stand up to scrutiny.  I’ve picked apart a few here.

It’s Not Racist

Chief Sitting Bull

Chief Sitting Bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People who aren’t Native American keep saying “redskin” isn’t racist.  Here’s the way this really works: black people, and only black people, decide if the “n-word” is racist – because the word is directed at them. Latinos, and only latinos, decide “wet back” is racist for the same reason. And Native Americans, and only Native Americans, decide if “redskin” is racist.

If you’re not one of those groups, your opinion means nothing. You don’t have a say in the matter.  You are a listener.  Hopefully a respectful one.

We can’t make something not be racist just because we keep telling ourselves it isn’t. The only person we’re fooling is ourselves and people just like us.

Ignorance

Ignorance that it’s racist is not an excuse for continuing it (neither is complacency). The law doesn’t allow ignorance as an excuse for breaking it.  The same applies here.  If you didn’t know the n-word is racist, would it be okay to say it?  Of course not.

Intention

No one likes admitting they’re ignorant of something.  I get it.  I doubt a single supporter of the name “Redskins” intends to be racist.  Most people have probably never heard the term except as associated with a football team.  But supporters seem very hostile of the idea it’s racist, calling opponents “haters”, etc.  Is this hostility caused by a feeling of outrage that they are suspected of doing something racist at all, or even worse, on purpose?  If so, denial is no solution.

It’s Tradition

The team has been called that since the 1930s.  Fans cite this as a good reason to continue. Using that logic, we should’ve continued using the n-word just because we’d been doing it before.  If there’s a difference, it’s that the n-word was associated with all sorts of civil rights issues like slavery and voting while the r-word is not.

Nobody likes change, but life is change.  And sometimes you must change something bad to get rid of it.  Continuing with something wrong just because you’re already doing it is ridiculous.  And immoral.

As for “tradition”, having a racist name is some tradition to desire upholding.  Isn’t 80+ years enough?  What better way to exemplify the tradition of racism in the United States than the team associated with the nation’s capitol having a racist name? There’s a great message to the world.

Two (or more) wrongs make a right

The team has said that other teams, including high school ones, use the name, so therefore it’s okay.  Since when is something bad being done by lots of people an excuse for still doing it?

If everyone starts calling black people the n-word again, would that make the n-word not racist anymore?  How many people doing it does it take to cause that?  Ten?  A thousand?  100 million?  Do 100 million wrongs make a right?

Oh wait, the team suggests this bevy of offenders as proof the name isn’t racist because all these other teams wouldn’t use the name if it was.  They can’t all be doing something racist and not knowing it, right?  Of course they can.  When countless people used the n-word, did that prove the name wasn’t offensive/racist to blacks?  I call BS.

Having a deep connection to being called Redskins

washington-redskins-authentic-pro-line-full-size-riddell-helmetOn this webpage, the team says they are proud to be called Redskins (that’s actually the headline). I doubt any team members are Native American.  Someone did tell me several people were when the team adopted the name, which is interesting, but since that was a long time ago and things change, it doesn’t matter much now.

They say they have a deep connection to the name, but I bet the Native Americans have an even deeper connection to not being insulted all the time over their race.  For a football team.

There’s no reason the team can’t be called “Indians” or something similar without a racist angle, and still feel it means pride and other traits that the team says it associates with “redskin”.  For example:

  • “Indian” – means pride and competitiveness
  • “Chiefs” – see above
  • “Braves” – see above
  • “Redskin” – see above, PLUS it’s racist

Not wanting to change apparel, etc.

Some people don’t want to buy new jerseys and other stuff if the name changes.  I understand the cost issue, but this is a lousy and even petty excuse for keeping a racist name.

If Dan Snyder, the team owner, thinks it’s too expensive to change the name everywhere, maybe he should think about how much money he’d make selling jerseys and other stuff all over again.  Everyone who has something that says “Redskin” on it would buy it with the new name.  Many fans would be mad, but they’ve got collectibles now.

Coda

If the team and fans want to disagree, that’s their right, but when they defend their position with nonsensical arguments, those seem to be backfiring on them, making more people disagree because the logic is awful. I doubt they’ll come up with a good excuse because they would’ve done it by now.  That by itself suggests they know the end is coming for this team moniker.

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