I first heard of the debate over the name “Washington Redskins,” decades ago.
Nothing was done. And despite ownership changes and generally more enlightened times, things remain the same to this day.
It seems some people still like good old-fashioned slur-based racism.
Washington football team owner Daniel Snyder told USA TODAY recently, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use all caps.”
THAT WAS THE CUE FOR TEN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO SEND A MESSAGE ALL IN CAPS BACK TO SNYDER, FIGURATIVELY THAT IS.
The Washington Post quoted the congressional letter sent to Snyder and the NFL: “In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs. The usage of the (“R-word”) is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem. It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people.”
The letter was signed by representatives and co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus: Tom Cole (Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (Minnesota) as well as Raul M. Grijalva (Arizona), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Michael M. Honda (California), Donna M. Christensen (Virgin Islands), Zoe Lofgren and Barbara Lee (both of California) and Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District.
The members of Congress, of course, took the same pot-shots as they always have for raising the issue, i.e., don’t you have better things to do with your time?
In other words, there are those who feel this “diversity” thing is still a trivial and insignificant matter.
And yet if one considers American Indians’ feelings about the issue (they do feel the sting), it’s hard to understand why any corporation would hold on to a brand that both fosters and furthers a climate of racism.
More concerning is that in recent polls, both scientific and unscientific, nearly 80 percent of respondents say the name shouldn’t be changed.
That’s a sad indicator of where we are in the overall diversity fight.
Congress, therefore, may be the rightful place to pressure team ownership.
The laws of this country for civil rights and equality are forged on the Hill, and when the smallest minority among us, Native Americans, must continue to endure the indignities of seeing cartoonish team names representing their culture, maybe the time has come to take more serious action.
To higher education’s credit, a number of Indian names and mascots have been eliminated over the years. Some examples: Stanford went from the Indian to the Cardinal. Syracuse from the Orangemen to the Orange. The Louisiana-Monroe Indians became the “Warhawks.” The UMass Redmen became Minutemen and Minutewomen.
But still other institutions remain unchanged, hanging on to bad tradition like the Washington Redskins.
Snyder hasn’t responded to the congressional appeal so far, but his feelings are well known. He’s not changing. And public opinion is on his side.
But justice catches up eventually.
Look at black pick-a-ninny images on products and cartoons. Look at black figures that graced front lawns. Look at ideas like indentured servitude and slavery.
All bad things really do come to an end.
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