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Racial Slur or Honorific?
July 2, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

The Other Redskins. 62 US high schools in 22 states currently use the name "Redskins" for one of their sports teams. 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the mascot over the last 25 years. As public pressure continues to intensify on the Washington Redskins football team to change their name -- one many consider a racial slur that disparages Native Americans -- similar debates are being waged in towns across the country about their local high school teams.
posted by zarq (183 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops. Forgot the Via.
posted by zarq at 1:30 PM on July 2, 2013


Funny how the whole thing was almost completely ignored during all the years when the Redskins (the NFL team) were mediocre to bad.
posted by smoothvirus at 1:33 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite mascot has always been The Fightin' Whities.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:36 PM on July 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Wait, "Redskin" is considered racist? Just because it's unbelievably racist? Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2013 [46 favorites]


The team where I went to high school was the Fremont Indians, which was particularly ironic considering what Fremont did to the Indians.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:41 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


scaryblackdeath: "My favorite mascot has always been The Fightin' Whities."

From the link: "The team sold enough shirts that they were eventually able to endow a sizeable scholarship fund for Native American students at Northern Colorado. In 2003, the team donated $100,000 to the University of Northern Colorado's UNC Foundation, which included $79,000 designated for the "Fightin' Whites Minority Scholarship"."

Cool!
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


They should just change all their mascots to redskin potatoes, then they can keep the name without it being racist.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 1:43 PM on July 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


My city went through a bit of ire when people (especially Asian people, not coincidentally) started lobbying one high school to change from being the Orientals to the Dragons. Some people were Incensed. I'm pretty sure the students involved were perfectly happy with it, since the mascot was already a dragon. And, in fact, younger generations are already pretty on board with it being silly to name a team after a whole ethnic group, slur or not. So it turns out if you actually talk to the high school students to find out if they'd rather be the 'Orientals' or the 'Dragons', they think dragons are in fact markedly cooler.
posted by Sequence at 1:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well at least I'm secure in the knowledge that the name of the IPL team I support is totally not racist.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Paul Lukas of Uni Watch ("The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics") has been doing yeoman's work on this subject for some time now. His audience is pretty strongly split on the matter, and despite that, he is unflinching in his criticism of Daniel Snyder for being so resistant.

I've thought for some time that the obvious solution is to change the name to the Pigskins. It makes sense for a football team, references the team's unofficial Hog mascot and you still get to call them the 'Skins.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:46 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wisconsin passed in 2010 the nation’s first state law banning public schools from using Native American names, mascots and logos. It left exceptions for schools that had the approval of local Native American tribes.

Mukwonago High School (near Milwaukee) has been going back and forth from the team name "Indians" since the state law was enacted. As far as I can tell, the school won on appeal and the name is still in use. You can imagine the horrible comments on local news sites.
posted by desjardins at 1:47 PM on July 2, 2013


Funny how the whole thing was almost completely ignored during all the years when the Redskins (the NFL team) were mediocre to bad.

It's always been there in the background. I think it's picking up more attention now because rumblings about moving the team back into DC would create a situation where the team's hand might be forced on the issue, much like how they had to be forced to finally be the last NFL team to integrate.

As Marshall got older the NFL began to integrate again (there were black players in the league in the early 30s), but he kept his ground as the only white team in the league. As a result the Redskins became the worst team in the league for years, but Marshall kept his stance against hiring black players. Again, Marshall didn't see this as a racist stance, rather a business decision as he claimed he was appealing to the Redskins' large southern fan base and keeping their status as Dixie's team. Only when JFK's White House got involved, specifically Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, did the issue come to a head.
-
Ultimately, the climax of the book, the showdown between Marshall and Udall, is run through fairly quickly, but perhaps that is for the best. Udall forced Marshall to integrate by threatening to ban the Redskins from using their stadium, which was owned by the Department of the Interior.

posted by Drinky Die at 1:47 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Over at DCist, editor Brian refuses to call them anything but the Washington Football Team.
posted by General Malaise at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


While we're at it, the Chicago Blackhawks should probably stop hiding their racism behind the story (true or not) that the team's founder named the club after the 86th Infantry Division (the "Black Hawk Division"), in which he had served in WWI (which itself had taken the name "in honor" of the vanquished Sauk chief), especially in light of the racist imagery on the club's sweater (both the Indian head on the front and the ridiculous crossed tomahawks on the shoulders).
posted by notyou at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


My high school mascot was the Warriors, one shared with another school in our conference. But ours was a Roman centurion - crest front to back, people, the other way just looks dumb - and theirs was a stereotypical feather-bonneted Plains Indian. I was grateful we never had to deal with this issue.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: "much like how they had to be forced to finally be the last NFL team to integrate. "

Ugly. The more things change....

"We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
—George Preston Marshall; founder of the Washington Redskins, 1961

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
—Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, 2013

posted by zarq at 1:52 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


My college (Eastern Michigan University) nickname was the Hurons, named after the river that ran next to the campus, which was, of course, named after the Huron tribe that once lived in the area. A number of years ago, due to the same claims of racism, the name was changed to the Eagles. Ironically there is now a movement to change the name back, supported by the Chief of the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma and former Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis of the Huron-Wendat Tribe of Quebec.

The University lost substantial revenues withheld by alum who didn't approve of the change. The band recently brought the logo back, wearing it on their uniforms (under the lapel).
posted by HuronBob at 1:54 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


General Malaise: Over at DCist, editor Brian refuses to call them anything but the Washington Football Team.

Washington City Paper calls 'em Pigskins. Kansas City Star calls 'em Washington.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:56 PM on July 2, 2013


Johnny Depp is now an Indian so I am just very confused about everything.
posted by srboisvert at 1:56 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Guess we're gonna have to start calling you EagleBob around here, then.
posted by notyou at 1:57 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


HuronBob: Ironically there is now a movement to change the name back, supported by the Chief of the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma and former Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis of the Huron-Wendat Tribe of Quebec.

There are a number of universities that have nicknames based on local Native American tribes (Utah Utes and Florida State Seminoles spring to mind), with the blessing and support and often close involvement of the tribe. I think that is a perfectly reasonable way to name a team, and is very different from using a racial slur.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can imagine the horrible comments on local news sites.

That's one of those statements that always is true regardless of the referent.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
—George Preston Marshall; founder of the Washington Redskins, 1961


The Harlem Globetrotters has had white players since its beginning -- founder Abe Saperstein was white and played for the team and hired Bunny Leavitt shortly after. Bob Karstens was signed to the team under contract.

I know it's a little later to be offering Marshall a fact-check, as he made his comment in 1961, but it's amazing how wrong people seem to be wrong about everything.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:02 PM on July 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


My HS team was the Indians. On some school shirts there was a Cleveland Indians logo, a stylized cartoon native American, used no doubt w/o the knowledge or permission of the AL team. I'm currently working on the 50th year reunion, so this was a while ago.

The Cleveland team is still the Indians, but my HS has been represented for the last 30 years by the Red Hawks. Although "Redskins" is clearly pejorative, I didn't then or now consider the Indians logo (with the cartoon exception) to have been out of place. The main team logo was an image of a noble Plains Indian chief in full headdress.

I have roughly equal parts of Native American, Irish and Scottish heritage, along with a few others. A mascot is (usually) chosen to represent some competitive attribute, and I don't mind the fact that there are teams called the Fighting Irish everywhere, and Highlanders and Gaels, stereotypes for courage in battle. I don't see these as any more a slur on those parts of my heritage than I did the Indians.

I might object to a team called the Fighting, Drinking, Ignorant Irish.
posted by Repack Rider at 2:02 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmmm yes well one difference is that the Irish weren't slaughtered en masse by the non-Native Americans.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:05 PM on July 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


In Washington State, Port Townsend High School just announced the retiring of the Redskins mascot. Apparently reaction from some local Native Americans has been mixed, at least according to the article.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:07 PM on July 2, 2013


I have roughly equal parts of Native American, Irish and Scottish heritage, along with a few others.

That's starting to sound like the old my-grandmother-was-a-Cherokee-princess.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:09 PM on July 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the 70s a local high school team nicknamed " Warriors" with an Indian chief looking mascot had a student led petition to change the name to Bullfrogs (or maybe it was just Frogs). It, of course, failed. It was just too cool an idea.

My high school team, the Trojans, never had a complaint from either the city of Troy, or the condom manufacturer. (Thanks, I'll be here all week....)
posted by cccorlew at 2:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was young, my high school's mascot was "The Indians." This was changed in 1996 to The Nighthawks because it was racist. That was one of the moments I was most proud of my hometown.

I've been on a kick about teams with questionable names for years. Really, the only thing that competes in sheer awfulness with the Washington Football Team's name, to my mind, is the Cleveland Indian's Chief Wahoo - a logo that should have been long abandoned and continual proof that commerce can and will beat basic humanity when given the chance. The Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop is close behind.

Anyhow, the name of the Washington Football Team should have been changed when they sucked. The defense of the name as "an honorific" is outrageous.

And, for the record, its a totally different situation if the team has the blessing of the local tribe to use the local tribe's name or imagery. Unless there is a tribe with the name of the Washington Football Team, I don't think they can effectively use that defense. Its like Paula Deen saying her language choice was ok because the African Americans in her employment use that word all the time.

Fighting, Drinking, Ignorant Irish.

I'm mostly of Irish descent and I would be put off by a team with a name like "The Detroit Micks" or "The Dallas Paddys." The Washington Football Team's names is miles and miles away from "The Fighting Irish."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:11 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


As Marshall got older the NFL began to integrate again (there were black players in the league in the early 30s), but he kept his ground as the only white team in the league. As a result the Redskins became the worst team in the league for years

I like this line: "Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday" Shirley Povich,1960.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:13 PM on July 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


I read about a sports writer who, without telling anyone, including his editors, just stopped using racist team names. Instead, he's say "Washington."
No one noticed, or at least didn't out loud.
Pretty clever, no?
posted by cccorlew at 2:14 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly of Irish descent and I would be put off by a team with a name like "The Detroit Micks" or "The Dallas Paddys." The Washington Football Team's names is miles and miles away from "The Fighting Irish."

That is why I said, "... although "Redskins" is clearly pejorative..."

"Pejorative" means it's an insult.
posted by Repack Rider at 2:16 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite high school mascot pairing is the Cabrillo Conquistadores and the Lompoc Braves. Better still, the Braves was the first school, and its student population is, on average, of lower income and less white. The Conquistadores have newer school, situated up in the hills, with the same design as the slightly older school, but with an aquarium and marine biology program to boot. I will always root for the Braves (until they change their name, which I would also completely support).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:18 PM on July 2, 2013


HuronBob: “The University lost substantial revenues withheld by alum who didn't approve of the change.”

My experience in universities is that alumnae with money are the most evil immediate influence on almost everything – from loud demands that academic standards be reduced to loud demands that alcohol be allowed at football games to loud demands that horrible things from the past never, never be allowed to change. If university campuses could just extricate themselves from the claws of alumnae with money, they would be much happier and more effective.
posted by koeselitz at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


You can imagine the horrible comments on local news sites.

That's one of those statements that always is true regardless of the referent.


GO HORRIBLE COMMENTS!
posted by Going To Maine at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Good with money" racial slur or honorific.


How can that even be question...
posted by symbioid at 2:26 PM on July 2, 2013


I was under the impression that the team was named for the Spanish peanuts sold by the original owner? Retroconned?
posted by aramaic at 2:27 PM on July 2, 2013


Sports teams are one thing, but if they mess with my Oriental flavor ramen, we're gonna have words.
posted by xedrik at 2:28 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My experience in universities is that alumnae with money are the most evil immediate influence on almost everything

Only the women?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:29 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


How about "The Washington Racists" as a team name replacement? (I think the people using alternative names to describe the team should adopt that one)
posted by el io at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My junior high school was the Roy Junior High Redskins. There was a huge tile painting af an Indian chief in the foyer.

Now it's the Razorbacks. I hope they didn't paint a boar over the chief.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2013


My school was the Rebels. Mascot? A Confederate soldier on horseback, flying the battle flag. When I was a junior, one of my class's two black students said "Um, could we maybe. . . not. . . do that?"

Amazingly, the school did indeed decide to not do that, removed all the Confederate imagery but tried to preserve the Rebels name. Twelve years later though they threw up their hands, and the school became the Mavericks. The new mascot was a cowboy on horseback with his hat drawn down to shadow his face, so they could avoid having to draw the guy as a specific race, since the cowboys were a quite diverse lot.

Texas in the 1990's, y'all! MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN THESE SCHMUCKS.
posted by KathrynT at 2:31 PM on July 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Most Indians Say Name of Washington “Redskins” Is Acceptable
While 9 Percent Call It Offensive, Annenberg Data Show [PDF link to 2004 Survey]
posted by foot at 2:34 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stanford, of course, when faced with similar objections, changed its mascot from an Indian to cardinal. Not the bird, the color.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:36 PM on July 2, 2013


Time was when the Civil Rights movement was concerned with things like voting, holding jobs, lynching, freedom to live where you want, and stuff like that.

If the only thing they have now to worry about is names of sports teams, I would say that the Civil Rights movement has won, and should stop picking fights.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't care what some studies say about natives preferences. It's offensive to me and you and everyone as lovers of justice and dislikers of mockery.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the only thing they have now to worry about is names of sports teams, I would say that the Civil Rights movement has won, and should stop picking fights.

Yes, because worrying about this one thing prevents them from fighting for anything else, and asking nicely for a professional franchise to stop using a racist caricature is "picking a fight."
posted by KathrynT at 2:39 PM on July 2, 2013 [36 favorites]


I don't care what some studies say about natives preferences.

So basically, who cares about the Native American perspective? It's all about you and your desire to impose your will on others? That sure sounds like a familiar story.
posted by foot at 2:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm Crrrrrazzzzayyy for CIVIL RIGHTS and I wont be satisfied until every high school mascot name is changed to the Fat Crackers hahahahaha boogedyboogedyboo
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


So basically, who cares about the Native American perspective? It's all about you and your desire to impose your will on others? That sure sounds like a familiar story.

I think it's a lot more of a skeptical take on this sort of defense as a marginally more statistically sound version of the "my minority friend says it's fine so shut up" retort.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:47 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wisconsin passed in 2010 the nation’s first state law banning public schools from using Native American names, mascots and logos. It left exceptions for schools that had the approval of local Native American tribes.

When I was in highschool in Wisconsin, we were called the Red Raiders. This engendered a lot of discussion about its appropriateness and we had large town hall meetings and such. We ended up not changing the name, but we did change the mascot at some point. I think it's now a knight on a horse.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:49 PM on July 2, 2013


The possible flaw in random and anonymous polls of Native American's opinion is that they must rely upon self-identification to select the target group. In an editorial in the Bloomington Herald Times, Steve Russell, an enrolled Cherokee citizen and associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University, states that both SI and Annenberg's samples of "self-identified Native Americans... includes plenty of people who have nothing to do with Indians".[8] The problem of individuals claiming to be Native American when they are not is well known in academic research, and is a particular problem when non-natives claim Indian identity to gain authority in the debate over sports mascots.[9]
posted by Drinky Die at 2:49 PM on July 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


ROU_X: Indeed, I should have said alumnae AND alumni.
posted by koeselitz at 2:50 PM on July 2, 2013


Time was when the Civil Rights movement was concerned with things like voting, holding jobs, lynching, freedom to live where you want, and stuff like that.

If the only thing they have now to worry about is names of sports teams, I would say that the Civil Rights movement has won, and should stop picking fights.


I take it you weren't around for all of last week?
posted by zombieflanders at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2013 [17 favorites]



My favorite mascot has always been The Fightin' Whities.

Said it in the last thread on this topic, which I believe was only a week or so back, but mine is the "Caucasians."
posted by spitbull at 2:53 PM on July 2, 2013


A lot of people invest a big piece of their identity and tradition into their high school experience. Gosh, it must be tough when a bunch of outsiders come along and tell you that your identity isn't good, that your traditions are worthless and you need to assimulate to be more like good people. Some outsiders even have the gall to mock or imitate your traditions, just to rub in how backwards you are.

It must be really tough to give up that identity and tradition that you invested four years of your life into building.
posted by Skwirl at 2:55 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Modern football does owe a debt of gratitude to the changes in the game forced by the innovative Carlisle Indians, but I hardly think a team called the "Redskins" is the way to show that appreciation.
posted by peeedro at 2:58 PM on July 2, 2013


I remember this came up at a high school I taught at in the late 90's. Canada has a higher percentage of aborignal/First Nations (aka "American Indians") than the US, so many rural and inner city schools have a large number of First Nations students.

Anyway, this was in Sooke, a smaller community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the high school's mascot was "the Braves" and featured a large caricature of an "Indian".

A small group of teachers wanted to change the mascot to something else. The met with a lot of opposition from the dominant power bloc in the teacher's lounge (teachers tend to end up acting like the students the mind all day long).

The resistance was led from behind by the quiet, soft-spoken gym teacher/director of athletics who had taught at the school for 20 years. Interesting guy, he drove to school with his ex-wife, and they bickered the whole way as though they were still married (I caught a ride from time to time), and he employed a butler to help with household chores.

Anyway, there were blustery arguments during staff meetings. The principal, a sleazy, unpopular man (who would later be fired for some sort of corruption) regularly lost control of the staff meetings over the issue.

The teachers who were attempting to get the name changed even resorted to bringing First Nations students to sit in on staff meetings, in hopes of swaying opinion, but it just increased the general bitterness and tension of the situation.

This was around the time Clinton bombed the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, so another teacher, who shared my somewhat ironic, detached air, came up with a great replacement name: "The Tomahawks."

Would have made a kickass mascot, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:58 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of Indian people loving the name, just that they don't care either way. Well I'm a lifelong Skins fan who won't ever root for the team or buy merchandise or watch games or go to games until the name or Dan Snyder is gone (hopefully both at the same time). My love of the traditions of the team are why I care about them making a new start with a more inclusive perspective. So sorry for having moral standards that don't need polls to back them up, I just know what's right and this shitty hateful name is not right.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:58 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


From the Annenberg study methodology:
This report deals with interviewing conducted from Oct. 7, 2003, through September 20, 2004. In that period 65,047 adults were interviewed, of whom 768 identified themselves as Indians or Native Americans.
Revealing my own racism, my method would have been to target American Indians living on reservations, but I've just learned that only 22% of American Indians live on reservations or other trust lands.
posted by notyou at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: "Time was when the Civil Rights movement was concerned with things like voting, holding jobs, lynching, freedom to live where you want, and stuff like that. If the only thing they have now to worry about is names of sports teams, I would say that the Civil Rights movement has won, and should stop picking fights."

Have you honestly managed somehow to convince yourself that the Civil Rights movement wasn't about basic human dignity? Or that prominent public use of the worst racial slurs isn't an abject violation of human dignity? Can you honestly tell me that a football team called the "Angry Black Males" would be acceptable to anyone, much less something that used an actual racial slur like these teams do?
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


High school athletic teams? How about naming our military vehicles after tribes we've basically wiped out, and then using those vehicles to go to other countries and kill a whole bunch of people there, too? That's fun, right?

I think a good general rule is that if you wouldn't substitute the name of another ethnic group in there, then it's not OK. Why the VW Tuareg but not the VW Korean? Why Cleveland Indians but not Cleveland Semites? Why is the Apache Helicopter OK but the Swede Helicopter weird?
posted by 1adam12 at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Redskins’ Indian-Chief Defender: Not A Chief, Probably Not Indian
posted by Drinky Die at 3:01 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cabrillo Conquistadores

I just cracked up really hard because oh man people are fucking clueless, aren't they. I mean this is like having a local football team in Warsaw called the Jew-Burning Nazis.
posted by elizardbits at 3:03 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gosh, it must be tough when a bunch of outsiders come along and tell you that your identity isn't good, that your traditions are worthless and you need to assimulate to be more like good people. Some outsiders even have the gall to mock or imitate your traditions, just to rub in how backwards you are.

Where are you reading about all of this coming from "outsiders?" The one specific case they gave was when the state's Native American population had a problem with it. I'm pretty sure they get a pass on telling people how backwards they are when they use derogatory language.

So basically, who cares about the Native American perspective? It's all about you and your desire to impose your will on others? That sure sounds like a familiar story.

Perhaps you should have read the article for, y'know, the Native American perspective (emphasis mine):
Being from Native American culture, [the term] is not derogatory,” said Tommie Yazzie, superintendent of the school district that oversees Red Mesa High School. He identified himself as a “full-blooded Navajo.”

Red Mesa High School is located on a Navajo reservation, and 99.3 percent of its students are Native American, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Yazzie said people on his reservation care about more pressing things than the use of the name Redskins.

“Education, public health ‒ those are the things we’re more concerned about, rather than whether a team name is appropriate,” he said.

Though he said it was acceptable for schools with majority Native American populations to use the name Redskins, he believes that non‐Native American schools should avoid using it.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:05 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


zombieflanders: I probably should have used the sarcasm tag.
posted by Skwirl at 3:11 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's amazing how wrong people seem to be wrong about everything.
posted by Songdog at 3:16 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I might object to a team called the Fighting, Drinking, Ignorant Irish.

Whereas I would be a season ticket holder, but such is the nature of privilege. I wouldn't find it funny with any other group (or any of which I'm not a member.)

In as much as I care about the NFL, I cheer for Washington, because of some dear friends of mine who made a point about having me over for the games every week when I was going through a really tough time. Still, though, I celebrate every score with "Now change your goddamn name!"

Personally, I think the best and simplest change they could do is to simply make it the "Skins." A lot of people call them that already and it handles the problematic aspect of the name. And then if they decide to play it up with mesh uniforms, all the more hilarious to me.

They probably won't do that last part, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2013


Ah, didn't pick up on it, sorry.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:19 PM on July 2, 2013


Personally, I think the best and simplest change they could do is to simply make it the "Skins."

Speaking as a perennial member of the Shirts, this offends me.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:31 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: " If the only thing they have now to worry about is names of sports teams, I would say that the Civil Rights movement has won, and should stop picking fights."

Oh hey, your invisible backpack is totally showing there.
posted by zarq at 3:33 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The team where I went to high school was the Fremont Indians, which was particularly ironic considering what Fremont did to the Indians.

I'll see and raise: The Jackson (yes that one), Missouri Indians.

If it were up to me, I'd keep the team and rename the town.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is an implicit kind of racism that is kind of missed in these discussions, which is to say there is no one "Native America." I worked at an urban agency that had community members from over 380 North American tribes. Any two tribes have about as much in common as say, Finns and Sicilians or the French and the Polish.

Large populations of urban Indians exist often because of forced relocation programs from the "kill the [culture of the] Indian, save the [Christian soul of the] man," days of Government policy.

Co-opting traditions and creating caracatures of Native culture for entertainment plays directly into the script that started so long ago to shrink Indian culture until any meaningful Indian culture is snuffed out entirely.

That is to say, "Redskins," as an honorific makes absolutely no sense. It can only exist in the cartoonish mindset of cultural reductivism. There are no people who identify as "redskin" people, for one thing because it is a label created by conquerers, for another because only white skinned people like me who can't tan ever turn red and for another thing because it is a frickin' racial pejorative. Anyone who believes it is an honorific is the worst kind of rationalizer.

I have met a lot of American Indians and I've never met one who would be cool with this. The polls are almost certainly biased by "I have the blood of a Cherokee Princess," phenomenon. Many otherwise white people are dying to believe that their lineage is touched by exotic intrigue. Heck, I've heard this rumor about my own background and I sure as heck keep it to myself because it's probably not true and because it's not my culture to appropriate.
posted by Skwirl at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


You ever get the feeling the team is just banking on Native Americans fading away as their solution?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:49 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


We call the NFL team the Upper Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Peoples, or the UPDBIPs for short.
posted by slkinsey at 3:55 PM on July 2, 2013


DirtyOldTown: Absolutely I do.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:55 PM on July 2, 2013


How about they change their name to the Radskins? The new mascot could be a glowing, green-skinned person.
posted by Redfield at 4:07 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


How about "The Washington Racists" as a team name replacement? (I think the people using alternative names to describe the team should adopt that one)
posted by el io at 5:30 PM on July 2 [+] [!]


Is it wrong that I'd love a team jersey from this alternate team?

yes, of course it is, what's the matter with me
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:08 PM on July 2, 2013


The high school where I live (but didn't attend) is the Norskies. I can't decide whether it's hilarious or offensive.
posted by altopower at 4:09 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just change it to the SurprisinglyDiverseSkinColorsNotThatYouShouldSeeRaceOhAndWeDontAllLiveOnReservationsYouKnowDoYouEvenReadMyTumblr?
posted by michaelh at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2013


And for a different perspective, the five (!) schools in Oklahoma that still use this mascot should be particularly ashamed of themselves.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:16 PM on July 2, 2013


Fighting, Drinking, Ignorant Irish.

I'm not offended by the name "Fighting Irish," but am by the mascot's usual visual. It is based on the drunken, aggressive, less-than-human portrayal of the Irish in racist editorial cartoons of British and American newspapers of the 1800s. Am I being too sensitive as a member of a now accepted, even privileged, group in the US? Maybe; I'm willing to accept that and let it go.

But yeah, Redskins is obviously over the line.
posted by Morrigan at 4:21 PM on July 2, 2013


I like sports, so there are some things I force myself to miss
Like I never met an athlete I like, and hockey in Texas
But when it comes to Native American nicknamed teams
Even within the context of sports it's awful and mean

And you'll go "wah wah wah, you're so PC"
And I will say "wait"
My my my, how have the tables turned so that being a fucking prick is a desirable trait?

While we're on the subject of changing team names
There's no jazz in Utah and few lakes in LA
Just this once, give me the benefit of the doubt
The Bullets became the Wizards, too violent? Get out!

And you'll go "wah wah wah, you're so PC"
And I will say "wait"
Remind me again how it came to be that being 'the stupid American' became a desirable trait

Wouldn't it be offensive if we cheered "rah rah rah" for the Carolina Negroes
With our beat box cheer in our fake foam afros?
Or if the Minnesota Vikes became the New York Kikes
With dollar bills on their helmets cause that's what they like, you know?

"Atom, what about the Saints, Angels, Padres too?
Ain't that the same thing for Christians that's offending you?"

When there's a Jesus Christ Mascot hot dog shooting crucifix thing
Nailed to a cross, dying to save the team
You'll be right, you'll be right
But until then
You're not right

So what's your take on the Washington Redskins, what's your take on the Cleveland Indians?
What's your take on the Washington Redskins, what's your take on the Cleveland Indians?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:23 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, please try and discuss this stuff with a little more substance or skip the thread.]
posted by cortex at 4:24 PM on July 2, 2013


Yeah, if the grand chief of two Huron tribes are good with a team being called the Hurons, I'm not going to say they're wrong, and that's quite different than a team called Redskins. But I'd be pretty aghast at a German team called the Kikes with an "affectionate" stereotyped Jew as the mascot, and I don't see how this is different.

It's like that weird "which word is worse, the n word or cracker?" discussion that seems to have popped up out of nowhere. I don't know, the word you won't even say out loud? That seems like the word that is much worse.
posted by jeather at 4:24 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


While we're at it, the Chicago Blackhawks should probably stop hiding their racism behind the story (true or not) that the team's founder named the club after the 86th Infantry Division (the "Black Hawk Division"), in which he had served in WWI (which itself had taken the name "in honor" of the vanquished Sauk chief), especially in light of the racist imagery on the club's sweater (both the Indian head on the front and the ridiculous crossed tomahawks on the shoulders).

How is simply the image of a Native American racist? As for the truth of the story, the owner was an officer of that division and purchased the team a few years after the war.

The other thing is this--when a specific person is the named honorific of the team, how do you handle that?

The other question is do the current residents of Sparta have a claim against the Spartans? Persons descended from the Trojans?

Redskins is racist as shit. So is "Braves" because it is a name that was never self-applied. Not sure about Seminoles or the Fighting Sioux of ND State.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:30 PM on July 2, 2013


Have you honestly managed somehow to convince yourself that the Civil Rights movement wasn't about basic human dignity?

The struggles of Indigenous peoples in the Americas (and elsewhere), while they share much common ground with the broader Civil Rights movement, are also distinctive in many ways. Patrick Wolfe wrote an excellent article [pdf] about this back in 2006 that bears reading by anyone interested in the issue.

A right to political and cultural dignity commensurate with equality as citizens is a big area of shared territory. A right to cultural autonomy and sovereignty -- including a right to control the ways in which they are represented in public culture -- is at the core of more radicalized views one will find to be a widespread "Native American perspective" on these matters.

One effect of this is that only the broadest of slurs are available for the taking by institutionalized white power structures like sports franchises and leagues or Hollywood's movie industry. The more specific references have become forms of cultural property, increasingly (although VW did name a car the "Touareg" recently, it's hard to imagine a new model being introduced called the "Chevy Akimel O'odham.") In effect, the old slurs have become abandoned ethnonyms, or reclaimed signs of identity (listen to Native hiphop music for a lot of references to sports logos and team names and a lot of play with the slurs).

Basically, the reason a lot of Native Americans might not seem to care is because Fuck You Racist Assholes, not because "it doesn't bother me."

Without meaning to diminish any other group's experience of genocide, slavery, and displacement, the experience of Indigenous Americans (both continents) is both fresh to modern memory, and resilient in its lasting genocidal effects, in ways that American society, at least, is pretty cavalier about not much noticing or caring about. Things have certainly started to look better of late and in general in some respects. But imagine any other group's image being used the way Native images are used to advertise or brand or as a commodity in contexts that directly monetize the effects of displacement and genocide, and there'd be an uproar.
posted by spitbull at 4:39 PM on July 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


I wonder whether Dan Snyder's resistance on changing the Redskins name makes it more likely that D.C. area fans will be more accepting of the name change. Even guys who proudly think of themselves as politically incorrect might support the name change if only to spite the unfailingly dickish Dan Snyder.
posted by jonp72 at 4:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is simply the image of a Native American racist?

Because it's being used as a mascot in a way that is directly informed by a culture riddled with systemic foundational racism. Because we do not honor the actual history of the people, instead reducing them to a cartoon that has it's roots in a time when that same cartoonish belittling of an entire culture was used a justification for outright genocide.

I think the name is shameful and wrong. Since the team represents our nations capitol, they should be forced to keep it forever. Just as a reminder to all that we are indeed the villains in this story.

I take the attitude that if one were to make a list of things to be pissed off about, it would a) be a very long list and b) this would be near the bottom of the list. Which doesn't make it right, but should serve to give some perspective as to just how fucked up everything above it on the list is. It's very much in "this knob goes to 11" category.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:55 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


How is simply the image of a Native American racist?

Chief Wahoo

Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak ("Black Hawk")

Chicago Blackhawks
posted by notyou at 4:58 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just found out my high school's team is (still) called The Redmen.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:00 PM on July 2, 2013


Adding to notyou's list: the Red Raiders mascot of Wauwatosa East in Wisconsin, before the ban on such, was really horrible. I teach at a nearby university, and have been boggled for years by my (very very white) students' difficulty in perceiving anything wrong with this image.
posted by DrMew at 5:06 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is simply the image of a Native American racist?

Maybe because it's a gross stereotype which attempts to mockingly consolidate the diverse heritage of over 550 federally recognized tribes in one hideous grinning caricature?
posted by elizardbits at 5:09 PM on July 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Like, to even suggest that one image can inoffensively represent the entire spectrum which comprises "Native Americans" is just so fucking awful and ignorant that I literally cannot even.
posted by elizardbits at 5:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


In a way, I'm having a hard time seeing why the assumption is made that team names like "Redskins" or "Chiefs" or "Braves" are automatically racist or negative. You'd think that with team names like "Wolverines" or "Bears" or "Vikings", the teams are going, "Yeah, that's fierce, that's an image I can get behind!" So with the Redskins or Braves names, it would follow that the teams are like, "Fierce warriors; brave, resourceful fighters, yeah!" and not going "Here's a group I hate, let's name ourselves after that!"
posted by xedrik at 5:13 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


JESUS fuck. There is no argument here.

It is a racial slur of the highest order.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:14 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like, to even suggest that one image can inoffensively represent the entire spectrum which comprises "Native Americans" is just so fucking awful and ignorant that I literally cannot even.

That is absolutely not what the Blackhawk's logo is meant to represent. It's (allegedly) meant to refer to an individual.

Doesn't mean that it isn't racist, but I think there's a clear difference between that and the Redskins.
posted by graphnerd at 5:15 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Washington team should be The Waterboarders.

No? All right, let's get right down to the nitty gritty: The Testes. The Spermatozoa. We already have some Vikings, how about Huns? Thugs? Assassins?

You can tell I'm not a football fan, can't you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:15 PM on July 2, 2013


I would totally support a team called the Visigoths. Or the Vandals.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:23 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My alma mater is on here. They tried to change the name to the Rangers when I was in high school, but a bunch of alumni had a fit and yelled about tradition and then we didn't change it. We also had two incredibly racist fiberglass statue-ish versions of our mascot which got lifted overheard after each touchdown.

Also, Brian Orakpo went to my high school and now plays for Washington. It's pretty fucking shameful that he's played for two different teams with this mascot. Ugh.
posted by vakker at 5:29 PM on July 2, 2013


TheWhiteSkull: Or the Vandals.

The University of Idaho has already taken the Vandals name, and I bet someone somewhere has already taken Visigoths.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2013


A little off topic, but while I find myself agreeing that "redskins" is clearly a slur (the focus is literally on a poor describer of skin color) I am hesitant to classify anything that stereotypically condenses some culture as offensive.

Can a caricature of any group be inoffensive? what are the requirements for that?
posted by mangasm at 5:33 PM on July 2, 2013


"My college (Eastern Michigan University) nickname was the Hurons, named after the river that ran next to the campus, which was, of course, named after the Huron tribe that once lived in the area. A number of years ago, due to the same claims of racism, the name was changed to the Eagles. Ironically there is now a movement to change the name back, supported by the Chief of the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma and former Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis of the Huron-Wendat Tribe of Quebec.

The University lost substantial revenues withheld by alum who didn't approve of the change. The band recently brought the logo back, wearing it on their uniforms (under the lapel).
"

As a fellow alum, this bugged the shit out of me because the natural mascot for Eastern Michigan University is a fucking EMU. Especially since we're never going to be good at anything (except cross country and diving, where we won championships), so we might as well follow the Banana Slugs into novelty merch sales.

Eastern Michigan Emus! Please!
posted by klangklangston at 5:39 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Instead of changing the name, change the Indian. I look forward to creative new fight songs involving curry and tech support.
posted by dr_dank at 5:40 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just going to leave this superb piece by Freddie deBoer here.

Summary: Infant mortality is around 33% higher among Native Americans than in the general population. Native infants die from SIDS at twice the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Native American kids suffer from birth defects at a 30% higher rate than the US general population.

Around half of Native American high school students either drop out or don't graduate on time. And the rate is declining, not improving. In eighth grade, self-reported expected college attendance is around half. In eighth grade, most kids have already lost hope!! Native kids tend to do between 15 and 20% worse than the general population on learning measures like the NAEP.

Once they leave school, the picture doesn't get any better. The poverty rate among Native Americans is 25%. Unemployment on reservations runs as high as 69%. Native Americans on reservations have household incomes less than half of the general population.

Over 1 in 10 Native American adult deaths are alcohol-related. Also among adults and older children, the suicide rate for Native Americans is 90% higher than the general population. Suicide is the 8th-leading cause of death among Native Americans; second among those 18-35. 15% - 15%! - of Native highschoolers reported thinking seriously about suicide in the previous 12 months. The life expectancy of a Native man is 71 years - 6 less than his white male counterpart. Death rates among Native American women have increased 20% in the past five years alone.

Given the tremendous institutionalized disadvantages that Native Americans suffer, literally from birth to death, arguing over a fucking football team's name seems like the height of liberal folly.

Honestly, I sometimes wonder what the point even is. You're not going to convince a die-hard Skins, or Noles, or Indians, or Braves fan that their team's name should be changed. You know that, I know that. So we have two options: bang our heads against the wall trying to do the impossible (or, alternatively, as a way to signal our progressiveness to others), or start advocating for material improvements to the actual lives of Native Americans.
posted by downing street memo at 5:41 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


How about both?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Given the tremendous institutionalized disadvantages that Native Americans suffer, literally from birth to death, arguing over a fucking football team's name seems like the height of liberal folly."

Can conservatives only care about one thing at a time? Is that why this cliche argument comes up so often? Because otherwise, it seems pretty obviously dumb, a feint away from the topic at hand, as if somehow talking about the Redskins didn't also precipitate comments about the actual state of Native Americans in America.

But since conservatives don't really care about solving any of those problems, decrying something as liberal folly just seems like disingenuous, deflecting bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on July 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


How about both?

Because one is counterproductive to the other. You don't get to have both conversations. You don't get to have a conversation about disparities in Native health, educational, and economic outcomes if you start out by talking about how someone's cherished sporting institution needs to change its name.

Progressives always, always, always start out with the symbolic shit and are shocked! when people primed by decades of conservative propaganda immediately tune out the PC police talk. You'd think that years and years of this approach failing - at least on the racial stuff - would lead to a change in tactics. Apparently not.
posted by downing street memo at 5:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But since conservatives don't really care about solving any of those problems, decrying something as liberal folly just seems like disingenuous, deflecting bullshit.

I'm not a conservative, dude.
posted by downing street memo at 5:51 PM on July 2, 2013


You don't recognize how patronizing that sounds, Downing Street memo? It is perfectly possible to confront the effects of genocide and its symbols of inferiority that justified the genocide, which is the reduction of a diverse range of people to a "savage" stereotype (that's why these names and logos aren't "honorific" even if they name positive qualities. They name negative qualities with respect to the genocidal project, which dehumanized Indigenous people as subhuman, fierce like animals, not men and women standing their ground against invasion.).

The doleful condition of some Native communities, and a range of more generalized problems, are intimately linked to the logics enshrined in the names and logos and fake dolls and car brands and airplane tails.


The Patrick Wolfe article linked above really makes the crucial case here. I highly recommend it.
posted by spitbull at 5:52 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


You mean, like making it much easier for native women to get assistance in the event of domestic violence, for starters? Or how about lifting restrictions on prosecuting non-tribe members for rape?

Maybe you shouldn't just assume that it's all smoke and no fire, hmm?
posted by zombieflanders at 5:52 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a way, I'm having a hard time seeing why the assumption is made that team names like "Redskins" or "Chiefs" or "Braves" are automatically racist or negative. You'd think that with team names like "Wolverines" or "Bears" or "Vikings", the teams are going, "Yeah, that's fierce, that's an image I can get behind!" So with the Redskins or Braves names, it would follow that the teams are like, "Fierce warriors; brave, resourceful fighters, yeah!" and not going "Here's a group I hate, let's name ourselves after that!"

That's not how racism works.

For every native who was a good warrior, there were a hundred who were good at something else. Math, art, making people laugh. Being a friend. And yet, we decided they were fierce warriors. And used that as justification for sending our armies to kill their artists, their doctors, their lazy uncles who weren't good at anything at all, but everybody liked him anyway.

And so, because we honor them for being warriors, we don't get to honor them for being programmers, or tennis champions, or investment bankers.

Racism isn't just about hate...it's anything that, even for a second, misdirects you from the truth and justifies inequality.

Falling for that misdirection doesn't make you a racist. It's like dogshit on the sidewalk. You may not have put it there, but it still stinks if you step in it. And if you're not careful, you'll go tracking it around everywhere.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:57 PM on July 2, 2013 [26 favorites]


It is perfectly possible to confront the effects of genocide and its symbols of inferiority that justified the genocide, which is the reduction of a diverse range of people to a "savage" stereotype (that's why these names and logos aren't "honorific" even if they name positive qualities. They name negative qualities with respect to the genocidal project, which dehumanized Indigenous people as subhuman, fierce like animals, not men and women standing their ground against invasion.).

I mean, fine. But when the rubber meets the road, change comes from forcing the privileged to acknowledge shared humanity, not attacks on symbols.

To me this is the core lesson of the gay rights movement: starting with ActUp, which forced people to see gays and lesbians as human beings, dying of AIDS, instead of lurid stereotypes with a disease they deserved, we've seen a progressive effort to normalize perceptions of that community. Sure, HRC goes after homophobic public figures, but that isn't all the movement does.

Obviously, the Redskins should change their fucking name. But that's the extent of give-a-fuck most modern progressives have about actual Native Americans.
posted by downing street memo at 6:02 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said this elsewhere, and I think it's a good solution:

I like the idea of calling them the Red Tails. You could have a bad-ass red-tailed hawk for the mascot and also make the uniform/colors match the Tuskegee Airmen's airplanes, with WWII-era Army Air Force insignia. Plus you get to have P-40 flyovers at the end of the national anthem.

Shit, the helmets could be painted with eyes and teeth like the nose of a fighter plane.

Most importantly, it would immediately transform them from the most racist franchise to the least. And the bigots would have to shut the fuck up because we're honoring the Armed Forces, which may be slightly inappropriate for the seat of a civilian government but we all know red-blooded Americans love to get their war on.

All problems solved.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Red Eagle: "High Above the Clouds."
(YT)
Yeah I read your books, so I know my enemy
never have your founding fathers ever been a friend to me
removal, murder, lies, slavery
I am not American, you can't erase our memories
there's rapists on your dollars, murder on your cents
everybody asking me where did the Natives went
I tell em just like this, pull your wallet out real quick
Look upon the twenty, Andrew Jackson was a bitch
Yeah, uh, that right there is funny
guess that's what they meaning when they say blood money
posted by spitbull at 6:12 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I sometimes wonder what the point even is. You're not going to convince a die-hard Skins, or Noles, or Indians, or Braves fan that their team's name should be changed. You know that, I know that

Support for the Redskins name nationally is declining. In DC, it is around 60% instead of 80% nationally. People can be convinced, and the hardcore fans may actually be easier to convince. Even so, you don't have to convince all of them. The team is a business, you only need to convince enough people that being offensive isn't good for profits anymore. I mostly discuss the name in context of sports discussions, which are already frivolous, not as a matter of political activism.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:14 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that people have a particularly hard time seeing the racism with Native mascots because they see Native Americans as historical figures. For these people, the US is post-racial 60 years post-Brown vs. BOE, so asking them to consider historical harms that occurred hundreds of years ago is just beyond them. They believe that they've never met a Native person, so they have a hard time putting a face to the issue (and I've heard of some undergrads at my institution who--in all serious--said that they thought that modern-day Native Americans wear buckskin in their daily lives). Also, as with many flipped examples of oppression, things like "The Fighting Whites" don't work well because you lose the context of (historical and current) power dynamics and social injustices perpetrated by one group against another.

Which is why I created the quiet coyote racism test©. If I would feel uncomfortable with the same idea applied to modern-day Germans and Jews, then it's racist. Now, I know that most modern-day Germans are not, themselves, antisemites. I also am aware that the vast majority of modern-day Germans were not Nazis and most do not descend from Nazis. That said, if a German high school had a baseball team called the Fighting Jews, I would feel uncomfortable with that, and I would not be convinced that they were honoring Jewish resistance in WW2. If their mascot was someone with a big nose and a skullcap, that would feel weird and essentializing.
posted by quiet coyote at 6:16 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because one is counterproductive to the other. You don't get to have both conversations

I am not clear on why not. I have had both conversation, and have supported both Native American activist movements and movements to rename sports teams. Sometimes at the same time.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Because it's being used as a mascot in a way that is directly informed by a culture riddled with systemic foundational racism. Because we do not honor the actual history of the people, instead reducing them to a cartoon that has it's roots in a time when that same cartoonish belittling of an entire culture was used a justification for outright genocide.

How familiar are you with the history of 19th Cenury America? To say there was a generalized cartoonish belittling of the Native American in 1800s America is innacurate. First, our 19th century forebears were far more acquainted with Native American culture and Native Americans than every Wikipedia-reading hipster out there today.

Second, the tragedy of Native American genocide is that there was no cartoon image. Americans knew what they were doing and spoke up. Congressmen rose in the well of the House to denounce the policy. In general, Native Americans were thought of as far more human than African slaves.

The cartoon images you talk about were products of the 1950's and mass culture. Not the 19th century, where Indian policy varied greatly, with Jackson being the worst and Grant being the best and where attitudes about Native Americans were shaped more by actual contact between Americans and Indians.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Types, part of the elimination isn't logic of genocide is the myth that "real" Native people lived "in the past." They come to stand or a shared past that way.

I plead with any doubter to do the thought experiment and substitute any other contemporary ethnic/racial slur or stereotype. You would be appalled to see egregious stereotypes of any other contemporary group treated the way Native Americans are represented.

In the nation state responsible for attempted genocide of its Indigenous residents, especially, it's a special kind of ugly.

Freedom of speech is fine. But "free" hate speech needs to be called out as such. "Redskins" is hate speech.
posted by spitbull at 6:29 PM on July 2, 2013


How is simply the image of a Native American racist?

Maybe because it's a gross stereotype which attempts to mockingly consolidate the diverse heritage of over 550 federally recognized tribes in one hideous grinning caricature?


The Blackhawk image is of a single man, Chief Black Hawk. It does not represent anyone other than the Sauk Chief.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:31 PM on July 2, 2013


Ironmouth, I'm amazed you'd say that. There are deep persistent essentializing stereotypes of all Native Americans in wide circulation in 17th century colonial America that are richly elaborated in 18th and 19th century popular and literary culture. This is exceedingly well documented in scholarly literature.

You are just 100% completely wrong.
posted by spitbull at 6:32 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll bet you a damn Buffalo nickel, in fact.
posted by spitbull at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


How familiar are you with the history of 19th Cenury America? To say there was a generalized cartoonish belittling of the Native American in 1800s America is innacurate. First, our 19th century forebears were far more acquainted with Native American culture and Native Americans than every Wikipedia-reading hipster out there today.

I'm pretty familiar with the popular representation of the Native American in the 19th century, via literature and wild west stage shows, and, unless Americans were suppressing their deep and abiding familiarity with the indigenous people of the United States, your statement is very confusing.

I mean, Little House on the Prairie is an actual memoir, and its representation of Native Americans is terrible.

You know, slave owners had much more contact with African Americans than a lot of white people nowadays, but it didn't mean that they had any actual understanding of black people. White people who have racist, genocidal worldviews can't precisely be counted on for an accurate assessment of the people they are enslaving or murdering.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:36 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Progressives always, always, always start out with the symbolic shit and are shocked! when people primed by decades of conservative propaganda immediately tune out the PC police talk. You'd think that years and years of this approach failing - at least on the racial stuff - would lead to a change in tactics. Apparently not.

This is not consonant with my experience. People primed by decades of conservative propaganda also tune out the idea that people who aren't them are also human, whether you challenge them on matters symbolic or concrete. Even if I shut up and let people toss around gendered slurs like "cunt" and "bitch", I still experience plenty of more concrete aspects of sexism in my daily life. I have had no luck making headway persuading dyed-in-the-wool reactionary assholes that all women really are humans, regardless of how not-PC I was.

(If you want more specifics: in my twenties, I repeatedly tried to win over various Proud Chauvinists with the we're-all-friends-using-sexist-slurs-together approach. It really doesn't work. At best, I was included under exceptionalism: "Women are dumb things made for me to sex, but Gingerest's all right.")

It's all part of the same struggle. If I have to pick one thing to fix, of course I choose rescuing the dying babies and their moms. But I don't have to pick one thing. I have a big neoprimate brain, and I can keep track of small and large dehumanizations at the same time.
posted by gingerest at 6:41 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ironmouth, I'm amazed you'd say that. There are deep persistent essentializing stereotypes of all Native Americans in wide circulation in 17th century colonial America that are richly elaborated in 18th and 19th century popular and literary culture. This is exceedingly well documented in scholarly literature.

You are just 100% completely wrong.


Really? So the only way that Americans of the 19th century thought of Indians was stereotypically? No. Look at the actual history. We are far more stereotypical regarding Indians than our ancestors were. Hell, most people in America today know nothing of Native Americans. It is 20th and 21st century America which has taken up these stereotypes--Tonto, etc. Look at the literature of the 19th century, their mass culture--way more nuanced (Cooper) than how they are depicted in film today. There may have been stereotypes then, but they were comparisons, shadows of the real thing. Today all we have are stereotypes.

Here's how I see it:

Redskins--Racist
Chinks--Racist (my dad lived 10 miles from a high school team called the Chinks).
Blackhawks--not racist--this is a single man--to use the German/Jews test suggested above, are the Einstien's a racist name?
Braves--Racist. Indians never used that word.
Indians--racist. Entire race.

Where I'm not sure is the Seminoles, the Fighting Sioux, or the Spartans. Are these racist names? Them seem to honor a specific tribe or group. Is that wrong or right? If so why?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This really isn't a "liberal" issue, and to call it that is just more racism, dismissing it as "identity politics." Native American is not an "identity." It's a condition of political sovereignty and significant and widely recognized historical grievance against the settler colonial state that broke every treaty it ever made.

I don't care what typical liberals do or think, or more to the point, most Native Americans I know (which is a large number, given that I work in several Native communities and with many Native colleagues on issues of cultural rights and sovereignty and cultural survival) *don't care all that much what non-Native people think.*

Civil Rights (including the right to dignity) are not a matter for majority decision.
posted by spitbull at 6:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Really? So the only way that Americans of the 19th century thought of Indians was stereotypically? No. Look at the actual history. We are far more stereotypical regarding Indians than our ancestors were. Hell, most people in America today know nothing of Native Americans.

Either you're being evasive or you are purposefully changing your point or I don't get what you're saying.

I did not say "the only way." You said the stereotypes are of recent origin.

The captivity narrative story, to name just one example, in which a white woman or more rarely man is abducted by Indian "savages" and converted to seeing the nobility of the "savage" (or raped, or both) cuts from the puritans to Dances With Wolves.

But I forgot what arguing with lawyers was like. You said a blatant falsehood above. Now you're redefining the terms of your assertion.
posted by spitbull at 6:54 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


No. Look at the actual history.

It would help if you gave us actual links rather than presenting an unsupported statement as fact. I'm not even sure who you see as an "average" American in the 19th century -- the Native population was massively relocated to reservations during this century, and did not enjoy freedom of movement, so unless an American was encroaching on tribal land or a reservation, their actual experience tended to be extremely limited.

I'd have almost all of them beat. For instance, I grew up in Minneapolis, which has the largest urban Native population in the world and was where AIM started. I dated a Native American woman for a year and a half. I have done work with Indian-owned Casinos and have never had a period in my life when I did not have Native friends and coworkers.

Compare me to my ancestors, bog Irish right off the boat in New York or New Orleans. I would say that my experience of actual Native Americans is vastly larger than theirs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:56 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we were having this bluntly simplistic a debate about African American or LGBT stereotypes there would be a flame-seared MetaTalk thread by now.

So depressing.
posted by spitbull at 6:59 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Because one is counterproductive to the other. You don't get to have both conversations. You don't get to have a conversation about disparities in Native health, educational, and economic outcomes if you start out by talking about how someone's cherished sporting institution needs to change its name."

No, it's not. Not everyone shares your failure of imagination. We can actually talk about both right here, in this very thread.

"I mean, fine. But when the rubber meets the road, change comes from forcing the privileged to acknowledge shared humanity, not attacks on symbols. "

o_O

And how do we get people to recognize shared humanity if not through symbols?

To me this is the core lesson of the gay rights movement: starting with ActUp, which forced people to see gays and lesbians as human beings, dying of AIDS, instead of lurid stereotypes with a disease they deserved, we've seen a progressive effort to normalize perceptions of that community. Sure, HRC goes after homophobic public figures, but that isn't all the movement does.

That's not what Act Up did. Act Up was explicitly about angry, confrontational liberation tactics, which replaced the assimilationist mode of earlier gay activism. You're thinking of the AIDS quilt.

And it's not HRC that really goes after homophobic public figures; that's GLAAD.

Maybe you don't really know what you're talking about, and your Slate article pitch tirade against PC liberals suffers from a lot of bad premises and mistaken notions, leading to a dumb conclusion.

Obviously, the Redskins should change their fucking name. But that's the extent of give-a-fuck most modern progressives have about actual Native Americans."

Hey, yeah, thanks for telling us all how much we care about things? How about this, you're stomping into a MeFi conversation to hector folks instead of doing anything about the plight of Native Americans (at least open up another tab for a Leonard Peltier facebook petition, dude). Because obviously, you can't talk about a symbol reinforcing the legitimacy of a power system that inflicts structural violence on Native Americans while simultaneously opposing that system in any meaningful way, and certainly talking about these issues broadly never encourages awareness, let alone changing people's minds.
posted by klangklangston at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


downing street memo: "Because one is counterproductive to the other. You don't get to have both conversations. You don't get to have a conversation about disparities in Native health, educational, and economic outcomes if you start out by talking about how someone's cherished sporting institution needs to change its name."

There are not two conversations. There is only one conversation. The conversation is about the intrinsic dignity of the human soul and respect thereof. And if we don't start out with that recognition - the recognition that the debate over whether people should be reduced to slurs is the same as the debate over whether people deserve an equal place in society - then this whole thing, this whole progressive project, is completely pointless anyway, because it will never succeed.
posted by koeselitz at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I bow out now before I get heated. If anyone wants one literature review, I'll come back tomorrow and drop a few reading suggestions. When people debate complex topics with dense public discourses and long histories, it helps not to revert to (or start from) a position of historical ignorance. These issues are not written on a blank, contemporary slate.

I'm too close to the subject to debate it cooly.

On preview, klangklangston for the three pointer. Cuz you know Indians like basketball more than football anyway.
posted by spitbull at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2013


"ative American is not an "identity." It's a condition of political sovereignty and significant and widely recognized historical grievance against the settler colonial state that broke every treaty it ever made."

I'd disagree with you there, but that's because I tend to think of political sovereignty as also an identity. A couple examples: Athenian contemporary identification with democracy; or the "spreading democracy" rhetoric used by Bush et al. to justify the Iraq War.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not even sure who you see as an "average" American in the 19th century -- the Native population was massively relocated to reservations during this century, and did not enjoy freedom of movement, so unless an American was encroaching on tribal land or a reservation, their actual experience tended to be extremely limited.

An elaboration of this point - the guy who's still honored with his portrait on the US $20 bill is the guy who engineered those heavily lethal (some say genocidal) relocations. Speaking of intolerable symbols.
posted by gingerest at 7:08 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, honestly I'd support getting Jackson off the $20. Maybe that's the bitter compromise I could accept — the GOP is always trying to get Reagan on the dime, but I'd take Reagan over Jackson on the $20.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to live a block from Al Franken, who is a pretty typical modern progressive. A soon as he was elected to the Senate, he got on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He has pushed for improvement in schools for Native Americans, improvements in healthcare for Natives, has spearheaded discussions on human trafficking that preys on Native Americans, and worked to improve addressing crime on reservations. He's pushed hard to investigate corruption in the Indian Health Service.

I daresay liberals address this issue more than they are given credit for.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:13 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Blackhawk image is of a single man, Chief Black Hawk. It does not represent anyone other than the Sauk Chief.
Black Hawk and his party were released on May 30, 1833. Prior to their return to Rock Island, they were taken on a tour of large cities on the East Coast, where they were a media sensation. People turned out in droves to see the famous Black Hawk and his warriors. It was during this time that Black Hawk was erroneously tagged a "chief." This was due to a lack of understanding of Sauk politics. The American public reasoned that anyone powerful enough to wage war against the United States must be a chief. The misnomer continues to this day. Though a great warrior and military tactician, Black Hawk was never a chief.
posted by notyou at 7:17 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just one more thing for now: here's a good blog to start with: Adrienne Keene's "Native Appropriations." It has extensive discussions of the logo and team mascot and name issues, with a lot of smart Native voices in the comments.
posted by spitbull at 7:19 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where I'm not sure is the Seminoles, the Fighting Sioux, or the Spartans. Are these racist names?

Do the tribes approve of these names and share in the income from them? (I don't really get the relevance of the Spartans, who are not a group that we've tried to kill off in the past two millennia.) That's where I'd draw the line. I know that any given group isn't a monolith, and some people in the group might approve of a team name and others might not.
posted by jeather at 7:28 PM on July 2, 2013


A mascot is (usually) chosen to represent some competitive attribute, and I don't mind the fact that there are teams called the Fighting Irish everywhere, and Highlanders and Gaels, stereotypes for courage in battle. I don't see these as any more a slur on those parts of my heritage than I did the Indians.
-Repack Rider

I've noticed that people have a particularly hard time seeing the racism with Native mascots because they see Native Americans as historical figures.

-quiet coyote

A good point and you're also not the first one to point out that absence Mr. Coyote.

"American Indian students also reported lower personal and community worth when they are exposed to common characterizations of American Indians…Although these studies cannot address the process by which these undermining effects occur, the studies do suggest that the effects are not due to negative associations with mascots. We suggest that the negative effects of exposure to these images may, in part, be due to the relative absence of more contemporary positive images of American Indians in American society. Specifically, American Indian mascots and other common American Indian representations do not cue associations that are relevant or useful for students’ identity construction."
posted by john-a-dreams at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2013


Support for the Redskins name nationally is declining. In DC, it is around 60% instead of 80% nationally. People can be convinced, and the hardcore fans may actually be easier to convince. Even so, you don't have to convince all of them. The team is a business, you only need to convince enough people that being offensive isn't good for profits anymore. I mostly discuss the name in context of sports discussions, which are already frivolous, not as a matter of political activism.

Yes, and I also think jonp72 is right on the money: Dan Snyder's popularity is about on par with King Joffrey's. If he's that adamant about refusing a (let's be honest, inevitable) name change, then that might be enough to sway some hardcore fans in favor of it.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2013


If it's stupid to talk about changing a racist name, it's even dumber to talk about talking about changing a racist name.
posted by leopard at 8:25 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Way late and barely on topic:

My high school's sports teams were the Lords, well, the boys were, the girls of course were naturally...


THE LORDETTES.
posted by Cosine at 8:46 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll stay out of this but I noticed a name drop for the FSU Seminoles asking if that usage was any different.

I've commented on this specific aspect of things before on metafilter and figured a link would suffice to perhaps make things a little less muddy, on that small part of the front at least. Rock Steady also mentioned it above as well.

So, yea, complicated issue for alot of folks.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:49 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "Where I'm not sure is the Seminoles, the Fighting Sioux, or the Spartans. Are these racist names? Them seem to honor a specific tribe or group. Is that wrong or right? If so why?"

Yes, the names of sports teams indicate our honor for specific groups. It's clear that this is a marker of honor among us when we look at other sports teams such as the Detroit Elementary School Teachers and the Louisiana Vietnam Veterans. The feeling on this among my Native friends is a general sense of relief and even joy that, rather than choosing to honor their peoples in some insignificant way - by making their experience central to our culture, for instance, or by choosing to remember their history more clearly as essential to the American past - we instead decided to go whole hog and brand them with the clearest imprimatur of deep respect and gratitude which we can imagine: we made crappy ahistorical cartoons of their ancestors' faces and slapped them on the back of sports jerseys.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stanford, of course, when faced with similar objections, changed its mascot from an Indian to cardinal. Not the bird, the color.

And back in the days of the Stanford Indians, the University of California would sing the California Indian Song (We're Goin to Scalp You Stanford.)

Daily Cal article from 2000 (this century) with the word "offensive" in scare quotes and the lyrics.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:00 PM on July 2, 2013


Where I'm not sure is the Seminoles, the Fighting Sioux, or the Spartans. Are these racist names? Them seem to honor a specific tribe or group. Is that wrong or right? If so why?

Someone's already tackled the Seminoles and someone else pointed out that the Spartans are irrelevant here, so let me discuss the Fighting Sioux. I actually mentioned this briefly last year, when we talked about Chief Wahoo.

The short answer is that the NCAA found the logo and mascot to be offensive and the logo was ultimately banned, but at least one of the local tribes was actually pretty upset about this because they felt their heritage was being honored, not disparaged.

I'll also note that the ultimate banning of the logo/mascot didn't happen until after:
a) Ralph Engelstad spent $100 million dollars making sure that removing the Sioux logo would be a pain in the ass
b) a contentious multi-year battle that nearly ended with a constitutional crisis but instead ended with the people of the state voting to discard the logo. I voted with the majority on that one, as did many UND folks who were simply tired of the university being a political football (really, UND's known for their hockey, don'tchaknow).

The process of retiring the logo was no more easy than some of the 'Redskin' high schools have found it to be, which is a little sad because Grand Forks is actually mentioned in the Capital News article due to the fact that one of their high schools changed its name from the Redskins to something inoffensive back in the early '90s. People occasionally still wear the old logo gear, twenty years later, just to give you an idea of how difficult a decision like this can be for people to accept.

So here again we have a reminder that Native Americans, including in this case multiple tribes who are part of the group under discussion, are not monolithic and do not speak with one voice. We also have a good reminder that though a lot of people can feel really strongly about an issue (to the tune of $100 million dollars, FFS), ultimately the better choice is to retire the controversial logo/mascot.
posted by librarylis at 10:18 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Blackhawk image is of a single man, Chief Black Hawk. It does not represent anyone other than the Sauk Chief.

You are wrong. The Blackhawk name is second hand based on that man; it came from a military unit that was named after the man. The image used for the logo of the franchise bears little or no resemblance to Black Hawk, the historical person.

Imagine someone named a sports team after George Washington, but had this as their logo. Is this still a tribute to the historical figure?

Imagine the Chicago Obamas basketball team, except with a logo that looks like this. Would this seem like a sincere tribute or a racist gesture to you? Because that is basically what the Blackhawks logo is.


Blackhawks--not racist--this is a single man--to use the German/Jews test suggested above, are the Einstien's a racist name?

What if the Einsteins had this logo?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Notyou: just gonna point out that either way it's "a single person," so i think the point stands (regardless of whether or not he was a chief)

I'm still curious if a caricature of any group can be inoffensive, and if so, what requirements that caricature (or that group) must meet . . .
posted by mangasm at 11:01 PM on July 2, 2013


I'm still curious if a caricature of any group can be inoffensive, and if so, what requirements that caricature (or that group) must meet . . .

A caricature of any group can be inoffensive...or offensive. Or somewhere in the middle. The notion that there has to be some bright-line rule that things either fall on one side or the other of is kind of ridiculous and lazy. All it says is "I don't want to have to do the work required to understand how people with different viewpoints, cultures and histories can have different reactions to things I find harmless."

The truth is, some things can be both harmless and horrible at the same time. The only thing separating the two is how much empathy, goodwill and understanding you personally feel like bringing to the situation.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:18 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


billyfleetwood: Do you have any examples of ones that adequately accommodate enough different people's viewpoints, cultures, etc.? Or do you have examples of caricatures that are inoffensive, totally offensive, and somewhere in the middle? I don't think that anyone posting here would quite agree where the caricatures in the OP fall on that spectrum.

I only read some of the responses, but a number seemed to take particular issue with the condensing of cultures into a single 'mascot.' Obviously "redskin" is offensive since it focuses (literally) on a group's skin color as the primary describer of a group and was a term utilized solely by those outside of the group as a derogatory term, but why is a warrior inappropriate because it does not include every imaginable profession of a group of people? Is every caricature of a native american going to be necessarily offensive? Does it have to do with the status of the group (including their history of appropriation by outsiders, being a minority group, etc.)? If it has to do with the status of the group, do we categorically prohibit any caricatures of groups that fit that bill? What if the group itself produces the caricature?

I'm genuinely curious as to what sort of human mascot can avoid being a stereotype of something. Some responses claimed that Amerindian-sanctioned mascots of this sort would be OK, but others said that certain mascots are wrong regardless of who thinks they're OK.

I didn't say anything about a "bright-line rule," and I might think that throwing our hands up in the air about determining these things is equally lazy . . .


How can something be harmless and horrible at the same time, truthfully? I can only imagine if you mean to use 'harm' as only accounting for physical harm or something. I guess in your last two sentences I'm not sure exactly how you're defining harmful or horrible. If something is horrible it would (on the surface) seem to be harmful in some way. I'm not sure I understand your point. By your last sentence do you meant that intentions (empathy, goodwill, understanding) determine the difference between whether or not something one does is harmless or horrible?
posted by mangasm at 11:34 PM on July 2, 2013


Hmmm yes well one difference is that the Irish weren't slaughtered en masse by the non-Native Americans.

But the Irish were slaughtered en masse by the English, who were the originators of most of the original emigrants to the Colonies...so I think there is actually more equivalency than you might think.
posted by corb at 12:55 AM on July 3, 2013


"We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
—George Preston Marshall; founder of the Washington Redskins, 1961

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
—Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, 2013


They should change their name to the Washington Foreskins. "No jews allowed."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:23 AM on July 3, 2013


The English don't have a team called The Irish. There is no equivalence.
posted by gingerest at 2:24 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Certainly one of the best ways to avoid any possible label of racism past, present or future, is by using a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk as your mascot.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:22 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even if the English did have a team called The Irish (or the Celtics), its not equivalent. While the Brits were brutal to the Irish until recently, there was never a campaign of overt genocide, nor do the Irish live on tiny little patches of their historical territory, and the Irish (of whom I am partly one) did exceptionally well as colonials (albeit thanks to the British sending them out to populate an empire) so that there are now more Irish outside Ireland than within its borders who have experienced very little discrimination relative to the indigenous people they so often displaced.

Show me one other currently relevant group (ie, not Vikings) whose generic racialized image (in silhouette, it's so iconic) is used the way Native images have been used. We don't tolerate Sambos and Mamies or lawn ornaments of sleepy Mexicans in big hats or ugly caricatures of Jews. You can't buy souvenirs of vanished European Jewry in German gift shops. Swishy gay characters played for mockery are increasingly intolerable. But silent, stalwart, generic Indian Braves are everywhere. You can buy Chinese knockoffs of sacred Native American artifacts from white-owned gift shops in Indian Country. When I see a Dream Catcher hanging from a rear view mirror I wonder how it would go over if a non-Jewish German driver had a tiny Torah scroll hanging from his mirror, on his Mercedes Juden perhaps, as he barreled down the autobahn that cuts through what was once sovereign Jewish territory. Maybe on his way to the quaint village of Jews Head. Or a flight on a Lufthansa jet with a silhouette of an elderly anonymous rabbi on the tail, to go see his Resistin' Yids (not going to try to come up with a suitable German version) play in the championship.

See? Gross, right? Hideous, even, right?

That's what it feels like for a lot of Native people to live within the state that tried to eliminate their ancestors and continues to abuse and disrespect their sovereignty and appropriate their history and culture for the glory of the genocidal state and its white-controlled institutions, like pro football.

Sorry to Godwin, but we are in fact talking about equivalent state-sponsored genocidal projects here, so it is not hyperbolic to make the comparison. The US government (and all New World colonial powers before the 1789) had systematic policies in place for nearly 200 years designed to reduce the number of Indians and assimilate the remainder. Some argue it still does. And pace Ironmouth, but the stereotyped essentialist caricatures of Native people as noble or pathetic (doesn't matter which), vanishing, pre-modern, doomed but brave, etc. are *racist* in origin and intent, and far older than the republic. Those caricatures did not emerge first in the 1950s. That is utter total bullshit.

The images and slurs and pseudo-respectful essentialisms and Noble Savagery and Boy Scout invented Indian lore and team mascots and weapon names are all of a piece with poverty, alcoholism, suicide, depression, and cultural trauma on a scale most white Americans can't even imagine. They come from the same place of white supremacism and genocidal history.

If you support the name "Redskins," you are an apologist for crimes against humanity. Simple as that. If you are an American of non-Native ancestry, you live on stolen land. You benefit from genocide. Simple as that. Show some fucking respect, at least, even if you can't reverse history.

And you should also be aware that a far higher proportion of Native Americans than other groups have fought and died for the US in foreign wars. No group, ironically, is more patriotic than Indians. In spite of it all, Indians have fought to preserve the country that fought to eliminate them. That ought to count for a right to demand an end to public acceptance of overt racial slurs as the names of national sports franchises.
posted by spitbull at 3:29 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


But the Irish were slaughtered en masse by the English, who were the originators of most of the original emigrants to the Colonies...so I think there is actually more equivalency than you might think.

The Fighting Irish name originates from a Catholic school in Indiana and issupposedly named after one of the Presidents, an Irishman who was a chaplain in the Union Army in the Civil War, and was made the official name by a 2nd-generation immigrant from County Cork. So unless you can prove that the Redskins were founded by DC-area Native Americans who named the team to honor one of their leaders instead of by a racist white man from West Virginia, no, there isn't more equivalency.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:38 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Indeed, historically many of The Fighting' Irish *were* Irish. Ironically now they are mostly African American, of course. Or Samoan.

Quick: Name one Native American football star who isn't Jim Thorpe. (How many even know his name? There should be stadia named after the Indian Jackie Robinson who survived the brutal Carlisle boarding school to become one of the most celebrated athletes of his era.)
posted by spitbull at 4:00 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And you know, if a majority of Irish Americans objected to "The Fighting' Irish" as a name, I'd support eliminating that name too. No group deserves to be mocked by racialized stereotypes in public culture. No one wants that for their own ethnic or cultural or political identity.
posted by spitbull at 4:16 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Notyou: just gonna point out that either way it's "a single person," so i think the point stands (regardless of whether or not he was a chief)

The point is that when "honoring" a single person, the folks who are doing the honoring can't get basic facts about that person right because stereotypes and assumptions get in the way. They aren't honoring "Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak"; they're elevating a caricature.

Let's look a little closer at the 86th Infantry.

Notice the insignia? It's a silhouette of a bird, with the initials "BH" overlaid on a shield. If the Chicago Blackhawks' founder was in fact paying tribute to his military service with his choice of club name and insignia, how did "Chief Black Hawk," who is not found in his military unit's actual insignia, wind up on the club's sweater rather than the bird and shield?

Here's some history of the insignia and the nickname*:
The division insignia consists of a small red shield with the initials "B" and "H" in black superimposed upon a design of a blackhawk which, in turn, is superimposed upon a red shield. The personnel of the division was originally drawn from the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, formerly the territory inhabited by Chief Black Hawk and his tribe. The insignia is a tribute to the pioneers of this sector, and in recognition of their prowess in battles with the Indians. The bird symbolizes keenness, cunning, and tenacity.
Of course, that's from a World War 2 Order of Battle listing for the unit, and the Army historians of 1945 may have been short on facts, but it's not looking good for the Blackhawks' official accounting of the genesis of their team name and insignia. The most authoritative accounting of the nickname and the insignia indicates that it is meant to honor those who vanquished Black Hawk, not Black Hawk himself.

If you scroll around the Army's WW2 Order of Battle, you'll find that all the units had nicknames and insignia, many which were derived from the geography and history of the region from which the unit's members were drafted. So, for example, the 84th Infantry was known as the "Lincoln Division" or the "Railsplitters" because its draftees were from Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, the "Lincoln states". Or the 83rd Infantry, which was the "Ohio" or "Thunderbolt" division, because they were formed in Ohio.

I suppose that when the 86th Infantry was formed, it's leadership cast about for an appropriate nickname that referenced regional history, in a martially inspiring way, hit upon Black Hawk and crafted the menacing hawk imagery (rather than the cigar store Indian) to go with. That's not honoring anybody. That's appropriation.
posted by notyou at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't get to have both conversations. You don't get to have a conversation about disparities in Native health, educational, and economic outcomes if you start out by talking about how someone's cherished sporting institution needs to change its name.

If this statement was true you'd have been unable to state it in this thread.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:51 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know why the Blackhawks can't be a *black hawk* and do away with that racist mess of a logo. The tomahawks could turn into hockey sticks.

It's embarassing to me, as a Chicagoan, that we haven't changed that shit, or that a large majority even want to.

Also, I wonder why teams don't alter their logo more often -it has to generate more merchandise sales over time.
posted by agregoli at 7:56 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"When I see a Dream Catcher hanging from a rear view mirror I wonder"

… if they sleep in their car.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Late to the party as usual, but as stated upthread, Native American support* for Indian mascots is complicated, and even the institutions themselves aren't fully convinced.

*Native Appropriations author is not Seminole but is Native American

Finally, if its racist you want, I give you Jacksonville, FL, home of the majority black Robert E. Lee High School (mascot: The Generals, feeders include J.E.B. Stuart Middle School) and, incredibly, Nathan Bedford Forrest High School (mascot: The Rebels, fed by J.E.B. Stuart Middle & Stonewall Jackson Middle).
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:42 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


toodleydoodley: Late to the party as usual, but as stated upthread, Native American support* for Indian mascots is complicated, and even the institutions themselves aren't fully convinced.

Very true, and I certainly respect individuals who remain opposed to any sort of Native American nicknames, but I feel like allowing universities to partner with existing tribal organizations to get approval for using their nickname as a form of respect is fair to both parties.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't get to have both conversations.

DowningStreetMemo's phrasing still rankles me a day later, so I must rejoin with: says who? When did it become the prerogative of white liberals to decide what "you" (in this case directly meaning "Indians") "don't" "get" to "have."

The paternalism is so over the top in that phrasing. "You don't get to have both" literally sounds like a parent lecturing a toddler about which ice cream flavor they can have. It is a wholly inappropriate tone to take when addressing the victims of historical discrimination and genocide as to what they can and cannot ask for from the state that perpetrated those crimes.

To belabor the equivalence point, only because Metafilter seems to get other kinds of oppression-logic just fine, imagine if someone (not African American, no less) said "look, African Americans, you don't get desegregation AND the expectation that the N-word will be considered unacceptable in public discourse. Pick one, and let me tell you which one is the important one." Or someone (not Trans) said "Transfolk, you don't get to be called by your preferred gender pronoun AND get to use whichever bathroom you want." It's just that egregious. Discriminatory, prejudicial, and racist symbols and language are what sustain discriminatory, prejudicial, and racist institutions.
posted by spitbull at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


KathrynT, I student taught at a school whose mascot was the Rebels. This was in South Austin in the mid-'90s.

The mascot was something akin to a Kentucky Colonel and carried a rebel battle flag.
The population of the school was predominantly African-American and Hispanic, maybe 20% white.

I was teaching on the day of the first pep-rally of the year. I had been told to release my students from class when the band marched past my room playing the fight song. I released my class and the band circled the large area in front of my room. I was standing by the door to my class watching the band, playing Dixie, marching past led by a young Latino fellow dresses as a Kentucky Colonel, waving the battle standard. The crowd behind the band was very non-white and cheering.

The teacher in the class next to mine was a middle aged African-American man. He took one look at my gape-jawed stare and started laughing. He told me, "It takes a little getting used to."

According to Wikipedia, they still haven't changed the mascot. It blows my mind. I sometimes marvel at how stagnant our society is.
(I love that the only alumnus of note is Roky Erickson who dropped out a month before graduation rather than cut his hair.)
posted by Seamus at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


""You don't get to have both" literally sounds like a parent lecturing a toddler about which ice cream flavor they can have."

One of the norm setting rules that is almost always stated explicitly when we're doing educational coalition discussions (e.g. a training on transgender identity) at work is that we are not trying to have an either/or discussion, but rather a both/and discussion. We've found that if this isn't stated explicitly as a goal, someone or another will feel that by focusing on any given issue, something else important to them is excluded.
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


So sorry for having moral standards that don't need polls to back them up, I just know what's right and this shitty hateful name is not right.

Is this irony? If not, well, yikes. I've listened to this argument almost verbatim throughout a lifetime of homosexual condemnation because 'who cares if they're getting popular in polls now, I just know what's right.'

Polls? Sometimes helpful in demonstrating the spectrum of moral position. Morals: they're not your private birthright, they change over time (not in an instant), and sometimes changing them takes a lot of persistence and patience and not getting worked into a fever pitch argument over freaking football franchises not getting up to speed faster than the cultures around it.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Side note:
Or a flight on a Lufthansa jet with a silhouette of an elderly anonymous rabbi on the tail
If you're alluding to Alaska - that's not an anonymous Inuit, that's Chester Spivik. (Link warning: Lots of use of a racial descriptor that offends some Arctic Natives.) Not that it's especially groovy to use someone's picture on an aircraft without clearing it with him first, but it's maybe a different problem than the rest of this.
posted by gingerest at 5:04 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


late afternoon dreaming hotel: "Morals: they're not your private birthright, they change over time (not in an instant), and sometimes changing them takes a lot of persistence and patience and not getting worked into a fever pitch argument over freaking football franchises not getting up to speed faster than the cultures around it."

"Faster than the cultures around it"? That seems a bit grim. I mean - we still have a long way to go, but I would have hoped that our society might be beyond naming public institutions with racial slurs.
posted by koeselitz at 7:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey Spitbull - this thread is old, and you might not see this, but for the record - the point isn't that it's literally impossible to have both conversations. Of course it isn't. And I don't at all mean to sound paternalistic. I don't know any Native Americans and I don't really know anything about their lives, so I'm speaking from my own experience of witnessing these arguments firsthand, where white liberals "advocate" for the Native perspective.

The point is that 99% of conversations on this subject take place in a frame that entirely excludes actual Native Americans. In other words, they amount to a haughty, proud white sports fan versus a progressive, calling him or her a racist. I'd put 3:1 odds that neither participant in the conversation has even met an actual Native American, given that lots of the pro and college teams with offensive nicknames seem to be on the East Coast. And so the conversation is another tired, boring "culture war", where "both sides" make "good points" that mirror whatever dumbass argument happened on ESPN that day.

I live in Washington and am friends with very many Skins fans. The reaction they have to this debate is that the PC liberals are once again trying to spoil their fun. Also, local tribes seem split on the naming issue, giving ammunition to the idea that the PC liberals are detached from the actual desires of the communities they speak for. This argument is familiar and age-old: progressives decry fans of teams with racist names as, well, inveterate racists; sports fans resent the haughtiness with which progressives usually conduct themselves in these arguments and remain more closed off to the possibility that they're wrong.

All I'm saying is, change the fucking subject. Instead of a debate about a symbol that can be easily abstracted into some other archetypical argument, have a conversation about something that can't.
posted by downing street memo at 11:38 AM on July 4, 2013


DSM, a quick spin through spitbull's comment history shows that "neither participant in the conversation has even met an actual Native American" is very, very unlikely to be true here.
posted by KathrynT at 11:47 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've met Native Americans and Canadians, but I don't know if I've ever met a Skins fan.
posted by gingerest at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2013


Native American author calls Goodell “cowardly” on Redskins issue
posted by Drinky Die at 5:46 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


downing street memo: "Also, local tribes seem split on the naming issue, giving ammunition to the idea that the PC liberals are detached from the actual desires of the communities they speak for."

As far as I can tell, this statement is false. There are no tribes or tribal representatives anywhere which have expressed anything but disapprobation on the name "Redskins" for the team. I would welcome a citation demonstrating otherwise, but until I see it I'm not going to believe this is as ambiguous as you seem to want to believe it is. And that one guy claiming to be a chief who turned out to just be nicknamed "chief" does not count.

"This argument is familiar and age-old: progressives decry fans of teams with racist names as, well, inveterate racists; sports fans resent the haughtiness with which progressives usually conduct themselves in these arguments and remain more closed off to the possibility that they're wrong. All I'm saying is, change the fucking subject. Instead of a debate about a symbol that can be easily abstracted into some other archetypical argument, have a conversation about something that can't."

I appreciate the desire to get around this apparently unimportant argument to get to more important subjects, but - this is not an ambiguous subject, and it isn't unimportant either. In fact, it's a mandatory issue. We cannot talk about social justice without dealing with this. "Redskin" is a racial slur. This point doesn't appear to be up for debate; everyone seems to know it's a racial slur. We cannot ignore and accept and tacitly endorse the use of racial slurs to name public institutions and then turn around and pretend that we care that human dignity is being violated in some other way. It'd be self-defeating, and every moment we would see that we're lying to ourselves. If we want to tell Native American children that they're worthy of respect, of education and a place in society, and then turn around and tell them that, on the other hand, it's okay when white people denigrate them and reduce them to a slur, that's not only contradictory; it destroys all the progress we might have made by proving that we were lying when we said we cared.

It's funny; I sympathize with this because I've felt this way on other issues before. "If only we could jut approach this less like silly liberals, the conservatives would listen!" But this is not that situation. I know a lot of people from Washington, too. A lot of them are conservatives. Every single one of them thinks the name of the football team is appalling and disgusting and has no place in this century.

This is not a conservative issue or a liberal issue. We're talking about racism. It's clear-cut, and it's okay to say it's clear-cut. Naming institutions with racial slurs is wrong. People who support the current name of the football team are not necessarily evil racists - not every person who does a racist thing is personally a racist - but they are wrong. And we shouldn't shrink from pointing out racist things, or from urging people to be on the right side of history, just because we're afraid of being perceived as silly liberals.
posted by koeselitz at 10:22 PM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also:

downing street memo: "The point is that 99% of conversations on this subject take place in a frame that entirely excludes actual Native Americans. In other words, they amount to a haughty, proud white sports fan versus a progressive, calling him or her a racist."

Nobody called anyone a racist here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:34 PM on July 5, 2013


Well, apropos the Cleveland fans just doing a CHARGE! fanfare with "Wahoo!" replacing "Charge!" I'll note that I absolutely do call them the Cleveland Racists. But for most of my life, it was arguable about whether they were the most racist baseball team in Ohio, what with the Cincinnati Nazis just down I-75.
posted by klangklangston at 7:57 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah. But the point is that whether somebody is a racist totally a side-issue. People (specifically downing street memo in this case) get all caught up in the "who's a racist?" question because it's a convenient distraction; downing street memo seems to be convinced that everybody's just talking past each other here, that we're just liberals calling people racists for the self-righteous glee of it. The central thing is that the names of these teams are racist. It doesn't matter if everyone associated with the Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Washington teams is a saint – yeah, quite unlikely, but still – even so, those team names are racist. And that needs to change.
posted by koeselitz at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Cincinnati Reds don't have a racist team name; they were just owned by a racist for most of the '80s and '90s.

But I kinda feel like, "You don't like being called a racist? Guess what, Native Americans don't like being called 'redskins,' so too fucking bad."
posted by klangklangston at 8:14 AM on July 9, 2013


Yeah. I mean, at a certain point, all this bellyaching about how DARE you call me a racist??? is stupid, and people need to get over it. It just isn't that bad. There are plenty of things that are much worse than being called a racist. Having your culture turned into a joke by a sports team, for example.

In fact, this is one of the most maddening misunderstandings, in my experience. It's insane how many white people out there seem to believe that the little sting of hearing yourself called a racist is equivalent to the feeling minorities get when they hear themselves referred to with racial slurs. There's a huge and obvious difference: the ability to shrug it off. If a stranger calls me a racist, it means nothing to me, because I know myself and I don't care so much what strangers on the internet think of me. But racial slurs are part of an institutional structure, and contain that implied threat.

That's probably what's most annoying about this point downing street memo seems to be making. There's no equivalence between these two sides at all. When sports fans get called racists, whatever. It doesn't hurt them. When whole peoples get called "Redskins" and openly mocked on sports jerseys, the damage is deep and thorough.
posted by koeselitz at 8:44 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know this is a silly derail in a very serious and tricky thread, but I just can't stop trying to re-write the first sentence of this comment to fit into the rhythm of "Call Me Maybe". Sorry for the earworm.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:51 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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