Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is the Name Redskins Really Racist?

My university forum is bringing up a lot of articles about racism these days. The most recent one was about the apparent (I don't watch football) controversy over the name "Redkins," where the media has found some representative of an American tribe to demand that it be removed because it's a racial slur.

Here's two of my responses. I figured they were concise and thoughtful enough to be worth a blog post.

What about the Vikings? That's racist against people of Norwegian, Danish and Swedish heritage.What about the New England Patriots? That's racist against white Americans above the Mason-Dixon Line.What about the Bengals? That's racist against Bengalis. We all know it's not about the tigers.What about the Texans? That's racist against white American southerners.Or the Cowboys for that matter? That reinforces stereotypes about white American westerners.Why is "Redskins" racist but "Chiefs" isn't?What about the 49ers? That's racist against poor white working-class gold-diggers.
No one seems to care. I declare selective outrage. 
Look at it this way: football teams pick a name that they wish to identify with in order to project an image of unity, strength and skill. Calling themselves "Redskins," as with calling themselves "Lions," "Eagles," "Giants," or "Titans," is a sign of HONOR and RESPECT of the namesake. Whoever the redskins were, clearly they were perceived as badasses who would strike fear into the heart of their enemies and achieve victory through strength and merit. That's why the name is chosen. What part of that is racist? Doesn't racism require denigration or negative implications about the supposed object? If everything said or implied is honorific or at least positive, it is the exact opposite of racism. 
and then in response to someone saying that it was a racial slur,

What makes it a racial slur? Is it because you assume that all native-american people have red skin, so that it's referring to them? Isn't that a racist assumption itself?
I want to challenge people to question themselves with this: "what IS racism?"
Is it a word? Or is it hatred and prejudice toward a group of people? If there is no prejudice, hatred, or negative connotations of any sort whatsoever, then what makes it racist except that you have personally placed the name "redskins" on your banned-words-list?

~ Rak Chazak

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