The Thought Police at the Washington Post are on the warpath once again over the Washington Redskins nickname. In spite of the fact it would cost owner Daniel Snyder heap–big wampum to change the name, they say it is bad medicine and it has to go. They are also angry about calling people who sell their own tickets “scalpers,” but that’s for another time…
What fired up the grievance machine this time was a gripefest on sports nicknames at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. One of the panel participants gave a summary of the ‘anti–Redskins’ argument when he challenged the paleface Washington owner to visit the National Congress of American Indians’ next meeting and start calling the attendees “redskins” and see if they consider it an honor.
That would be equivalent to visiting the nearest university Women’s Studies department during a performance of the Vagina Monologues and making a case for the positive contributions of heterosexual men.
Just because one is surrounded by screaming fanatics does not mean you deserve to be burned at the stake. (Note to Jesuits in the reading audience, I mean no offense with this analogy.)
Frankly it sounds to me like the staff of both institutions have been sampling the firewater. The Red Man has already had his revenge. Indians introduced white eyes to tobacco and that golden leaf is adding to the death toll as I type. The largely imaginary “smallpox blankets” were not even a rounding error compared to Big Tobacco’s body count.
The WaPost cites Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Washington-based Morning Star Institute as a strong supporter of sporting censorship. (Rule of Thumb: beware of experts who use all their names.) She says there are some 900 troublesome nicknames and mascots across the country, down from a peak of more than 3,000.
Harjo is proud of the fact that among the first mascots flayed was ‘Little Red,’ who used to perform at University of Oklahoma games.
I remember ‘Little Red.’ We attended OU at the same time. He was a genuine Kiowa who volunteered to be part of the athletic program. People cheered him during games. Students appreciated the work he put into his authentic costume and his footwork. Plus he didn’t leave a mess in the end zone like the Sooner Schooner. All these accolades were too much for professional Native American outrage intensifiers so they worked to have him fired.
I’m surprised Harjo let the school off so easy, merely stopping with the banishment of ‘Little Red.’ ‘Sooners’ itself is a nickname rife with bigotry. It’s a negative reference to cheaters during the land rush that crossed the border early and is no doubt a slap in the face to illegal border–crossers everywhere.
While we’re at it, how about Notre Dame’s ‘Fighting Irish?’ Doesn’t that imply the Shannons might have a drinking problem? What’s more, nicknames are just the tip of the iceberg for those “who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports.” Are they casting their gimlet eye on tomahawks, feathers, loincloths, arrows, and buffalo? Where does it end? Must 7/11 stop selling jerky?
But fair is fair. Why do ‘First Americans’ get to hog (no offense to Jews & Moslems) all the outrage? What about all those pagans wearing crosses around their necks? Or Germans and Hispanics wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day? And don’t get me started on honkies that give soul shakes.
What’s more, the Redskins aren’t the only sports enterprise with a ‘hurtful’ name. What about the Cleveland Browns? Isn’t that offensive to Hispanics and people suffering from melanoma? How would you like someone to make fun of your freckles?
Among the worst of the commercial enterprises is the Jolly Green Giant: A continual poke in the eye to tall people and committed environmentalists.
The person I feel sorry for is ‘Skins general manager Bruce Allen. This slang term controversy is déjà vu all over again for the Allen family. First the WaPost goes and lights up his brother for saying “macca” in a campaign appearance, now they are after him and his team for a name that’s been around for decades. Allen no doubt thanks his lucky stars that he’s never used the word “niggardly” in conversation.
Even the ‘conservative’ Washington Times is clinging to this bandwagon. One of their sports columnists asks, “When was the last time you used “redskin” in non-sports discussion? If the word really, truly honored, we’d have a National Museum of the Redskin…” Whoops, Faulty Analogy Alert! Formal names don’t usually incorporate nicknames, this is why the Marine Heritage Museum is not called the Jarhead Heritage Museum.
Frankly, I feel sorry for the agitators. How pathetic does life have to be to support a belief that the nickname of a professional football team is damaging to one’s psyche?
Personally, I don’t harbor any particular affection for the Redskins as you can read here. But I do hope they stand firm in the face of hysteria.
Otherwise I’m afraid my team is in imminent danger, because it will only be a matter of time before vegans come after the ‘Packers.’
© Copyright by Michael Shannon, 2013. All rights reserved.