REDSKIN: “noun, Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive, a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian.”
Scrolling down my Facebook timeline, something caught my eye. A friend shared an article on the recent cancellation of the Washington Redskins trademark registration for the team name. For decades, Native Americans have been fighting against the NFL team for using a racially charged slur as brand name, using a people as a mascot. The “friend” captioned the post: “Welcome to America land of the offended.”
I had a moment. I thought of all the angry and hurtful things I could say, but then I paused and put the phone down. He was right, the United States is the land of the offended, but why shouldn’t we be offended when it comes to racism and hate?
I’m offended that I live in a society where people don’t see the issue with trademarking a hateful, racist term, and using a people and a culture as a mascot. I’m offended that Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, a team that’s worth $1.56 billion, celebrates the United States’ racist past and present. A past and present that includes genocide of Indigenous people, theft of their land, their culture and language. I am offended that for the first time in a 20-year legal battle, cancellation of the trademark was ordered, and yet they will still retain their insidious name. I am offended that a team placed in this nation’s capitol can dawn such a nasty label. I AM OFFENDED, but to merely state that I am offended would not do justice to the feelings this issue stirs in my soul.
Those who’d like to preserve the name stake their claim in “tradition.” They’ve been the Washington Redskins since 1937, they say. The United States has an interesting tradition to me. A tradition that includes racism toward people of color, a tradition of slavery, a tradition of genocide. It is the year 2015, hundreds of years apart from those travesties but to this very day, the United States holds onto it’s racist tradition, continuing to treat and view people of color as less: as gimmicks, as mascots, as disposable.
In fact, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with those who do not bat an eye or flinch at blatant injustice. There is a disconnect. Some of us are mentally absent to racism. This issue is deeper than a team name, this issue is deeper than a mascot or logo. People are turning a blind eye to blatant bigotry. Until we dig deeper, until we look at ourselves with a critical eye, this tragic and systematic racism will remain.
There should be a distaste, an uneasiness in our stomachs when there is a fight to maintain the racist ideologies of the past. The “Redskins” is an unacceptable name for a team, and it has been allowed to linger over Native American culture, linger in the courts, and linger in the U.S. for too long. Until we all decide it unacceptable, it will remain. Until we all boycott games, stop purchasing their apparel and take offense, this injustice will remain. As long as I live in a society that is plagued with insensitive, racist ideals I will not apologize for taking offense.