What about the controversy surrounding the iconic and beloved by many, Washington Redskins? It’s all about this political correctness crap, right? And really – why would anyone have an issue with their name? Redskins are just another name for Indians, right? It couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I really can’t stand the state of political-correctness, I just can’t. Too many people have issues with the terms without dealing with the underlying sentiment and starting with education, awareness and compassion. I am somewhere between 12.5% and 25% American Indian. I am not offended by the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves or many of the other terms referencing fact or those that carry honor. Both sides just miss the point. The name controversy may seem to be more of the same – but it’s not.
Here’s why – I am quite sure the Commissioner, the League and the public would not allow a new NFL franchise to be named the Birminham Lynchmen, Colorado Shooters, the international Berlin Brown Shirts or a host of others insidious references. But still the name Redskins is allowed. Not exactly the same you say? To far outside decency? If so, I apologize to those offended but it’s pretty close to exactly the same.
And my belief in humanity makes me believe that most people don’t know why it’s so very repulsive, otherwise something would have been done long ago. But realize this – American Indians were of all tints and colors, from pale to very dark in complexion; but none were red. That should hint toward the gruesome.
At halftime during a recent Sunday Night Football, Bob Costas discussed the Washington Redskins (some called it a rant) – not the team but the name. Every few years their name becomes the subject of controversy and nothing happens. Every few years I jump on my soapbox, in hopes someone with the ability to affect change will fully realize the issue at stake. In the past, every few years I am again disappointed.
Mr. Costas raised again the issue that the term redskin is offensive and derogatory to Native Americans and intimated that it therefore should be offensive to us all. In the eloquence and logic that Mr. Costas always provides, he requested the conversation about the offensiveness of the name be revisited.
In my opinion, even the hard-hitting Mr. Costas fell short of expressing how derogatory the term really is.
The NFL fines players for not properly wearing their approved uniforms, teams and the NFL fine players for actions deemed inappropriate and the League even considered their ability to fine Riley Cooper for using racial slurs while at a nightclub earlier this year while out of uniform. They even recently fined a player thousands of dollars because he wore green shoes drawing attention to mental illness awareness instead of supporting breast cancer awareness. Why do they do this?
Because they purport to care about public perception.
So why all the fuss? Here’s why… and warning: It’s pretty gruesome.
The history of one enemy taking the skin off their enemy after killing them goes back hundreds of years, maybe thousands – often out of further humiliation to one’s enemy but often to simply prove the taking of one’s life in battle, without having to carry the whole body. In America this practice continued into the Revolution and through the 1800’s during skirmishes, battles and wars involving Native Americans. Bounties were often paid to bounty hunters who killed Native Americans during these conflicts, in an effort to rid the lands of these “heathens”. The body of an Indian brave was one price, a woman a little less and a child’s death was worth even less still.
Bounty hunters were required to bring the body to an “outpost” to prove their murder and to collect their fee – the bodies began to mount and they needed to be buried.
Much controversy exists about the subject and who started first but much data indicates that the US Federal Government, State Governments and the Mexican Government began scalping Indians so that bounties for the killing could be substantiated, without having to spend manpower to bury the lifeless bodies. Instead, a bounty hunter would then only be required to bring the scalp of the Indian to collect their fee.
As jargon and vernacular often develops, these scalps came to be known as “redskins” as they were stained with blood of the victim the bounty hunter had killed; joy would be abound if the hunter had a “handful of redskins”.
So if we, Roger Goodell or the public wouldn’t accept the Washington Bounty Hunters, the DC Indian Killers or the Metro Mutilators – then we should not accept the Washington Redskins.
Redskins – Scalps stained with blood… one of our NFL teams is named for scalps stained with blood.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming that the Washington Redskins are against Native Americans, nor fans simply because the love the ‘Skins. Some of my best friends are fans. I’m merely speaking of becoming aware of the why it’s an issue and in my opinion, an embarrassment to a League that in nearly all other manners attempts to always improve its image.
I’ve met the ‘Skins owner Daniel Snyder and he’s not against Native Americans either. It’s not the fault of Mr. Snyder they have this name, nor the previous owner Mr. Cooke – it’s no one’s fault. It’s never the fault of a current generation when we have been given carried-over sentiments, perspectives or even vernacular from previous generations.
It only becomes our fault IF we become aware of these origins and do nothing. “Because it always has been” is never an allowable excuse to accept the horrendous offenses of man.
Bob Costas asked for us to begin to converse and understand why many might feel the term redskin offensive; he wasn’t asking for anyone to agree that it is offensive – merely to understand why others may feel so. He was effectively asking for this acceptance of the legitimacy of the argument and with the acceptance perhaps something would change. After all the NBA team Washington Bullets changed their name because DC had so many murders by gun.
What I wish he had said was exactly how repulsive and derogatory the term is and why. Perhaps Mr. Costas doesn’t know – most don’t; perhaps he wanted to and the network felt it to gruesome, inflammatory and controversial.
For those of you who have read my articles or blogs or even attended my workshops on diversity, leadership or management – you know I am often preaching awareness. With awareness comes acceptance; with acceptance comes knowledge; and with knowledge comes growth and greater success – in business, sport and life.
There is a lot of vernacular in our society that has less than optimal origins and bit by bit, once becoming aware of the original meaning, most of us no longer use them.
I’m not trying to change the world from how it thinks but I do feel that if we all know how we sometimes impact others, accepting how they and empathizing others feel, we would likely have a continuously improving world – not by being politically correct, that does very little, in my opinion; but rather by becoming aware of the thoughts, sentiments of others – we can accept without agreement.
In a family, the awareness and acceptance of the views of another allows for debate rather than anger; in business, collaboration rather than a power struggle; and in society, progression rather than regression and oppression.
It’s not a change in terminology that makes us grow and accept religious, lifestyle and cultural issues, it is the awareness and mere acceptance of the views of another without denigration that accomplishes this. Connotative emotions and disrespect conveyed by these terms is the real problem; it’s not usually the term itself.
And once discovering the true origin of the term redskin, I would think that any reasonably thinking individual will agree that the name must change – not for political correctness’ sake, not for common decency but from the perspective of disgust, disdain and utter repulsiveness. It’s not a republican or democrat issue for once, it’s not a right vs. left issue nor conservative vs. liberal.
Human beings are really pretty predictable; when faced with a conflicting viewpoint, we tend to either reject the “new” thought or embrace it. People tend to develop the attitude of, “you can’t tell me what’s right or wrong”. So there will be many who while repulsed, will still embrace the name – “because no one is going to tell me how I should feel.”
Well, guess what – sometimes we need to be told.
Changing the name wouldn’t change the character of the team, it wouldn’t change their history of success but it would make a stand against honoring the annihilation of an entire people.
… It changes your whole perspective about the controversy, doesn’t it?