Our story begins nearly 20 years ago. During the early '90s a new fad was born. The phrase “Politically Correct” entered the lexicon and brought us the suffix “-American.” Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians became “African-Americans, Spanish-Americans, and Asian-Americans.”
Everything was bubblegum, sunshine, and puppies until someone said, “what about the Indians?”
That proved to be an interesting question. The indigenous people of North America were misidentified as Indians hundreds of years ago and the name stuck. Now we had people here who really were from India, along with people who had been here the whole time.
A distinction had to be made other than “dot or feather.”
The term “Native American” was born.
As with all fads, it didn’t take long for the “P.C.” craze to go to excess as everyone started getting more and more technical about who they were and how they should be described.
The “Native Americans” began to find other places where they felt slighted: sports teams.
Suddenly terms like “Chief, Brave, Tomahawk, tribe and Indian” were all offensive labels given to them by the pale-faces. So it came as no surprise when the Washington Redskins found themselves under attack.
A small group of formerly-known-as-Indians decided to tackle the Redskins head on. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sue the team directly, since the team wasn’t directly referring to the plaintiffs as Redskins, but in fact were calling themselves Redskins.
You have to wonder if the word “sue” is really a derivation of “Sioux” as the former-Indians figured out they could contest the team’s trademark.
Fifteen years, and three court cases later, the Washington Redskins have come out on top. The courts never reached the argument stage as two of the three cases were dismissed on technicalities.
But what if they had?
The first issue would be the same issue that prevented the plaintiffs from filing in civil court; the team in Washington was referring to themselves as Redskins.
It would take a stretch to imagine that the team was intentionally attempting to insult someone else by calling themselves something offensive. There is also room for dispute as to the origin of the term “redskin.” Most believe it is a simple reference to the skin pigmentation of the indigenous people of North America.
Referring to persons in a descriptive term such as “red-skinned” is no more or less racist than saying “Native-American.” Women are often referred to by the description of their hair color (commonly blond, brunette, or redhead), but for some reason, mentioning a naturally occurring skin color is somehow pejorative.
That doesn’t make sense.
Most people simply assume that if skin color is involved, it’s automatically racist. Most of those same people don’t have a problem with a group that calls itself the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
I would be willing to bet that many of the people who sympathize with Suzan Harjo (the lady who spearheaded all of this nonsense) don’t even realize the hypocrisy that is Suzan Harjo.
At one time, Mrs. Harjo was the producer of a bi-weekly “Native American” radio show called “Seeing Red.” This was obviously a clever turn of the phrase referring to the skin color of her target audience.
As a Redskins fan, I can tell you that I don’t use the term in a derogatory way. I don’t conjure up negative images of “Native Americans” when I think about my team; I picture proud warriors who would fight to the last.
The Redskins’ emblem is not some cheesy cartoonist’s rendition of some toothless-savage, he is stoic and proud. He doesn’t have some silly goofball name like Chief Cheapseats, he is unnamed.
Now I might understand if the team were called the Washington Savages while using the same logo. I could certainly see how that would be taken as offensive, but “Redskin” is closer to being a descriptive term than a slanderous insult.
To show you that I can be a Devil’s Advocate, I would fully support the Green Bay Packers changing their team name to the Wisconsin Whiteskins (I like the ring to it).
I wouldn’t root for them, since I am a die-hard Redskins fan, and you would certainly find me cheering for the Redskins over the Whiteskins. Call me a race-traitor if you like, but the Redskins are my team.
I think it’d be great. They could have a picture of Brett Favre on their helmets in the same pose as the Redskins’ logo, and I certainly wouldn’t be offended. The irony is that the Packers were originally named for the Indian packing company!
The bottom line is that Mrs. Harjo needs to get over herself. That’s really what this whole issue is about.
It has nothing to do with racism, or her seeing graphic visual images of recently scalped men, women, and children whenever she thinks about the Redskins. It’s about her being relevant.
Without this case she doesn’t sell books, or make appearances on Oprah and Larry King. Without this case she might just have to get a real job.
…and that would be offensive.