Hail to the Redskins!
There's a lot of controversy these days over the use of Native Americans and images/terms representing them being used by professional sports teams, and the one most at the center of that controversy is my favorite team in all professional sports, The Washington Redskins.
The team originated in Boston, MA. and were called the Boston Braves. Many claim the name was chosen to honor their first coach, Dietz, who was a Sioux Indian, but the co-owner at the time, George Preston Marshall told the Associated Press in 1933 that he discarded “Braves” for “Redskins” simply to avoid using the name of the city’s professional baseball team.
Now its fairly obvious where the word "Redskins" comes from. In case you've been living under a rock, Colonial Americans thought the Native American skin color was "red", much how Africans are referred to as "black".
The argument, as I've heard it, goes that people like myself, the fans of these teams, are negatively stereotyping the Native people, and that we see them as boozehounds and greed-mongering casino owners.
This couldn't be farther from the truth. I see them as a strong, proud people with a rich and varied culture dating back millenia. My heart breaks when I think of what happened to them at the hands of people like Christopher Columbus and his sons, or Andrew Jackson. I know first hand that they were a thriving, vibrant, and diverse group of tribes that are as different as entire nations are. I know most were peaceful people who believed in the power community, and they that created many magnificent works of art. I also know they were forced to fight for their survival from the moment Europeans set up shop here in the states, even if they were peaceful prior to that point, and that they've put up a fight for the ages since that battle was forced on them.
Despite what the argument I'm attempting to make here implies, I'm actually pretty racially aware and culturally sensitive. I know how the image used for the logo can be construed, and I know a lot of how some people view Native Americans is extremely wrong. I know they aren't warmongers, or boozehounds, and that most have nothing to do with a casino if their tribe runs one.
Before I get started, I want to say I am not trying to minimize or apologize for the many travesties committed in American history. I'm only pointing out that white people are not a collective hive-mind who view all non-white people as subhuman trash creatures the way we're often portrayed in these debates. We also vary greatly, and from what I can tell, most people are with me in support of the struggle for equality no matter what race they are.
I also wanna add that I don't speak for all Redskins' fans.There are a lot of Washington fans in favor of a name change to something like "The Warriors" and using another image such as an arrowhead in place of the logo. I personally would be okay with this, as long as the fighting spirit of the team is preserved in the image and we kept the burgundy and gold as our colors.
That isn't what I'd prefer though. I'd prefer to keep things exactly as they are, and I feel the way I do because I want to honor the Native American legacy. They're more than just warriors, though their indomitable spirit is what I'll mostly be preaching on because that's what applies to professional sports.
For the most part, fans of the Washington Redskins see things my way. We don't look down on Native Americans at all, in fact we look up to them. Trust me I grew up in the DC suburbs, half my Facepage friends list is Redskins fans.
I was born in northern Virginia. I lived in Waldorf, MD until I was 17, and return there as often as I can. I was born and raised into Redskins fandom. The team is a part of who I am.
All my formative years and much of my adulthood was spent firmly in the heart of Redskins country. My entire family is Redskins fans, except one sellout uncle who jumped ship to the Ravens cause hes only capable of making piece of shit moves. The only sport we give a f&*! about is football, and the only team we give a f&*! about is the 'Skins. I know what fans of the Redskins think, cause we discuss this often. I'm more than qualified to speak for the fanbase than any sports columnist ever will be.
What makes us love the team so much is what we see as an association with the spirit of true unwavering freedom. We see the Native association as a mark of pride. This isn't an excuse we make to keep a silly logo. We feel our reverence for the legacy they've left by refusing to take the knee and accept subjugation, by standing to the last man, isn't truly being understood or appreciated.
It's in honor of that legacy that we defend the name and iconography. We couldn't say we truly believed in it if we just buckled and didn't defend ourselves when what we see as our core identity is attacked.
I know the comparison is unfair, and Native Americans have fought a true battle for survival, while we're just fighting over some silly imagery and a fantasy we have. Natives are still fighting that battle for survival to this day. They likely always will be, unfortunately. They will never cave in though. No matter how small their numbers get, they'll never let the fight be easy. That's one of the many things that makes them truly special.
Although they can't see it, those of us from the DMV see ourselves as standing in that fight alongside them.
I don't support Andrew Jackson or think the Trail of Tears was justified. That s&*! was atrocious and anyone who thinks it's okay is atrocious too.
For most of us, this extremely positive view of Natives and the Native's associations with the American spirit is a point of pride, and it's a huge piece of who we are.
People complain about us having a negative image and perpetuating a damaging stereotype. We feel the badge of honor that gives us our identity and sets us apart is being taken.
Our rallying cry wouldn't be "Hail to the Redskins" if we saw them any different from what I'm saying. We see them as heroes, we see the term as a sign of respect.
You can tell me we think differently, but I know more Redskins fans than you do, and talk to them more often, because they're my childhood friends and they're my family. If you think anything I've said is misinformed or I'm just blowing smoke, you're f&*!ing wrong.
A lot of the things Natives are saying are true, and again, I don't mean to deny their struggle or apologize for the atrocities committed against them. I'm just speaking about my point of view in reference to Washington Redskin's team name and logo.
Yes, Native Americans are in danger of fading into memory. Yes, they faced worse than slavery in the form of a massive coordinated, centuries long effort to exterminate them.
That unstoppable strength of spirit I keep saying I hold in high regard has seen them through that genocide and even preserved core pieces of their cultures that they refuse to have taken from them or stomped out. I don't see that iron-will breaking any time soon, and that's fucking amazing to me. Literally transcends words. Truly hardcore. Unf&*!witable. I had to make up a word just to describe it.
They represent soul of America through and through, thats why they represent our capital.
S&*!bags might have tried to stomp them out and wipe them from the history books, but through the raw f&*!ing power of their will to stand and fight to survive, they made their collective spirit rule this place and shape our nation. They are our heroes.
They still need to fight; The battle isn't over. I personally their energy is better focused on the efforts to take even more land from them, like the fight over the dakota pipeline. It just feels like they're attacking supporters here, and driving away people like me who legit just wanna help by honoring them for the achievement their survival represents.
It is true that some people cling to the old ideas that led to those travesties, but they're dinosaurs. You can't stop ignorant people from choosing to remain ignorant. In my opinion, those people are on the wrong side of history and those ideas will fade into the history books much sooner than the Natives will.
Strangely enough, Its Native Americans perpetuating the negative stereotype. We say we're trying to honor them and they say "That word can't mean what you say. We demand it mean something negative". They won't let us believe the word is positive, no matter how much we tell them that it means whatever we meant when we said it.
They refuse to hear that we want to pay them respect for the trials they've endured.
So my question is this:
How can we, as Washington fans, maintain the association with Natives that we pride ourselves on, while being more respectful to Natives as a people?
Tell us how we can honor you the way we want to, while perpetuating the image you would like the world to think of when they think "Native American".
I feel part of the problem is Native Americans don't want to be seen only as "Warriors" and so using that name as a replacement along with an arrowhead for a logo most likely would defeat the purpose of the name change. I can't speak for Natives though, so would that name and iconography be acceptable?
Just give us something to work with... A way we can honor Natives respectfully, because we'd like to protect the core of our identities through all this too.