By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A lot has been written in the past few weeks on whether or not the nickname “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans. Some tribes are calling for the Washington Redskins to change their name, something owner Daniel Snyder says won’t happen.
As white Americans, we sometimes have a blind spot when it comes to racial terms. Maybe it’s because derogatory names like “cracker” and “honky” are really more funny sounding than hurtful.
Maybe it’s because we haven’t been the focal point of racial discrimination in the past, or been rounded up and forced onto reservations, or sold as slaves, or any of the other atrocities that we have heaped upon anyone whose skin wasn’t the same color as ours.
Several years ago many schools dropped any nickname associated with Native Americans, while some stood firm and kept their nicknames. It all comes down to what is considered derogatory and what is not. Even St. John’s changed its name a few years ago from “Red Men” to “Red Storm” because it was the right thing to do.
Native Americans were here long before any of our ancestors sailed from Europe or England to settle this country. And when the white man did come to what is now America, what did he do? Stole their land, slaughtered some of them, and the rest, well, they were forced to settle on reservations.
Other sports teams use Indian names, such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Bluejackets, Florida State Seminoles, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, to name just a few. But those could be considered a celebration of Native Americans, not a put down, though the Indians might want to reconsider their mascot, Chief Wahoo.
In a time when people dressed as Klu Klux Klan members for Halloween, it’s time we took a step back and looked at where our country is going. Changing the Redskins name might not be the answer, but it’s a small step in doing what is right.