Let me start by sharing that I am not a Native American, but I do have a perspective on the recent move by the Federal Patent Office to cancel the Washington Redskins trademark.
What is too politically incorrect? Where are we going with political correctness as a nation? Is Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians a racist? Are all fans of the Washington Redskins racists? Do the Atlanta Braves fans believe that Native Americans are below other Americans? Maybe…….but I doubt it.
Without a doubt, there is a black eye on the history of the United States. How the U.S. Government and its representatives treated Native Americans is appalling. We are not proud of this, none of us. We wish this embarrassment would be eradicated and the Indians were not. We wish our history does not have this story to tell.
Back in 1755 there was a bounty on Native American’s scalps, called redskins. Worth anywhere from 50 to 20 pounds depending on the scalp gathered. No one believes that this is something to be proud of. The redskin name has also been used to identify a group of people, by both the peoples in and outside the group. One of the very first records of it being used is by a Native American, Chief Black Thunder in which he is recorded as stating, “…I turn to all, red skins and white skins, and challenge an accusation against me.”
It is also understood that Native Americans pass down their traditions, cultures, languages and stories to their descendants to keep their important past alive. Many tribes were lost, so were their cultures. No one believes that this is something to be proud of.
The U.S. pushed human beings out of the way, not understanding or caring to understand what they stood for or why. Not a proud moment. I didn’t do it, but I know it was done and this is a part of the history of the United States.
Not only is there a black eye on the history of the United States, but there are many on the history of the human race as a whole. Any scholar of history can identify horribly shameful and atrocious periods in the times of different cultures, religions and groups of people across the centuries. This is nothing to be proud of either.
While there are some good reasons to be mindful of the things we say, political correctness has become ridiculous, to the point where it is joked about. Where does it stop? If you look at a list of sports team names or mascots, just about any group of people either by ethnicity, job function, religious affiliation/non-affiliation, geography, or a myriad of other categories, could easily come up with an objection if they wanted to. Here’s a quick list of sports teams that represent or describe a group of people; Spartans, Vikings, Fighting Irish, Pioneers, Devils, New York Knickerbockers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, 76′ers, Islanders, Indians, Cavaliers, Wizards, Mavericks, Argonauts, Roughriders, Cowboys, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Saints, 49′ers, Senators, Admirals, Americans, Rivermen, Barons, Gladiators, Wranglers, Braves, Rangers, Canadians, Canucks, Oilers, Nationals, Brewers, Padres, Giants, Yankees, and Twins. What team is the next target? Do we start objecting to these team names as well? Enough is enough.
We need to look at intention. I think that when teams were picking out their mascots, some as many as 60 years ago, it was more of a term of endearment. Team names and mascots were selected because they represent qualities of winners. In fact, teams or schools that do not have names or mascots with those qualities are targets of jokes. When we cheer the Redskins on, we are thinking of a valiant warrior forging into battle unfearful and proud. Washington fans aren’t thinking of torturing Native Americans for their hides when they call their team the Redskins.
We praise and worship these teams and their mascots for decades, lifetimes. They become a part of us. We have the Atlanta Braves chop because it is a way to unite the fans to cheer their beloved team to victory, not a demonstration of a scalping.
Some teams have submitted to the pressure of political correctness and changed their name. St. John’s changed from Redmen to Red Storm, Marquette were once Warriors are now Golden Eagles, and Miami University in Ohio are no longer the Redskins, but the Redhawks.
I grew up in Washington, Iowa; the DEMONS of Washington High School, the colors of orange and black. Every other year, someone brings up that we need to change the mascot because of the implications. But as far as I know, there is not one devil worshiper in the group. We that went to WHS are proud to be called Demons!
The Cleveland Indians are in town and a few protesters showed at the game to voice their opinions. And in the same instant a fan was quoted right next to the protesters, “I have been cheering on Wahoo for over 50 years and I am not going to change now.”
These mascots are only that, a mascot. The mascots of the teams I listed above were not created to put down or denigrate those groups either. In the case of mascots that refer to Native Americans, I do not believe that they were created to put down the Native American, if anything I believe they were created to cheer on the brave souls that fought valiantly for their good names.
I guess the names can be changed if it upsets enough people. However, as a proud graduate of Washington High School, I hope the Demons are always the Demons.