Washington Redskins need an immediate name change
Recently, the University of Idaho Native American Student Center hosted a panel discussion on the discrimination and derogatory images used in media of Native Americans. Among the topics discussed, the controversial team name of the Washington Redskins was brought up. Many Native American students voiced their opinions on this issue at the open forum. Each person ranged in their reasons, but they all agreed the team’s name is an offensive term.
To start understanding why this is an issue, one must understand where the term comes from. The origins of the word are hotly contested by academics, but use in the 19th century is what most people take issue with. During the 19th century, redskins was a term used to describe the head or scalp of a Native American who was hunted by U.S. citizens for a bounty. Hunters would return the scalped heads of Native Americans to their state governments for their bounty.
No one should want to proudly sport a jersey with that degrading term as support for a NFL football team.
It is possible to actually pay homage to Native Americans with a team name. Take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. The team is named after Black Hawk, the Sauk Indian chief who sided with the British in the War of 1812, yet there is not as much controversy over this.
That would be because the team name is not insulting Native Americans, they are using an actual Native American’s name instead of a racial slur and chose a dignified logo to represent the team. That isn’t to say that Redskins fans and players are trying to deliberately insult Native Americans, but rallying around a team with a racially insensitive name begs to differ.
Redskins fans don’t even seem to respect Native American culture. Countless people can be seen at games wearing headdresses, as a way to cheer on the team. This action belittles Native American culture and is a show of cultural insensitivity. The headdress holds deep cultural significance for many Native American tribes, and is often seen as a sign of honor. In general, in order to receive the honor of wearing a headdress in a tribe, the person must be seen as the most brave and powerful of the group.
People claim that it shouldn’t matter what a team is called and that America is becoming too politically correct anyway. Yet once one understands what the term redskins actually represents, it should be simple to see why it is time to change the name. It’s amazing a national football team still manages to make millions of dollars off of an archaic racial slur.
Seeing the term is becoming a problem, many online and printed newspapers have begun refusing to use the term in their publications. Eric Schlakman, an Apple employee, created a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari called Redskins Web Skin, which changes Washington Redskins to what he calls “a more dignified term.” Potential more dignified terms to be inserted by the extension include the Washington Athletes or Thanksgiving Originators. With so many newspapers on and off line refusing to use the term, it’s time more Americans get on board.
Granted, the Redskins have proudly had their name since 1932. However, times are changing and if America is to become the open and accepting country it longs to be, we cannot belittle any culture that lives here.
Emily Lowe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org