Monday, October 7, 2013

the great name debate

the washington redskins are in a bit of hot water and it isn't because they suck at football [although it should be]. they have been receiving a lot of press in regards to their mascot, the redskin. what is a redskin anyway? due to the nature of this heated debate, i was certain the interwebs would provide me with a reliable and detailed history of this slang term. well, i was wrong. the information i found was sketchy, at best.

wikipedia defines a redskin as, "a racial descriptor for Native Americans, the origins of which are disputed. Although by some accounts not originally having negative intent the term is now defined by dictionaries of American English as "usually offensive", "disparaging", "insulting", "taboo" and is avoided in public usage with the exception of its continued use as a name for sports teams.
The term derives from the use of "red" as a color metaphor for race following European colonization of the Western Hemisphere, although initial explorers and later Anglo-Americans termed Native Americans light-skinned, brown, tawny, or russet."
could that be any more vague? 

an npr article provides a much more detailed explanation of what a redskin is, where the term comes from, and why it may be considered offensive at this point in history. to sum up, the term redskin was used to describe a particular group of native americans. it initially had no negative connotations. however, over time and through various media outlets [books, poems, movies], the meaning changed. just as the meaning of redskin was grabbing a negative tone, sports teams were using native american words and images as symbols. these symbols were seen as signs of patriotism and "americanness". today, many teams with native american mascots have changed their names.

should the remaining teams with native american names [indians, chiefs, braves, blackhawks] be forced or bullied into changing theirs?

what about other teams with controversial names?
  • vancouver canucks [a canuck is often defined as a derogatory term for canadians. this is the ultimate insult.]
  • louisana ragin' cajun [based on the type of people who live in louisana. some could be offended by a mascot named cayenne.]
  • boston celtics [celts were people who came from a particular part of europe. this is an irish based mascot. hell, he is a a leprechaun with a beer belly who is smoking a pipe.]
  • notre dame fighting irish [similar to that of the celtics. another ethnically charged mascot.]
  • appalachian state mountaineers [a mascot based on the type of people who live in the appalachian mountains]
  • minnesota vikings [ummm, hello?!] 
there are hundreds [professional, college, and high school] teams that are using mascots with ethnic implications. most of them have a legit reason. whether it was based on the people of the area or patriotism, there was a reason the mascot was chosen. and i bet, at the time, there was no negative connotation for choosing a mascot. why would any city/team do that? they are trying to attract fans, old and new. they want a positive mascot and logo. some of these names have been in existence for 70-80 years. why bother changing them now? especially when in 10 years no one will give a damn.

now, i know what you are saying," how could this cowboys fan support the redskins?" no matter the team [and no matter how much i dislike them], i think the history of a team is important. to request, force, or bully a team into changing their name, changes what that team stands for.
could you imagine an atlanta braves game or a FSU seminoles game without the annoying-ass tomahawk chop? it's what they do. it is a part of their spirit and history. it would be like us going to an ECU pirates game and not yelling "arrrghhhh" or 'PURPLE......GOLD." a million times. it just wouldn't make sense.

i understand that some say nostalgia isn't important enough to keep a name. and that if a group of people are upset by a mascot, we should listen. i think nostalgia is important and yes, i agree we should listen. but that doesn't mean we have to honor all requests that we hear. we can't be a country of cry babies and people pleasers. if that becomes the case [which it has], then really no one is happy. by crying about everything and attempting to please everyone, we are left without our own voice. there is NO WAY everyone, everywhere will LIKE the name of a team/mascot. this will never happen. a team name will offend someone, somewhere, in someway. so, if we are going to change team names to appease native americans, then we should do it for everyone.

our teams will have no names. no personality. no history. no culture. no tradition.

even though i am speaking to sports, this argument has a bigger picture. do we want to live in a society with no name, no personality, no culture and no tradition?

by striping us of our uniqueness, will we become that place [which we already have]. welcome to stepford.


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