Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's in a Name?

         When American sports teams choose a name, they look for an icon of strength, an image widely known and recognized as impressive and awesome.  No major sports franchise calls itself the Custers (or the French).  If you want an impressive name, if you want to conjure up and awesome image, pick the Braves, the Chiefs, the Indians, the Vikings, the Bears, the Diamondbacks, or the Redskins.
Similarly, if folks want to name a city or a state, they usually pick a name of something that is known to be honorable, pleasant, or respectable, like Indiana, Indianapolis, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Maryland, St. Augustine, or Sioux City.  Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I don’t recall any American city named after John Wayne Gacy, Al Capone, Adolph Hitler, John Dillinger, Bernie Madoff, Charles Manson, or Mark David Chapman.  I don’t know any streets named after James Earl Ray, but I know plenty named after Martin Luther King.  Almost every major city has one, and rightly so.
The really offensive part of the name “Washington Redskins” is not "Redskins."  Who or what has ever done more unrelenting harm to Native Americans than Washington?  And if you wanted a name that doubled the infamy, just take the name of the old baseball franchise:  “Washington Senators.”
The name “Redskins” now in use comes from an era when the team had a Native American head coach (which is one way of knowing what the team thought of Native Americans).  Out of respect and affection for their head coach, they named their team after him and his background.  He appreciated the affection and good will behind the gesture.   He knew it was not a slur at all.  Nor did the team change it into one in the intervening years.  The team still holds the ethnicity of that coach in high esteem, as well as it does those who share it with him.
The case is the same with the Cleveland Indians.  Cleveland used to call its baseball team the Naps, after Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie, clearly not an insult to him.  Then it changed its name to honor L.F. Sockalexis, a full-blooded Penobscot Indian and the grandson of a Tribal chieftain, a team name clearly not an insult either to Sockalexis or to his grandfather, modern hyper-sensitivities notwithstanding.  When you name your entire team after the ethnicity of your head coach or after a great player, you have not denigrated either one.  You have honored them by identifying your entire enterprise with them.  Similarly, Irish folks are not denigrated by Notre Dame, industrial workers by Purdue, or a different tribe of Native Americans by Illinois.
I don’t know who is advising the government on such matters, but, clearly, to strip the Washington Redskins of their brand name is simply to allow anyone who wishes to make money from it to do so, which guarantees to spread its usage quite widely.  Evacuating that trademark is not suppressing its usage.  That’s widening it, which is typical DC lunacy.  Now anyone who wishes can profit from that brand name and its icon, hardly an outcome likely to limit its usage or to assuage the alleged insult using it allegedly entails to folks with reddish skin.  And yes, I know that redskin folks aren’t really red, blacks aren’t really black, and whites aren’t white.  I also know that the politically correct try relentlessly to foist their overweening hypersensitivities off onto the rest of us whenever they can.   
But I wont accept it.  I'll just push back even harder.  I've got an NFL (Redskins) credit card.  Now that the government has taken away their trademark patent, I'm not going to use any other card, not if my money goes to the Redskins team.  I'm also going to the Redskins’ website to buy lots of their gear.  Soon I might have to go to the University of Illinois website and buy lots of their Fighting Illini gear, a designation soon to draw critical attention to itself.  Then maybe I’ll invest in Notre Dame's Fighting Irish gear.  All of which raises this question:  Do you suppose the government will make Indiana change its name?  Or Indianapolis?  Or the Braves and Chiefs?   What about people of size and the offensive San Francisco Giants?  And are Catholic clergy really going to be happy about the Padres or the Saints?
         For the record, I am 1/8 Apache, which makes me more Indian than Elizabeth Warren.  The Redskin name has no negative impact upon me whatever.  I’m also half Swiss.  But that doesn’t mean I am insulted because the Vatican hires Swiss soldiers to be the Pope’s guards or that those guards feature prominently in Vatican photography.   They do so because for many centuries the Swiss were considered Europe’s best and most reliable warriors.  I’m proud to have that prowess recognized.  Some of those warriors were my ancestors.  Some of that warrior blood still flows through my veins.  I might be a Protestant, but I’d gladly protect the Pope.


LoCoDe said...

Try doing some research. Believe in the propaganda BS the Redskins organization spreads at your own peril.

"The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins,” Marshall said in the AP report. "

Dr. Michael Bauman said...

Follow your own advice, and do some research:

Ilíon said...

"For the record, I am 1/8 Apache, which makes me more Indian than Elizabeth Warren. The Redskin name has no negative impact upon me whatever."

Three of my grandparents were part Indian (Cherokee on my father's (*) side and I think Miami on my mother's), and my ancestry works out to about 1/4 Indian (**) ... and what offends me is not Cowboy and Indian movies, nor sports teams named after Indian tribes, nor depictions of Indians as savages (for, after all, we were), but the dehumanizing lies that pretend we were innocent little nature-cildren.

(*) I'm related to this woman, via her second husband and possibly her father, and she was a cousin to this man.

(**) At the same time, it's bound to be less. For example, my mother's grandmother was said to be "full-blooded Indian", but by then, most if not all "full-blooded Indians" left in Indiana had white ancestors. I think what the phrase really means is that her family were recognized by their neighbors as being Indians, and she married outside "the tribe".