It was good to see several thousand people protesting the Washington Redskins at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday at the University of Minnesota campus.
Maybe (yes, this is a big maybe) that football team will get the message their mascot is offensive – not just to Native Americans but to all enlightened people in this day and age.
Some of the protestors wore maroon shirts that said “Rethink” or “Rename” instead of “Redskins.” One of the protestors was former Vikings player Joey Browner, who is part Native American.
“We’re not mascots,” Browner told the crowd, as reported in an Associated Press story.
The Redskins lost to the Vikings 26-29. Now, if they would only lose their offensive mascot and logo.
This ongoing issue – teams using derogatory mascots – is such an emotional controversy. One poll recently showed 80 percent of Americans see “nothing wrong” with the “Redskins” mascot. Some derisively dismiss the issue as much ado about nothing or as malcontents stirring up trouble. Some mascot defenders go through verbal acrobatics to try to explain the term “Redskins” is, in fact, complimentary to Native Americans, who should be proud the team chose the side profile of an Indian to represent their team and that some Redskin fans dress in “war paint” and feathers and make tomahawk-chop movements during games. Complimentary? Deeply insulting is more like it.
There is an ongoing debate about how the term “redskin” originated. Many scholars point to past centuries when, in some places, there were bounties given for killings of Indians, and the bloody scalps (red skins) were proof the bounty recipient had, in fact, killed an Indian.
On the Esquire magazine website is printed a copy of the following grisly, disgusting paragraph from The Daily Republican newspaper in Winona, Minn. Sept. 24, 1863: “The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.”
There may be multiple derivations of the word “redskin,” but no matter what the source, there is absolutely nothing “complimentary” about it. The word is insulting and hurtful, as bad as using the “n” word with racist contempt these days.
It’s obvious from that statement and so many other documents from the past that hatred of Indians ran rampant in this country. Too many people are fond of saying the past is over and done with, so let’s forget about it. If you are an American Indian or if you are an Afro-American, it’s hard to forget the vicious outrages of the past, even if you have only read about them – scalpings of “redskins,” campaigns of extermination, broken treaties, 200 years of slavery, beatings, lynchings . . . The sorry list goes on. Using derogatory logos and mascots is like rubbing those past horrors into the faces of the descendants of the victims of those crimes. Flying a confederate flag – especially on public buildings – is a sickening reminder to the descendants of those who endured so much suffering in the Old South. And, at the very least, such mascots are deeply disrespectful.
No, we don’t have to wallow in the sins and crimes of the past, but we should at least acknowledge the suffering visited upon so many human beings. And part of that enlightened acknowledgement should be to quit displaying (with pride!) the grotesque symbols of those past outrages.