WASHINGTON — As a fan of tradition, my knee-jerk reaction to the Redskins controversy — should the name be changed out of respect for offended Native Americans? — was, well, knee-jerk.
As in, good grief, must we change every word to please every offended group?
Moreover, as an alum of Florida State University (Go 'Noles!), whose mascot is the Seminole, I'm accustomed to thinking of the invocation of Native Americans as a compliment. The best athletes and the winningest teams wish nothing more than to display the qualities we associate with American Indians: fierce, brave and noble.
There's surely no insult intended by those cheering for Washington's Redskins. Finally, haven't we come far enough not to take everything so personally?
Spoken like a true paleface.
My more-considered response is that, yes, we should — under certain circumstances — relinquish beloved tradition to the mature moment. This seems to be the sentiment of President Obama, who recently said that if he were the team owner, he would consider changing the name.
Understandable as it is for fans to resist changing the name of their team, loyalty to a name isn't really the point. The point is that “redskin,” unlike the Native American-related names of other teams, refers to a physical characteristic. It is implicitly racial and through its usage has been explicitly racist. We needn't wander far into the maze of other offensive terms, many once considered humorous, that would be instantly unacceptable today.
Out of a respect for my own survival, I'll skip examples except as they pertain to my own skin. Since much of my kin hail from the land of shamrocks and leprechauns, let's tweak Notre Dame's “Fighting Irish” to reflect a familiar stereotype — the “Drunken Irish.”
Surely nothing in my childhood would suggest otherwise. We were … spirited, often thanks to spirits of the liquid sort. And, truth be known, most Irish I know would laugh and buy another round, but you get the point. We don't, or shouldn't, gladly assign derogatory nicknames to identify our public institutions, and that includes teams that represent cities or other swaths of diverse human populations.
Even the “Drunken Irish” is a failed analogue since one is a cultural stereotype and Redskins is strictly racial.
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