By David Hurtado
Life is hard. It’s even harder when your sense of self-worth is easily offended by every little thing that there ever was.
In recent weeks, calls to change team name of the Washington Redskins have grown increasingly louder, on the grounds that it’s derogatory to Native Americans. These complaints have mostly come from the Oneida Indian Nation, saying the name “has negative consequences for the Native American community when it comes to issues of self-identity and imagery.” The Redskins impressive 2-4 record probably isn’t helping things either.
Given how American Indians have been portrayed for much of American history, I understand where the Oneida are coming from. Really, I do. But this is the kind of political correctness that’s been responsible for the deaths of millions of brain cells in this country. The Washington Red skins are not the only team out there who have named themselves after a group of native peoples.
Team names, particularly in foot ball, are meant to denote pride, strength, courage and fearlessness. People choose these names out of reverence for what they represent, not because they despise them. Did the Dallas Cowboys choose their name because they hate cowboys? Did the Steelers choose their name because they hate their local steel industry? Humans don’t revere what they don’t like.
Moreover, these calls reveal a complete ignorance of history by the Oneida. “Redskins” refers not to pigmentation or the practice of selling scalps, but from the fact Indian warriors would use red paint to cover their bodies in an attempt to intimidate their enemies. Has it been used in a derogatory manner towards American Indians? Of course. But this isn’t one of those instances.
Seeing as the country is going to hell in a hand basket and American Indians are marred by low standards of living, you would think the Oneida would have nobler causes to champion. The poverty rate for Native Americans living on reservations is 31.2 percent, nearly three times the national rate, according to Walking Shield, an aid organization for American Indian families. And that’s not all.
On some reservations, unemployment rates have reached as high as 85 percent. American Indians are 770 percent more likely to die from alcoholism and have a college graduation rate of just 38.3 percent. You know what’s really frightening though? These statistics are mostly from2003, before the economy dived off the deep end. Now, after two costly wars and the recession, how much do you think these conditions have improved?
Changing the Redskins team name is the same as ‘liking’ a status on Facebook saying you support starving African children. It’s a meaningless, feel-good gesture that serves no purpose whatsoever. If we changed the team name to “The Washington Indigenous Peoples of the East coast,” is that going to make all the actual issues I mentioned above disappear? No.
The past is the past; we don’t have time to worry about the simple name of a sports team. It’s true American Indians suffered greatly at the hands of the U.S. government, facing eradication for refusing to surrender their homes to invaders. But these people are long dead and there isn’t anything we can do for them now; I honestly wish there was, but there isn’t. Attention needs to be brought to the plight of their descendants on the reservations, instead of a non-issue like this.
Covering up the past does not change that it happened.
Contact David Hurtado, features editor,