I love this time of year, not because we are one month down into a fresh new year filled with hopes of promise and expectations, or because we get the opportunity to reinvent ourselves with resolutions that will be broken faster than we can even post them as our updates on FB. No, I love it because if you are a sports fan, this is the best time of year to watch sports. We were all just witness to some awesome playoff NFL football which piggybacked the ho-hum college national title game, but culminated in a nail biting Super Bowl DXCXIIM, I don’t speak Greek, so I guess that would be….Super Bowl 46. But what is even more exciting is that we are only a month away the greatest spectale known to man, MARCH MADNESS!!! This is of course cause for celebration since these games are good to watch, and an even better as an excuse to have a party to watch them with friends. As we gear up for this roundrobin rotissire of ridculouslness and revelry I can’t help but notice the wonderful pageantry and tradition that takes place with all of these teams. The Syracuse Orangmen, the UCLA Bruins, the Baylor Bears, the Duke Blue Devils, the North Carolina Tarheels and a score of other teams that showcase their mascots on their uniforms, in their fight songs, on the court, on their cheerleaders, and pretty much everywhere else they can market their brand. But then when we get to the professional teams I notice that there are some mascots that seem out of date, offensive, and borderline racist. I am of course speaking about the Washington Redskins, and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Why is it that Washington’s football team, the Redskins, are still called the Redskins? Or for that matter Kansas City’s football team, the Chiefs, still going by that derogatory name? No one has gotten around to changing the names yet because they are too busy? Why does this country insist that we are the most tolerant and accepting people on the planet when we are probably the most racist country in the world? Sure there are other countries where atrocities are levied against groups of people based on race and religious preferences. But at least they know what they are doing and who they are after. This country doesn’t even understand the depths of its racial depravity. They insist that there is equality, acceptance, understanding, but behind every snide remark, and guarded quip people are teeming with racist antiquated notions about one another. And if there is one place we can put an end to it, it can be in the mascots adorning the uniforms and merchandise that these football and other sporting teams parade around in on national television.
I have heard people make the argument that the names are not meant to be derogatory or hate-filled, but are reflections of a period in time when those were acceptable nicknames. Yes, they were because the White people uttering them were racists! They were nicknames that were used to incite fear, violence, and racist sentiment toward a certain group of people. It is like when one of my White friends says that they don’t understand why the “n word” is offensive since he can be called a “cracker” and that isn’t viewed to be equally offensive. It is more than just the word. It is what the term means and the history behind what the word has meant. Its utterance brings along with it all the vitriol, the lynchings, the hangings, the murders, the false imprisonments, the fear, the hate mongering, and all of the other atrocities that were levied against the negro since the inception and proliferation of that vile word. It wasn’t meant to be a fun nickname given to a group of people as a joke. It was meant to belittle, to disenfranchise, and to degrade people so that when they heard it, it was not only an insult to the person it was being said to, but also a labeling so that all people who heard it would know that the recipient of that title was trash. It is a despicable word and whomever utters it; regardless of race is revealing to the world their ignorance and disdain for themselves and the plight of the negro people.
Unfortunately, racism doesn’t have the same bite to it when it is reversed and levied against the dominant race. If that were the case I think we might see teams like the Colorado Crackers, the Indiana Inbreeders, or the West Virginia Red necks. I know there was a movement some time ago from some basketball players at the University of Northern Colorado wanting to call themselves the Fighting Whities as their way to protest the racism inherent in mascots. They were attempting to use wit and sarcasm as a way to bring attention to the perceived injustices that was prevalent in the use of ethnic stereotypes in team names. It was met with some interest, but was mostly dismissed by the major media outlets as just “college kids, being college kids.” Which was an unfortunate dismissal of their ideas, because what these boys were attempting to do was right on point whether or not their intentions were the result of youth or not. There has been too much racial stereotyping, hurtful language, and derogatory titles in this country that only further perpetuates the hate-filled sentiment that names like “redskin” or “chief” conveys.
If the team names are truly meant to represent or pay homage to a community of Native Americans, like the Utah Utes have done or the Florida State Seminoles have attempted to do commemorating their respective native American tribes in their areas, then that is reasonable and just. It is acceptable only if the people who share that ancestry believe that it is being done in a historical way and not an exploitative manner. I did a little research and it turns out that the Piscataway Tribe was native to the Washington DC area before they were exterminated. That would be a good way to remember the people massacred and bring a certain sense of history, knowledge, and a show of healing to the area by renaming the team the Washington Piscataways. In Kansas City there were a number of tribes prevalent in that area including the Cherokee, Chippewa, Shawnee, Pawnee, and Kickapoo. Any of these tribes would be a better name than the Chiefs. I think that the name the Kansas City Cherokees has a good ring to it. Just so long as we can somehow put behind us the name-calling and derogatory symbols that continue to perpetuate ignorance, stupidity, racial rhetoric, and intolerance of others. If anything, as Americans one thing we all share throughout our great nation’s tumultuous formation is that we all have been shit on. Some more than others. But we have all had to overcome our share of racism and intolerance. Instead of looking for further ways to perpetuate that sentiment, let’s find a way to use it to form one cohesive, UNITED group of people, The American Patriots!