Two Thanksgivings ago I sat down on the couch, with my Thanksgiving feast, to watch the Redskins play the Cowboys in Dallas. I quickly pointed out the irony of the match-up, and my dad convinced me that they play every Thanksgiving to remind us of our history. I believed him for a little bit, and began a rant about how incredibly wrong that was. I realized (honestly, a couple months later) that he was messing with me, and have not thought about that argument since. Recently however, I’ve picked up on a lot of debate and controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name and demands for a franchise name change. Of course, this got me to thinking about that Thanksgiving discussion and I realized the bigger issue with having to even have this debate.
The Redskins, in addition to other teams such as the Indians, Braves, Chiefs, and Fighting Irish, are almost annually under scrutiny to change the name. In June 2013, the Redskins commissioner received a letter from ten members of the Congressional Native American Caucus demanding for the withdrawal of the offensive name. They explained how being referred to as a ‘redskin’ is equivalent to using the ‘N-word,’ and leads to a slew of tensions between races. In addition, others have reached out, describing how the use of ‘redskins’ has affected their education and ability to fit in to American society and culture.
The debate goes back and forth, some in support arguing that the name honors Native Americans, and others arguing it is too engrained in football culture to be changed at this point. I’m not going to argue against this, or the 50 of 51 Redskin football players who think the name should not be changed, but instead point out that there is a bigger problem that needs to be discussed. Roughly two thirds of Americans think the name is not offensive, and should stay the same. And at the same time, a majority of Native Americans would disagree. The problem resides in education and equal treatment and respect in our society.
If Redskins is truly an offensive name to a race that has always resided in this country, then it should be something that is talked about. The average person cannot tell others what offends them or not, and must try to be respectful of the comfort of others; we all live here. Native Americans represent roughly 1 percent of the population, and considering most of us should want to avoid the tyranny of the majority, we can’t leave it entirely up to them to voice their opinions alone. If this name is in fact destructive to their culture, and is affecting the treatment of others within the society, and especially within the education system, it is something that should be discussed, taught, and enforced.