Friday, October 21, 2016

Why I'm Trying To Stop Saying "Redskins"

First, let me start by saying that my use of the term in the title and throughout this blog is strictly about being honest to discussion.

I am on record on Don't Laugh, People arguing in favor of the name and how it is not a slur. But I believe there are several angles to attack this discussion from, and it would be unfair of myself to not attack each angle equally.

While I've maintained that fans of the Washington Redskins are not using the name with ill-intent, that does not mean that others can find no offense in the term. I was born into a family of fans of the team, and from very early on (witnessed a Super Bowl victory at three-and-a-half years old), I have associated the name with happiness, pride, and respect. My own bloodline consists of Native ancestry, and I always believed I was fair and respectful in my honoring of the name.

We fans say that a lot. We honor the tradition and history of not only the football team, but the people the team is supposed to represent. Our logo was drawn by a Native. We took some of the racist southern ties out of the fight song (Old Dixie became Ol' DC). And I do believe that our fans are genuinely hate-free when using the term. Obviously not all of us (even myself) pass as Natives, but many of us feel like we are the people we honor.

But it is not our call to make whether others are offended. Saying "I did not mean to offend" is admitting that someone was offended. We did not mean it, and we still do not mean it (well, most of us). The problem comes when those who speak up get lashed out at. The problem comes when someone tells us it offends them, and then some of us use it to offend those people further.

My shift in stance comes from a very close-to-home experience. A fellow Washington Redskins fan—a full-blooded, obvious by appearance, Native woman—spoke with me recently about her experience with the term. I will not disclose full details of the conversation or the incident, nor will I expose her. But I asked for full-disclosure from people who were offended by the term and her response was very candid.

So this girl attended the Packers vs. Redskins playoff game last year. After the loss, she was leaving FedExField and voicing displeasure in the effort of our players with several other fans. She was then approached by a few more fans just outside of the stadium in the parking lot who began attacking her. Not defending the team. Not telling her that she should have more faith in a young team who should have a bright future. They attacked her personally. They called her a "dirty Injun" and a couple of the guys danced around her like she was a bonfire. They then started calling her a "disappointment" and a "savage whore" before saying "redskins like you make everything about this team impossible to support."

This young lady had pictures from the game. She was decked out from head to toe in team gear, all fully-adorned with "Redskins" in clear, bold, large print. If you see her in the pictures, you see a young lady who would be accused of perpetuating racism towards Natives, even though she is Native herself.

I know these fans are not representative of our fanbase as a whole. I think everyone else is aware of that fact, also. But it still reflects on us, and it is proof that the name can be used to hurt someone. For me, I got the open discussion I asked for, and the pain evidenced in her experience that night.

Out of respect for this fellow fan who still attends games adorned in clothing with the word emblazoned, I am making my own effort to cut down on the use of the word and I encourage others to at least consider the same.