A recent poll by the Washington Post found that most Washington Redskins fans support the team's controversial name.
What most of these fans don’t realize is how offensive the term redskin truly is.
Susan Harjo is an American Indian rights activist who is the leading plaintiff in a long-running Redskins trademark court battle.
“The r-word is the most derogatory thing Native Peoples can be called in the English language,” Harjo told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
Many have drawn the comparison between the term redskins and the n-word.
The term Redskins is not only is derogatory, but also brings to mind the painful memories of the past when Native Americans had their land and lives stolen by colonists.
Using redskins as a mascot is putting Native Americans on the same levels as animals like dolphins or bears. It allows us to look at people like animals and leads to treating people like animals.
In May, 10 members of congress sent a letter to Dan Snyder, the team owner, and Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, urging for a name change.
The letter quotes current Chairman and Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis.
This appeal had little effect. Goodell responded to the letter in June saying that the name Redskins is “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
Snyder did not hold anything back with his response.
“As a lifelong Redskins fan, I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition,” he told USA Today. “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
What it comes down to is Synder is a rich white male who does not care that he is demeaning an entire race because he can make money off the use of the name Redskins.
The Redskins organization is not known for being progressive. It was the last team to integrate and only did so in 1962, after the federal government forced them to.
From the perspective of the organization, it is possible to see economically why the Redskins do not want to go through a name change. What I don’t understand is how fans can support this derogatory name.
This week there were riots in Washington over the race issues in the Zimmerman case, but most Washington fans do not seem to mind the use of an ethnic slur.
One reason could be our societies deeply embedded racism towards Native Americans.
The United States has a long history of racism against Native Americans that started with Europeans coming to North America.
Abuse of Native Americans did not sop with the Pilgrims. From 1860 until the 1970s, Native Americans were forced into reform boarding schools where they were abused and striped of their culture.
“School staff sheared children's hair, banned traditional clothing and customs, and forced children to worship as Christians,” writes Andrea Smith in the Amnesty International Magazine. “Eliminating Native languages — considered an obstacle to the "acculturation" process — was a top priority, and teachers devised an extensive repertoire of punishments for uncooperative children.”
Today, Native Americans still face social and institutional racism.
The statistics speak for themselves, according to American Indians and Crime, Native American women are 2.5 times more like to be sexually assaulted then women in general. In 2009, the United States Senate Committee on Indian found that the national average of unemployment on reservations was 50 percent and went up to 77 percent on the Northern Great Plains.
Football fans need to open their eyes and realize that some things are bigger then sports, and this is one of them.
The fact that the football team for the nation’s capital is still the Redskins truly shows the racism that is still deeply ingrained in American society.