Looking through my blog history, there are many references to the Washington Football Team, which was – until recently – called the Washington Redskins. I grew up in the DC metro area at a time when this was a magical team that frequently won the Super Bowl and I developed a strong affinity for the franchise.
For many years there was a controversy about the Redskins name. Was it racist? Was it offensive? It took me a long time to establish a position for several reasons. First was that most of the people arguing about it seemed to be privileged white folks like me, not the people to whom the name actually referred. Within Indigenous communities, there were arguments on both sides of the debate, which meant I couldn’t simply defer to a unified position.
Also I had never (and still have never) heard anyone use the term “redskin” as a racial epithet. I had heard it used exclusively to refer to the Washington NFL team – and even then, usually abbreviated to “‘Skins.” These are reminders that issues like these are often more complex than the cut and dry arguments people like to make about them.
What eventually convinced me that the Redskins name was wrong actually had less to do with the specific name itself and more to do with the broad fetishization of Indigenous peoples. As I underwent my [still in process] learning journey about equity, inclusion, and justice, I found it increasingly indefensible for a bunch of wealthy, mostly White people to profit from the name and likeness of people who suffered displacement and genocide at the hands of . . . a bunch of wealthy, mostly White people. At best this was unintentionally in poor taste and at worst this was deliberately White supremacist.
I stopped using the term myself a few years ago and I was glad to see when the NFL team officially stopped using the name as well last year. I would go further, though, and suggest that no teams – Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, etc. – should be using Indigenous names and iconography without significant representation of Indigenous people determining how they are used and sharing in the profits of their likenesses being sold on jerseys, TV broadcasts, video games, etc.
This is a continuous learning journey for me so my perspective might change, in which case I will share my learnings here. In the meantime, in the spirit of learning, rather than erasing my past use of “Redskins” on this blog, I will leave those instances intact but with a note expressing regret and pointing to this post for context.
What do the rest of you think about this approach? All opinions welcome but opinions from Indigenous people weighted most heavily.