By Baxter Black, DVM
The Washington (DC) Redskins have raised the ire of part of the collective descendants of East Asian migrants who crossed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. In my conversations with some descendants (formerly called Indians, Native Americans, Indigenous, First Nations, American Indians) there is a broad degree of “offendedness” between individuals and tribes.
It is not for me to be insensitive to those who want to pick their own racial description as listed on the census form. Some of the race consider the term Redskin as offensive as the N-word is received among the formerly called Negro, Colored, African American, Brother, Homey or Black. The N-word is now acceptable only in rap music or Hollywood movies.
And, I suspect the R-word is accepted if used intra-racially. The biggest issue seems to be how a race wants to be known to other races. It can get complicated. By this reasoning Indian reservation basketball teams can adopt team names or mascots like the Arrows, Apaches, Aztecs, Braves, Chiefs, Comanches, Mohawks, Red Raiders, Redmen, Reds, Savages, Seminoles, Sioux, Thunderbirds, Tribe or Warriors, but non-Indian schools or teams may not. If laws like this were approved to prohibit the use of “Indian” nicknames, they would pass from our vocabulary.
What will happen to teams whose place name is American Indian? Should they be erased from our collective language? How many states and towns and river names are of Native Indian origin?
Answer: more than you can count! The United States would lose the history and influence of the people who “discovered” the continents.
In a survey by Sports Illustrated of American Indians in 2002, 83% responded that the country should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots or symbols. However, obviously some nicknames are more offensive than others. But it would be a tragedy for Americans to forget our native heritage, regardless of race.
Should there be a distinction between a DNA connection (race) and a cultural description like Cowboy or Handicapped or Left-Handed or Cat Lover? Do they have the right to be offended? I have always resented the political and media mob referring to their political enemies as Cowboys in a derogatory manner when they don’t fall into the status quo. How long will disgruntled cowboys put up with the Dallas football team? Or the use of our name to steal our glamour and integrity…the Cowboy Museum, Cowboy boots, the University of Wyoming football team? Should non-real cowboys be allowed to write Cowboy poetry?
Actually, the time will come when these issues will be moot. The vast majority of dogs in the U.S. are mongrels. The world is working itself through this phase of self-identity and will be for centuries to come, until our global population becomes so crossbred that a Rainbow coalition will become the norm. 500 years from now we will look like the crew on Star Trek!
But as civilization progresses, what we as a species (homo sapien) have in common, will take precedence over what separates us. For now, the offended white, black, latino, oriental, polynesian and native Americans will fight it out with the un-offended white, black, latino, oriental, polynesian and native Americans about renaming the Washington (DC) football team.
Then I’m going after Dallas!