Last week you all got a chance to see the 1958 Marlboro commercial here, and elsewhere, that depicted a Native American in a manner typically described as racist, and it probably was. I'm not a Native American history buff or even knowledgeable on the history of the apparent controversy over these apparently controversial images. The fact is that I am not a Native American so I really don't know one way or the other how much images of the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Indians really affects people of that persuasion.
The thrust of this article, which is noteworthy because it is a typical of anti-Redskins logo articles, is that organizations and schools shouldn't be conflicted over the issue, because there isn't anything really conflicting to decide. Images of Native Americans by sports teams (in this instance, the author is commenting on a High School with a Native American mascot; for reasons not clearly stated, "Warriors" is the offensive school name in question) is offensive, period, or so sayeth Joe Burns, emphasis added:
This isn't about PC; it's about common sense. This isn't some language-bending bunch of do-gooders suggesting "Warriors" should be changed to "Passively-challenged." It's at worst (i.e.: The Washington Redskins), racist and at best, misguided. Schools, students and society aren't served by stereotyping even if the stereotype is a positive one, and ignoring the concerns and wishes of those who are offended undoes any good intentions and unnecessarily undermines a school's integrity
- It presumes that mere discomfort among the population with an image is or should be enough to preempt its use. Maybe that's a proper conclusion but a slippery slope awaits, as there is no shortage in this litigious country of upset people willing to make borderline images their Waterloo. The present case serves the point well enough (what isn't offensive?):
[Randy Joseph, Wampanoag education manager at Plimoth Plantation,] [w]hile acknowledging that "Warriors" is not a word that relates specifically to American Indians, when combined with "Nauset" the name of the tribe that once occupied the region that the Nauset schools serve, the reference to native people is inescapable. Because of that connection, Joseph said he would like to see "Warriors" dropped along with the iconic Indian.
To be honest,(Why do people say that?) It isn't entirely clear to me why having "Nauset" before the word "Warriors" means the latter modifies the former anymore than, say, the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs means that people from UC Santa Cruz are sluggish (though they are, those lazy UC Santa Cruzers). Or perhaps the proper action is to take out the "Nauset" part of the High School's name, which is at least as reasonable a compromise as removing the "Warriors" part, at least per the author above, emphasis added:Using these names... is controversial... Schools, students and society aren't served by stereotyping even if the stereotype is a positive one...Obviously I disagree. Considering that the Nauset population in the US has been reduced to ~ 1,100 persons -- incidentally my High School was larger than that -- I would prefer positive images of a dwindling American Indian tribe to none at all. Maybe "Warriors" isn't positive. Why, I don't yet know.
- That's no help in the present case, where Your Washington Redskins is clearly a reference to Native Americans with no obvious positive connotation. The writer says:
Using these names and logos is controversial and is offensive to many American Indians.Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. That would certainly hinge on the actual opinion of American Indians (as opposed to the unsupported proclamation of the writer) and what one defined "many" as. The dictionary has something to say about a "large number" which is itself an ambiguous phrase, but I'm willing to go on record that saying 20% of a group isn't a "large number". And 10% even less so. I don't have the available 2008 empirical evidence on how Native Americans feel about Your Washington Redskins, but someone felt the great need to ask such a question back in 2004 and the results may surprise "many" people, especially Joe Burns:A poll of American Indians found that an overwhelming majority of them are not bothered by the name of the Washington Redskins. Only 9 percent of those polled said the name of the NFL team is "offensive," while 90 percent said it's acceptable, according to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, released Friday... The survey found little disparity between men and women or young and old. However, 13 percent of Indians with college degrees said the name is offensive, compared with 9 percent of those with some college and 6 percent of those with a high school education or less. Among self-identified liberals, 14 percent found the term disparaging, compared with 6 percent of conservatives.Is it racist to use Redskins as the mascot of our team? I don't know. I'm not a member of the group that is allegedly supposed to take such a huge affront to the name. I do think it best that, rather than proclaiming from my limited experience on the matter that the Washington Redskins are racist, perhaps I should simply defer to the offended class on the matter. Many -- by any definition of the word, in fact overwhelmingly -- Native Americans said it wasn't offensive per, so far as I can tell, the most recent empirical data on the subject. Maybe they should be offended; but they aren't. And neither I nor Joe Burns really have any right or reason to make that decision on their behalf.