Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Redskins: Why it's time to change the name

For several years the Washington Redskins, an NFL football team, has come under fire because of their name. According to Wikipedia the name has gone through several changes. It was originally named the Boston Braves in 1932, which was the name of one of the 2 baseball teams also owned by the city of Boston. In 1933 the team moved to share a stadium with the Boston Red Sox and the owners hired a new coach. Lone Star Dietz. There is rumor that Dietz was part Sioux and that changing the team name to Boston Redskins was in honor of him. There are also reports which counter this rumor (Both Dietz's heritage and that the team was named to honor him). The name was changed again in 1937 when the team moved from Boston to Washington DC.

During this period of history there was little regard for the feelings or concerns of minorities. It wasn't until 1934 that the US Government passed the Indian Reorganization Act. Prior to the act Native Americans were given allotments, or pieces of the reservation, that could be sold to non-Natives in an effort to assimilate the Natives and their land into the US population. Separate but equal laws weren't repealed until 1954 and laws banning poll taxes and literacy tests (designed to keep blacks from voting) weren't passed until 1965. So using a name like "redskin" for a football team in the 1930s wasn't even on the radar as a potential problem.

Changes in word definitions are also a factor in the Patent Office decision to revoke the trademark. There is a lot of controversy over actual meaning of the term "redskin". I feel that this is because, like many words, it started out with one meaning and over time came to mean something else. One of the most common examples of this is the misuse of the term for a female dog. In today's lexicon it's used a derogatory term for a woman. As language changes society needs to find ways to adapt.

Our political system is very big on the squeaky wheel concept. Blacks have made huge advances because they have been able to gather as a group and create awareness of their situation. Natives, some of whom only speak their their native language or have been forced by the government into boarding to school which literally beat them for practicing their culture, are just now beginning to organize as a political group in order to fight for the same considerations which are afforded to other minority groups.

As a society we must accept that sometimes things have to be changed. While there may have been no malice intended in the 1930s when the Redskins first chose the name, the name has now been shown to be a racial slur and derogatory. It's time to change it.

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