Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What's In A Name? The Washington Redskins Controversy

Last week the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board declared that the Washington Redskins was disparaging to Native Americans. Predictably, much of “white America” didn't understand the issue. What’s in a name? I’ve thought about this a little because not much really gets me riled. I mean, honestly, what’s the big deal? In fact, I propose some new team mascots just to level the playing field so as not to single out Native Americans. I think we should change the Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame to the Drunken Irish. Other team names that come to mind would include things like The Stupid Rednecks, The Garlic Eaters, The MassHoles, The Yellowskins, The Dumb Blondes, The Greedy CEOs,  The Lazy Fatties, The Granola Eaters, The Gun Totin’ Maniacs…the list could go on and on and on and on.  What these names do is evoke hurtful stereotypes. Because our mind needs categories in order to understand the world, stereotypes are the simplest way to do this. One of the problems with stereotypes is they are untrue. If the world was as simple as stereotypes indicate it would be a boring place in which to live. Human beings are complex. Phrases like “all gays are…” or “all conservatives are…” are red flags indicating that the person making the statement is too lazy to make individual moral judgments. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, it is simply easier to judge someone by the color of their skin than by the content of their character. In order to judge one’s character you must take the time to get to know that individual, and that is just too much trouble.

Yesterday I read a blog posted on a Native American site regarding the Washington Redskins controversy and this blog pointed out a more sinister reason why stereotypes can be troubling, one I hadn’t thought of.  Stereotypes are dehumanizing. When a group is stereotyped whether it is African Americans, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, Liberals, Conservatives, Gays, Northerners, Southerners, Mexicans, Canadians, they cease to become persons and instead become “things”. Things are disposable. Things are here for my pleasure. I can own things and use things, they have no existence in themselves, they are here to serve me.  When people become things bad stuff happens.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant once stated, “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end." As a people, we do not seem to be any closer to this goal.

I highly recommend you read the thought provoking essay at:  http://www.ya-native.com/nativeamerica/getridofracisminsports.html

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