Critics of the Washington Redskins nickname are suggesting the football team change its name to the “Washington Americans.”
At a symposium on the Redskins name on Monday, Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, suggested the name change, and Washington Post online columnist Clinton Yates heartily endorsed the “Americans” name:
As a D.C. native and a lifelong fan of the team, I’ve lost friends over the issue. Supporters of the team name often tell you that tradition trumps a history of genocide. After all, the argument goes, we’re already desensitized to the name, why change now? Those people are idiots. The fact is that not only is the team’s mascot a highly insensitive insult, but the ardent defiance of those in support of it is disgusting.
This isn’t just a matter of football. Or uniforms. Or logos. Or fight songs. Or really anything related to game day. It’s also not a matter of singling out Dan Snyder’s team among a slew of others with similar monikers. It’s a matter of acknowledging that as a country, we are not going to accept the continued parodying of cultures for the entertainment of the masses and the profits of a few. It’s something that Ray Halbritter, Nation Representative of the Oneida Indian Nation explained pretty simply on Monday.
Yates then pointed to comments Gover made at the symposium:
“Well, you’ve got the Nationals, what about the Americans? You know in the 17th and 18th centuries when a European writer referred to Americans, they were not talking about the colonialists. They were talking about the Native Americans. And that’s how they were referred to. Even scientific literature at the time comparing the different races said well, you’ve got Africans, you got Asians, you got Europeans and you’ve got Americans,” Gover said. “It’s a much more inclusive term. So if you had a Native American image, but the team was called the Americans, that’s starts to feel like something more like an honor. You’re not being singled out, you’re being included.”
Yates then wrote about a personal experience with his father in which his dad would not let him buy his kid brother Redskins gear for his birthday:
Five years ago, there was a shouting match in my household about the football team we all rooted for. My kid brother had a birthday coming up and I wanted to buy him some burgundy and gold gear. I was promptly instructed by my dad that any such purchase would be returned to the store.
There was a heated argument. I couldn’t get it through my head that the name of the team that my dad had molded me to love was suddenly something to be ashamed of. His point was simple: we don’t propagate racist imagery in this household. It was a position he’d come to with age.