What’s in a Name? Racism: A Response.

This is in response to the article in the last issue titled “Unpopular Opinion: Controversial Team Names Aren’t All That Controversial.” In short, I call bullshit.

I appreciate the fact that you, Anonymous writer, would rather see more productive means of protest that doesn’t involve boycotting games. This I can agree with. I understand that you feel as though the controversial team names in question are honouring the Native people. Not only are you wrong about this, but perpetuating this idea is dangerously ignorant.

You may be thinking that something as simple as a team name or their mascot cannot possibly promote racist ideologies. It’s all in good fun, right? Wrong. Take the Washington Redskins for example. Do I even have to go further with this explanation? “Redskins” is a term used to refer to the scalps that were collected for bounty. Scalps were literally taken off the heads of Native people and sold off like a trendy pelt. Over time the term developed to literally mean ‘person with red skin,’ aka Indigenous people. Does this development make the term more acceptable? No. It is completely degrading and one of the most grotesque terms available. So, how are the Washington Redskins showing respect and honour as you so eloquently point out? This isn’t an homage. It’s a reminder of social hierarchy. It’s making a joke out of our Indigenous peoples, where the punch line is the acceptance that people like yourself feel towards this issue.

If you still don’t believe that team names can promote racism, take a look at some of the headlines that have appeared over the years: “Scalp ‘em, oh wonderous Redskins” (Chicago Sun Times, 1987) “Hartley Claims Redskins’ Scalp” (The Mirror, 2000), and most recently “Red Robins Scalp Indians in Solid GNC 6-0 Shutout” (Antigo Daily Journal, 2017). These are only three examples of many more. Now that we have established that racism does exist, let’s turn our attention to cultural appropriation.

Have you ever seen a Braves game? The “Tomahawk Chop” is a fan favourite that involves swinging a foam tomahawk and participating in a “rallying cry” that is supposed to replicate what these people think a Native one would sound like. The Kansas City Chiefs will also say that they are honouring Indigenous people, and yet they encourage stereotypes. They play at Arrowhead stadium, sport a logo of an arrowhead, and have a horse mascot named Warpaint. The fans are often seen wearing head dresses, and yell out war cries for their team. The Cleveland Indians, besides having a name that is well known as a derogatory term, have an incredibly racist mascot named Chief Wahoo. But I suppose you feel as though Indigenous people should feel honoured to be made fun of, because at least they get some recognition, right? What you are really saying in your article, dearest Anon, is that we should be grateful for any kind of representation we can get in this world, even if it’s offensive. What you are saying is that you can still take and take and take from us, and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We are not your mascots. We are not your property, and we sure as hell aren’t going to sit here and accept it like you want us to do.