Friday, July 24, 2015

That name

Once upon a time in America there was a tobacco brand named Nigger Hair.

Once upon a time there was a restaurant named Sambo's, an engine additive named Sambo X-15 and, yes, Darky Toothpaste, which employed a grinning black man in a top hat as its logo.

I can't imagine, when those went away, anyone shaking his or her head sadly and saying it was a terrible thing. I can't imagine a lot of impassioned talk that the America we all know and love was collapsing beneath the weight of tyrannical political correctness.

But then, those were the days when deliberately offending someone was considered rude, not some kind of half-assed virtue.

And so all of the above vanished from the landscape, and there wasn't a lot of caterwauling about it.  Everyone understood, on some level, how wrong it was.

No more, apparently.

Now Fort Wayne Community Schools is at long last reconsidering the North Side Redskins, a well-duh move that should have been made years ago. And here come all the apologists out of the woodwork, ranting about political correctness and muddying a pretty straightforward issue with all manner of irrelevant segues.

Tradition. Good intentions. The fact that there are Native Americans who don't consider "Redskins" to be a racial slur. On and on.

But here's the thing: It is a racial slur. It might not have seemed so in 1927, when North Side High School came into being, but Nigger Hair Tobacco wasn't considered a racial slur then, either. Or Darky Toothpaste. Doesn't change the fact that all of them were.

And, yes, there are Native Americans who don't consider "Redskin" a slur. I'm sure there were African-Americans who weren't all that bothered by Darky Toothpaste, either. No group of people is or ever has been monolithic. So it's a flimsy argument in your favor that, because some Native Americans don't consider "Redskins" a slur, you're off the hook.

You're not. And if you think your are, wander out to one of the reservations out West and start calling the remnants of proud Indian nations "redskin." Then duck, because somehow I think your explanation that it's meant to honor those nations will fall on deaf ears.

So, yeah, it's time to change this. It's not 1927 anymore. Native Americans actually have a voice in America now, which is why "Redskins" is considered what it always was, a racial slur. If it wasn't considered so in 1927, it's because white people were controlling the message. Were controlling all the messages, really.

That's not true in 2015, and if you're mourning that, it's time to get over it. We live in a multi-cultural society now, and that's not a bad thing. It's just different.

So it's time for "Redskins" to go, not out of political correctness, but simple common decency. This does not mean Indians or Warriors or Braves or even individual Native American tribal names (the Central Michigan Chippewas come to mind, probably because I'm a Mid-American Conference guy) will go with them. There's a clear difference -- as clear a difference as there is between African-American and Darky.

And as far as tradition is concerned ... traditions change. They always have. Twenty, 30 years from now, the graduates of North Side will be just as passionate about their new nickname as some of the school's are now about Redskins.

And so: All hail the North Side River Rats!

OK. So that probably won't be it.

 But a graduate of New Haven  (whom North Side always knocked out of the sectional, every year, forever) can dream, can't he?


1 comment:

  1. Everyone naturally calls them the River Rats so they might as well officially make that their name