No matter how far in the closet a white racist may be hiding, ask him or her to proudly display a Black or Chinese mascot across his or her shirt, you will be met with opposition. Why? Is it because being a Native American has been romanticized to point of over-sexualized media representations in everything from cartoons to butter cartons? Is it because we have been taught to believe that all Indians are the underdogs forced to become the "fighting brave" that must persevere at all costs? What is it about the American Indian that obsesses White America causing them to paint him across their sports memorabilia as a badge of "honor"? Is it in fact an honor when on a daily basis, that same "R*dskin 'till I die", White American refuses to even acknowledge the plight of the American Indian? How can one "honor" a race of people while all the while denying them a place in their history books outside of teepees, the "First Thanksgiving" and the Constitution of the United States? Are these "proud to be R*dskins" continuing to honor the American Indian with Mount Rushmore and flippant remarks about "casino money" and taxes?
I am what many refer to as a "Black Indian." My husband is what many refer to as a "full-blooded Indian." Needless to say, we have had many philosophical conversations about the plight of the Black American compared to that of the Native American. He often points out that both have been alienated from their own lands and cultures. But how is it that in a nation where Black Americans have been so dehumanized that the need for the slogan "Black Lives Matter" has arisen, that white Americans wouldn't dare proclaim a n*gger as a mascot but will quickly declare a r*dskin. Even though they site the use of the N word amongst other Blacks as justification for its use amongst themselves, they still stop short of proclaiming the word for the use of the mascot. My response to my husband's quarry, Blacks have been subjected to a fate worse than genocide. Blacks have been completely assimilated. We are so convinced that being Black is bad, that no one wants to be Black, not even us. That being the case, why would racist White America want to be us, even just for a football game?
He then points out that American Indians have too be subjected to assimilation to the point of self-hatred. Still they are are the mascots. Again he asks me for my opinion. My theory was simple. The American Indian Movement was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the emerging of the Black Panther Party. While Natives were still being forced into boarding schools and being taught to forget who they are, Blacks were saying, "Don't call me n*gger." We had a running head start on demanding our rights, fighting racism and hate crimes and media stereotypes. It simply comes down to time.
White America has known since, at the very latest, the 1960's that we are not n*ggers and that we will not tolerate such a racial slur. Although the present state of hiphop music may have hindered that progress. We demonstrated public outrage when White America took part in black face as entertainment. It is with slight reservation that I say White America is only now realizing that r*dskin is just as bad as n*gger. They are just recently hearing the voices of the Idle No More that are shouting, "We are not Halloween costumes!" The American Indian is slowly arriving at a destination that Black Americans have now forced themselves to have to revisit.
White America refused to let go of the n-word. It was a "term of endearment." Despite the fact that Black Americans have been their own undoing in the return of the open use of this word, it is still generally observed as an offensive racial slur. It took 400 years before White America accepted this fact. It took decades before they finally let go of black face and minstrel shows. To expect White America to willfully and without opposition let go of their racist attachment to the r-word is unrealistic. The American Indian remains as invisible to White America as ever before. Until they see us as human beings with rights and accept that they are, and will always be on Indian land, they will not get it.
"But we're HONORING you!!"
How can one honor the American Indian without taking the time to learn about him. Give each and every supporter of the r*dskins name a pop quiz on the American Indians who inhabit(ed) the land on which their school or team resides, and I dare say they would fail miserably. When people honored Nelson Mandela they studied apartheid. They learned all about South Africa and the man himself, and yet, he is not a mascot. The reason is because, to honor a great person or people by making them a team or school mascot is not by any stretch of the imagination an honor. White America is not so dense that they actually believe that r*dskins mascots are an honor. They are merely fighting to the symbolic bloody death for their rights to maintain one of their last lingering racist traditions. Let us not forget that Geronimo's skull is still in the possession of the Skull and Bones society, of which a long line of Bush men are members (both Georges included). Baskets and bodies are all in museums to teach White America all about the "people who once were." American Indians were once honored on American currency but have been replaced by White leaders. A statue across from the Statue of Liberty was to be erected in our "honor" but it was abandoned. The people of Texas refused to acknowledge the existence of American Indians in their state until they signed over their rights to open a casino on their own sovereign lands. The fact that a Native American must seek validation from a White American government to verify his mere existence shows how little value the American Indian holds in White America. And yet, it is an "honor" to be a mascot.
Now is the time for Native America to band together with Black America to learn how to make the same strides, and how not to take the same steps backward. Black America needs to show solidarity and abandon the use of the r-word just as Native America needs to band together to abandon the use of the n-word. Nothing undermines a fight for racial equality like hypocrisy.