Lately I have been spectating social media commentary on the use of one word in our community – Redskin.
It has become a little like watching a horrible accident in slow-motion where the perpetrator, in this instance a city councilor and friend, is being verbally run over by offended members of the community again and again (and sometimes backed over for good measure).
Why, might you ask, is this person being vilified? Why all for having the despicable gall of suggesting city council might request the local hockey team in our 97% non-Aboriginal community consider changing their name from the Morden Redskins to something potentially less offensive.
The responses have been quick and loud and VERY negative (there has been much support too but the hurtful words are always louder).
A sampling of opinion on the matter:
- Stop stirring the pot (aka nobody move and nobody gets hurt or don’t ask, don’t tell)
- We haven’t had any complaints from First Nations people therefore this is not an offensive name (aka – because you are white you are not allowed to have an opinion on what might be offensive to a person of a different heritage so shut up)
- This is embarrassing to our city and makes us look racist and therefore you are a shameful representative (aka we know its a racial slur but who cares if no one is complaining. Let’s keep our skeletons properly stored in the closet)
- Shame on you for not focusing your efforts on more important things like our economic development or easing First Nations poverty (aka I don’t know you so I am going to assume you are a glory seeking person who cares only for themselves or maybe you are just a silly person who can’t tell serious issues from non-issues like labeling an entire and complex mix of cultures by one word based on the colour of their skin. After all how could our being unconcerned with the use of a racial slur against a minority possibly have anything to do with their treatment, subjugation and subsequent impoverishment?)
- Bunch of politically correct crap…offended people should get thicker skins (aka why can’t a freaking conquered people just stay conquered and give up? We won. We will call you whatever the hell we want. Shut up.)
- I have a First Nations friend/ am a First Nations person who thinks the term is fine/loves it (aka one First Nation friend trumps the fact that large numbers of First Nations and American Indians, scholars, leaders etc. that have gone on record as stating the word Redskin is racist and hurtful; that several dictionaries say the same thing; that an entire US state (California) just BANNED the word Redskin as a team/mascot name; that a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission by the First Nation’s band A Tribe Called Red succeeded in having a Redskins team in Ottawa have to drop its name; that the United States department responsible for Copyright just removed the Washington Redskin’s copyright stating that you cannot copyright a racial slur…aka Shut up.)
- It’s not offensive because we didn’t mean it to be offensive (aka we don’t care if you think its offensive and if many others are offended by it because we don’t mean it to be therefore you really aren’t actually offended therefore shut up.)
- It’s our team’s proud six decade history (aka your heritage stretching back thousands of years does not matter when faced with our awesome hockey jersey and winning record)
- It honours First Nations people when a team of almost entirely white guys calls themselves Redskins (aka as an honour it would be no big deal if we all just started call every First Nations person we know “Redskin” – “Hey hows it going Redskin?” because we want to “honour” them.)
- What about the 100 other teams named after First Nation’s tribes and/or skin colour? (aka since everybody else is racist why can’t we be too?)
- It didn’t start out as offensive (Neither did the horribly offensive word Nigger which started out as a neutral term referencing skin colour (sound familiar) but there aren’t a lot of teams called The Niggers around…why? Because language changes.)
There’s a lot more but I’m tired and so are you (if you made it past the title).
To offer grace, compassion and empathy first, is the sign of a courageous leader. To sit back and hide and force a people to come with hands out like beggars looking for these things while you consider whether you will dispense it at all is simple, lazy cowardice.