This following the decision by the Washington Redskins of the National Football League to also change their traditional team name this season. Whatever you may think about that decision by what is now the Washington Football Team, it’s plainly obvious that these two examples are nothing alike.
Not meaning to split any fine hairs here, but the term “Indian” when used to indicate a Native American is not in any way even remotely racist. To cite only one example, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is named this way precisely because American Indian is the term preferred by many Native Americans themselves. Should the museum also change what some would allege is an offensive name? Of course not.
The closest thing to any sensible argument about why we should no longer be allowed to use the term “Indian” to describe Native Americans is that it’s rooted in a mistake made by Christopher Columbus, who was as we all know by now, a horrible racist. So what? That was already more than 500 years ago. In the time since, the American Indian, though in many cases badly mistreated by the United States Government, has also became a traditional part of American history and legend. That’s what we all really risk in losing through this relentless damnation of history.
If the idea behind renaming the Redskins, (even though polling showed Native Americans were not offended by the word), was to make certain non-Native Americans referred to America’s first people respectfully, then what reason can be given for renaming the Indians after 105 years? Or is it non-Native American people aren’t allowed to talk about Native Americans at all. It appears the word “Indian” itself has now become politicized and culturally appropriated
This is an extremely dangerous road to go down. The clear message is that we must all constantly watch ourselves and be extremely careful whenever we even dare to discuss American Indians, and in fact, unless we have personally “lived their experience” we probably shouldn’t be allowed to talk about them at all.
Indians have occupied a traditional & central cultural role in American History. We see them represented on state flags, in many of our town and river names, and in our collective, national mythology. The United States has no ancient castles, Knights of the Round Table or Roman ruins. Our oldest national mythology involves Indians in the story of Thanksgiving, Pocahontas, through the settlement of the West.
If we’ve finally reached a point now where the word “Indians” cannot appear on a baseball jersey, then clearly everyone else in society from teachers to content creators will find themselves having to tread very carefully whenever they engage this subject. Soon, it may very well be that many people just won’t think its worth taking the social risk to talk about and just avoid the subject entirely.
The cultural & historic legacy of Native Americans in the United States is no doubt complicated. However, that legacy has imbued the American psyche with a respect for this land that is unique in the Western world. That is a legacy that we should continue to respect and admire. How is that possible if people are made to be afraid to even utter the word “Indian?”
This is always the big problem with the concept of cultural appropriation. When people are scolded too often enough that they’re abusing a particular name or should not ever engage with aspects of a different culture simply because they are not a member of it, then many will inevitably throw up their hands and surrender while saying, “Fine, then I’ll just ignore it.” That’s an extremely terrible change in thinking which greatly undermines the very concept of what it means to be an American.
This decision by the owners of Cleveland’s ball club is a great disservice to this country. It ‘s just another in a long series of continuing attempts to divide us and to push the corrosive lie that cultures are somehow private property and not the shared legacy of all Humanity. There’s nothing remotely offensive about using the word “Indian” in a team name. It isn’t any different from Notre Dame calling their Football Team the “Fighting Irish.”
Now Cleveland will have to settle on a new name that doesn’t create a false controversy; a new name to embrace & fit our new culturally segregated reality. I’d like to make a suggestion; the “Cleveland Cowards” has a nice & truthful ring to it. ✪