What’s in a name: Native American mascot controversy heats up

 Many so-called “experts” have weighed in their opinions about how the name of the Washington Redskins is blatantly racist and should be changed. As a human being I agree that the name Redskins is offensive and should be changed, but it is none of my business to tell a team what they can and cannot do. 

To solely tell one team that they need to get rid of their name, while others can still use theirs is hypocrisy. Unless every theme that portrays Native Americans in a negative manner is abolished, the only people that have a right to change the name of this team are the owner and the fans that have loyally supported this team.  

A lot of this is directed at the fact that the name “Redskins” was used as a derogatory way to reference someone of Native American ethnicity. But then one looks at other names such as Braves, Indians, and Chiefs consider these different from the name Redskins because they don’t directly insult Native Americans.

 The word Indian itself doesn’t accurately identify indigenous people. The word Indian was used by Christopher Columbus because he thought that he was India, when he wasn’t. The mascot for the Cleveland Indians, “Chief Wahoo”, looks way more insulting to Native Americans than the logo for the Washington Redskins by itself. He is a very bright color red cartoon, with bright smiling white teeth. 

“I’ve got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team, even if it had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” said President Barack Obama in an interview with the Associated Press. If the president considers this matter an injustice, perhaps he and all his friends at Capitol Hill should begin to address the atrocities that this government has done to Native Americans in the past 200 years. 

“Not once have we ever received any kind of formal apologies for the pain and suffering we have endured,” said Santa Rosa Junior College professor Brenda Flyswithhawks. Flyswithhawks addressed Sonoma State earlier this year during the Holocaust Lecture Series. 

Every year since 1937 the government has always recognized the second Monday in October as Columbus Day. This is supposed to honor the fact that Columbus discovered North America back in the year 1492. Many Native American groups also find this offensive due to the fact that there were already indigenous people who discovered the continent. 

“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force …With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want,” said Columbus in his captain’s log referenced from “A People’s History of the United States.” 

It is comfortable to say that a change in a holiday recognized nationwide for a man that murdered hundreds would be a little more important than changing a football team’s name. 

Sonoma State University is no stranger to offensive names after its decades of battle over the former mascot the Cossack. For readers unfamiliar with the Cossack, the Cossacks were most well-known for massacring approximately 100,000 non-Christians during the Russian Revolution. 

Thirteen years ago, the Academic Senate voted an overwhelming 24-3 to abolish the name of the Cossack, and change it to something else. At the same time the Student Senate passed a measure similar to that. Two years later the decision was left to President Ruben Armiñana to choose between the two finalists; the Condor and the Seawolf. Luckily the Seawolf became the mascot that everyone knows and loves. 

The fact that a school could come together both faculty and students to realize that even an injustice like a mascot that’s defined this school for decades was hurtful to people here and afar.  They didn’t need to be bullied by outside parties who have no right to weigh in on something that isn’t their business. 

Until every holiday and team name that portrays Native Americans in a negative way is gotten rid of, then these so called “experts” have no right to tell the Washington Redskins that their name needs to be changed.