Oct 14, 2013 - The Redsk*ns Moniker Monopolizes on Genocide Committed Against Native Americans, by Danielle Miller

I’m a Native American from Maryland who believes Redsk*ns name should be changed. I’m not a “whiner”, I am a critical thinker who is taking sovereignty over my people’s image and challenging the popular opinion of cognitive dissonance in support of the name. Redsk*n supporters tend to call others “whiners”, but I could say the same thing of them. I could say that they are whining about me whining. I could say that white people are whining about being challenged on their privilege. Name calling is petty, it’s not productive academically or socially. So there needs to be more educated discussion rather than insults in attempts to relegate opposing views and derail discussion.

I’ve felt conflicted in the past because I see both sides of the issue. I used to be in support of Native mascots but after actually experiencing racism, my view changed. I never experienced racism until moving out to the Midwest, and I can tell you racism is alive and well.

The name perpetuates Natives as a monolith, erasing different tribes, respect and presence of Native Americans in modern discourse. Anyone educated about Native Americans can see the probable causal effects that result from the stereotypes.  Not being taken seriously contributes to “bigger problems” that have been brought up to deflect conversation. Regardless of what “bigger problems” we have it doesn’t mean we don’t have the ability to be proactive in handling different issues. It also doesn’t change the fact that we have the right to an opinion against racism and being dehumanized.

Native Americans have been dehumanized since conquistadors coined the term “savage”. Just as the U.S. military dehumanized their enemies with terms like “gooks” and “japs” to justify fighting war, Natives were dehumanized to be red skinned, savage, devil worshippers as justifications for atrocities committed. The U.S. has clung to racist depictions of Native Americans so long it could be argued that these depictions justify cultural imperialism and play out as subconscious control mechanisms against the threat of inherent tribal sovereignty.

Colonizers have committed genocide, stolen land, broken treaties, made Native culture and ceremonies illegal, and now they want to colonize the remaining dignity Natives have left; the culture and identity that they have held on to despite the decimation and destruction caused by whites during imperialism and colonization. When you tell me to just “get over it” you are telling me that you own our image and will force your views upon us despite how disrespectful that representation may be. You might as well be the same as those who attempted to control Natives during assimilation and termination eras. By attempting to control this image you are restricting tribal sovereignty and self-representation, which trivializes our Native culture and interactions in modern discourse.

Even if another Native says they aren’t offended, that shouldn’t vilify me. My opinion has no connection to whether you claim to be offended or not. The ultimate goal of oppressors is to make those who are oppressed become their own instruments of oppression. When certain Natives say only their opinion matters and they support racist imagery, they are unintentionally contributing to lateral oppression and silencing their own people.

I don’t fathom how the representation is as anything but disrespectful and unethical. Erasing a culture, pushing a racial slur and stereotype is not “honoring”, that seems simple to understand.  What makes us any less human that we should ask to be respected? Black face isn’t acceptable so red face shouldn’t be acceptable either.

This is about more than just being “offended”. This is bigger than the feelings of the average overbearing football fan who feels the need to gallivant and protect a racist caricature because it’s the only thing they have to claim “heritage” for in the construction of their identity. This is about how images have systematic effects in the lives of Native Americans. If we are the ones who are being represented and monopolized off of, why shouldn’t we have a say in how we are represented?!

Just because racism has occurred until now doesn’t mean it is ethical or should continue. The “heritage” of Dan Snyder pales in comparison to the 500+ years of heritage of Native American peoples. If anything I think people should be trying to correct all the injustice and preserving the culture that is left.  Greedy rich white men and football players should not just be able to capitalize off the suppression and attempted erasing of Native identity, especially not after the history of genocide committed against Native peoples.

Ultimately I would much rather be on the side supporting those who are marginalized than to be a part of a privileged group perpetuating disrespect and racism against marginalized groups and making excuses and justifications for it.  I know my culture, my history and the harm of these stereotypes, so nothing will change my opinion now.

Danielle Miller is a member of Sisseton Wahpeton Oceti Sakowin and a McNair Scholar studying the retention of Native American students while pursing a bachelors in Communications and Indian Studies. She is a prospective student for further education and research.

Last Real Indians