Yep. That headline? This was said to me on a recent post in my Instagram feed about Congress writing Dan Snyder, asking him to change the team name of his Washington NFL team.
“Get over it,” they say.
The team name (aptly referred to as the R-word in Indian Country) has been around since 1932. Merely 8 years after the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 passed. Washington named their team name after the derogatory word for a group of people not even 10 years after they became “U.S Citizens.”
I’d be interested in knowing when derogatory names for African-Americans began to fall from the public sphere after the Civil Rights movement. At least today the cultural power of the African-American is such that it’s now taboo in most social circles to use these words.
But the R-word? Not so much. Use it, use it lightly, give people license to make light of situations that Native people have faced in the name of a “light-hearted” football game. And if people can say these things as part of a game’s ritual… then it must be okay to use outside the stadium (or tailgate areas what have you).
Somehow, this perceived license can cause people to say really hurtful things about Native people and their history in the United States. These hurtful things hit home to people like me. And it’s not even wholly in defense of myself and all current members of the Seneca Nation or other tribal members in Indian Country.
No, when people yell racial epithets, they aren’t just talking about all of us here today. They’re talking about my mother and my father, both passed away four and five years ago, respectively; they’re talking about my grandparents, my great-grandmother who was an integral member of the Seneca community.
You see, I can’t just “get over it” when people are talking about all of these people who mean more to me than any NFL team name. I’d trade in the entire organization, one of more profitable organizations in professional sports, for the respect of my parents and the rest of my family.
Dan Snyder doesn’t care. He lacks the compassion to understand how much this would mean for those of us who are against it, and more so, what it has the potential to do for the indigenous people of tomorrow. Language is powerful and if we took such negative words out of the public sphere, then certain prejudices might not be in their way.
It’s hard to explain to a rich, straight, white male as to the power of this little change for an often misunderstood group of people. And if he is downright determined to NEVER change the team name…
Well, I sure hope Congress does their part to help us out. (Blackhorse et. al. vs. Football, Inc.)