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Celebrated the last Thursday of the cold, raining month of November, Thanksgiving is a holiday unique to the United States and recalls the miracle of Colonialism: the generosity of the Indians.
Some four hundred years since settlers began making their mark in North America, this Thanksgiving they celebrate their conquering of the Americans Native to the Continent with shoot ‘em up simulators like, ‘Red Dead Redemption.’ The idea that Native Americans served up the land of plenty to white settlers escaping the brutalities of Eurasia, has done much to forward the stereotype of the ‘Noble Savage.’ And it is in this vein that North American Indians are most commonly portrayed throughout our gaming culture; whether it’s as an Atlanta Brave using his hand as an ax, a Cleveland Indian that is happy to be fire-engine red, or a Washington Redskin, it’s always a red, good-natured savage.
At the outset of the 2013 Government Shutdown, President Barak Obama focused in on the NFL’s Washington Redskins as representing a racial slur. He had already publicly disparaged affiliation with the Washington D.C. team. Newsrooms like Slate came to the President’s side, vowing to avoid the use of the racial moniker and simply call the team the, ‘Washington D.C. football team’.
In a black-and-white world where African-Americans are called, ‘black,’ and Caucasians are called, ‘white,’ perhaps it isn’t quite the progressive battle to bar folks from calling others ‘red’.
Washington faithful and football experts have been slow to acknowledge the President’s gauntlet and noted Washington Redskins veteran Joe Theismann has gone as far as to relate a story where a red skin complimented Theismann by calling him a red skin too in a moment of solidarity across racial lines.
But Americans live in a political hot-box of racial uncertainty with a national history carved out of the material of racism; it is not enough to turn a blind eye to national trends forecasting the seminal minority status of the global minority – white people.
The juvenile, progressive glee of MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow greeting his Thanksgiving viewership with the words ‘Happy genocide’, does more to commemorate the generosity of North American Indian people who allowed themselves to be eaten out of house and home before becoming tracked and targeted just for being different.
America has served as a bastion of hope for immigrants for hundreds of years; only recently has it opened its doors to the majority races of the world.
Maybe that is why President Obama’s attack on the NFL could only muster the backing of one Native American Indian tribe – the Oneida. The Oneida detailed one SurveyUSA poll showing that %59 of 500 D.C. natives thought that ‘red skin’, would rightly offend someone. Roy Halbritter, representing the Oneida nation, called ‘Red Skin’ a public health threat, bullying surviving Native Americans, in a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Halbritter went on to call the Redskins detrimental to the NFL and cited section 8.13 in the hopes that anything detrimental to the NFL product should be sanitized.
Still, an Associated Press survey showed that %79 of Americans did not feel that the Washington D.C. ‘Redskins’ name should be changed.
Over time, polls have stoically reflected the 2004 Pennsylvania National Annenberg Election Survey finding that 90% of Native American Indians were not bothered by the Redskins’ name.
Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder vowed to ‘never’ change the name in honor of its proud, century-long tradition.
Oneida representatives left a late-October meeting with NFL representatives, discouraged by the lack of traction to change a racial tradition in a violent sport. Oneida rep. Joel Barkin claimed that NFL rep.’s defended the unifying power of the term, ‘Redskins,’ and went on to say, ‘This is the beginning of a process. It’s clear that they don’t see how this is not a unifying term… They don’t have a complete appreciation for the breadth of opposition of Native Americans to this mascot and name.”
Since the Presidential scuffle that arose with the government shut-down October 5 and the late October meeting between the Oneida and the NFL, Halbritter has been unmasked as a Washington lobbyist, not even a member of the Oneida (though he does serve as CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprizes). WJFK-FM sports’ talk station and WPGC-FM music station stopped airing anti-Redskins advertising that originated from the Oneida tribe.
Both stations are owned by CBS radio and Senior vice president of CBS Radio Washington Steve Swenson explained that the corporation will not air advertising due to the lack of advertising supporting the other side of the Presidential name-change debate.
The Oneida ad stated that, “By changing his team’s name, Mr. Snyder can create a better historical legacy for himself — one of tolerance and mutual respect, not of racial epithets… Native Americans do not want their people to be hurt by such painful epithets. We just want to be treated as what we all are: Americans.”
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Monday Night Football honored four World War II Navajo Code Talkers for their service.
Roy Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talker Association, reminded the public that a red skin is a symbol of loyalty and courage and not a slur.
As whites reset to be America’s largest minority for the first time in history, they would do well to remember the example of the North American red skins who played host only to become out-cast, for it is in their image that they cast the United States of America as open to all comers – not merely the down-trodden of Europe.
Image credit: Washington Redskins via Facebook