Commentary:Banning Native American mascots has nothing to do with political correctness; it is about having a correct understanding of politics. For it is never right or Constitutional to treat people as if they are conquered.
Practically speaking, the use of mascots have harmful effects on the social identity of American Indian young people. According to the American Psychlogical Association, they undermine the educational experiences of members of all communities-especially those who have had little or no contact with indigenous peoples; they establish an unwelcome and often hostile learning environment for American Indian students that affirms negative images/stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society; they undermine the ability of American Indian Nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality, and traditions; they present stereotypical images of American Indians; and they are a form of discrimination against American Indian Nations that can lead to negative relations between groups.
Rather than representing these cultures as possessing social complexity, political and religious diversity and unique forms of creative wisdom, the use of generic names such as Indians, Braves, Chiefs, and especially Redskins, diminishes the worth of Native Americans everywhere. Simply put: the practice makes a mockery out of a multifaceted race of people who have independent minds, ecological freedoms and the inherent right to self determination. The disrespectful chanting, binge drinking, costumes, eating animals without ceremony, and trashing of communal spaces that accompanies corporate sporting events, only adds salt to the wound.
Regarding the Redskins name in particular, John Warren, Chairman of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi, in Michigan and Indiana, has stated: "I do not understand why some athletes, especially the ones of color should be very, very offended when they hear that word. It's the same thing we're talking about here. Why is it offensive to us, and not to others?...the connotations that word has, any minority group who has had a history of oppression, they should know that it is wrong."
Phillip Yenyo, Executive Director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, has said, " All we hear is that this is the team's tradition, and it is that way because it has always been that way...Their reason we have it is because we always have. That's not good enough."
Native leaders such as Warren and Yenyo are right. The rationale which justifies Native American mascots is nearly identical to the arguments made by southern cotton growers and their pro-segregationist decendents. By claiming to preserve their heritage, these conservatives fought to stop equal education, integrated neighborhoods, mixed marriages, fair laws for people of color. What is the Washington Redskins franchise fighting to preserve other than their billion dollar company? On the wrong side of history, they are certainly not fighting to uphold the dignity and integrity of one of the most impoverished ethnic populations in our country.
George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct humanities instructor. In 2014 he founded the online social justice network called Gandhi Earth Keepers International. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.