Mascots, Murder and Massacre: Using Imagery to Accept Genocide
By Solomon Comissiong
White supremacy is an integral component of US society, it clenches hand-in-hand with institutional racism. Together, they make up significant patchwork within the tattered fabric of this country’s society. US society nefariously finds ways in which murderers, and their actions, can be propagandistically metastasized throughout its racially biased, misogynistic and class based society. Most of the time these villains of humanity have been white/Euro-American, however Barack Obama is doing his best to be mentioned within the wretched class of mass murders throughout US history.
Euro-America has named streets, towns, airports, and schools after some of history’s most despicable human beings, such as Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Ronald Regan, Christopher Columbus, and Woodrow Wilson—-to name of few of many. This sick and twisted system of honoring evil human beings does not rest with just inhumane barbarians; it also extends to their actions. White Americans have found terrific joy in extending their use of racist terminology (and imagery) to that of sports teams and their mascots. It was not enough to brutalize, commit genocide and to rob people of their land, Euro-Americans found it necessary to create racist names and imagery to further denigrate people of color. Conjuring up racist, and false, propaganda about people of color further programmed the white hoi polloi to accept inhumane and evil things being done to masses of people of color, without ever speaking out against these crimes against humanity. In essence, racism within the United States has long been institutionalized. And with that being said, I would like to highlight the curious and repugnant case of the “Washington Redskins” professional football team.
There are numerous instances of Euro-American professional sports franchise owners using and justifying the use of racist names/imagery to represent their product. The National Football League (NFL) team, the Washington Redskins, is one of the more disgusting and blatant examples. However, they are far from a novel act. Year after year Native American groups consistently protest to change Washington’s racist team name. Daniel Snyder is following in the white supremacist and racist footsteps of the team’s previous owners, defending the name like a true white supremacist would.
Since purchasing the team in 1999 Daniel Snyder has made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of ever changing the racist name of the team, so long as he is the owner. Snyder could not give a damn about the blatantly racist name of the team or its bloody legacy. Snyder cares only about his bottom line. Snyder could care less about the fact that the name “Redskins” is drenched within a bloody history that includes massacre after bloody massacre, of Native American people. The term “Redskins” is not only offensive due to the fact that there were no people known as the “Redskins” ever, however, the term is extremely barbaric—much like the actions of the European “settlers” who plundered land that was no theirs, mass murdered indigenous people and forced countless Africans in to hundreds of years of bondage, rape, and extermination.
Daniel Snyder has even called the team name, “Redskins” a tradition, as justification to continue to use the racist name to describe his team. Mr. Snyder, slavery was also once tradition. Would you condone the reinstitution of chattel slavery in order to rekindle “tradition”, Mr. Snyder?
What makes Daniel Snyder’s actions most pathetic and hypocritical is the fact that he, not too long ago, accused the Washington City Paper of being Anti-Semitic based on the fact that they placed an illustration of him on their cover with “devil horns” and a goatee. Besides the fact that it was a far and baseless reach to refer to that picture as being an act of anti-Semitism, it exposes his fraudulent and hypocritical nature. If he was truly offended by the illustration of himself on the cover of the Washington City paper how does he think Native Americans feel about the heinous term, “Redskins”, that he (Daniel Snyder) so proudly defends? He is nothing more than a fraud, championing a blatantly white supremacist ideology. Daniel Snyder apparently believes that since he is white he does not have to give a damn about the feelings of Native Americans, and that he has the right to speak callously and arrogantly to refer to the suffering that the name represents, as if its some kind of proud tradition. Based on racist imagery riddled throughout US society, ostensibly many are proud of this country’s history of genocide and mass murder.
The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell clearly harbors the same white supremacist mindset, recently stating that the “Redskins” nickname is a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” Unifying for whom Mr. Roger Goodell—–white supremacists like yourself?
The term “Redskins” was often used to describe the gruesome bloody scalps and skins of Native Americans who savage white “trappers” would bring to various trading posts after they had killed them. When going to the trading posts, they would bring everything from “bearskins” to “deerskins”, after their “hunts”. However, they did not only hunt animals, they hunted Native Americans, and once they caught them, they murdered them and subsequently scalped them—-just as they did the bear and deer. These savages made no distinction between deer and Native Americans—-they murdered them all the same. The fact that the skins and scalps of Native Americans would be sold and traded, should give us some insight to the level of barbarity many European settlers (plunderers) carried within them. They were the true savages, not the Native Americans they desperately tried to label in such a manner. Only a socially dysfunctional and viciously racist society would condone such a name to promote sports teams. However, America is just that—- socially dysfunctional and viciously racist.
Team names and images like, “Redskins” added to the false propaganda widely disseminated by white people, in an effort to further demonize people of color and continue to carry out mass atrocities against them. Prior to white invaders coming to the Western Hemisphere there was no stereotype about indigenous people being “savages’. White people created these egregiously false stereotypes to justify their own barbaric and savage actions. They have also used this same blueprint on other people color, such as African/black people. The more resistant the people are to white supremacy, the more Euro-America has tried to suppress and demonize those people. In 2013 this is evident within mediums such as Hip Hop Culture. Euro-American media executives routinely suppress the most resistance and liberation oriented messages from artists of color. They go out of their way to recruit and display black and brown rappers who are willing to exploit their own community or to portray themselves as modern day minstrels. It does not bode well for the myth of white/European superiority to allow people of color to freely express themselves resisting white supremacy and speaking out against institutional racism. This is perhaps why cretins like Daniel Snyder do their best to ignore the protests and grievances put forth by Native Americas to change the “Redskins” name, year after year. People like Daniel Snyder conveniently ignore the fact that many high schools and colleges ended their use of terms like “Redskins” and “Redmen”, because of the hate and racism those names carried. Now it would be fitting if many of those same schools removed names anchored to them, such as “Andrew Jackson High School”, or Columbus Middle School. It means little to remove your schools athletic name of “Redskins” when your school is named after mass murderers of people of color.
Perhaps one of the more regrettable things regarding the issue of the “Redskins” name, as well as white supremacy, in general, is the impact it has on the minds of people of color. Unfortunately, oppressed people often take upon the awful characteristics as their oppressors, this is evident when witnessing thousands upon thousands of African/black people, not only supporting the “Redskins” name, but also vehemently resisting the idea of a name change. Even when the reasons are explained to many, they still find flimsy reason after flimsy reason to still reject the righteous reason for changing the team’s name. This author assumes that most African-Americans would be extremely offended (rightfully so) if someone started a professional franchise team with the name, “San Jose Black Skins” or the “Chicago Niggers” or the “Baton Rouge Black Bucks”. These names are no more racist than the “Washington Redskins”. They are all viciously racist and vile, yet some African/black people have allowed their Euro-American mental indoctrination to cloud their judgment and support a white supremacist stance. They find all the excuses they can muster in an effort to support the cause of white men, like Dan Snyder, who could not give a damn about them our the overall plight of their communities. When is the last time Dan Snyder spoke out against police brutality in the black community? When did he last take a stand against the wealth gap between black and white? When did Mr. Snyder say anything about the prison industrial complex? Never, that’s when. He never did and never will. Daniel Snyder has no affection for the African/black community; besides the large black men he drafts/or trades to play on his team. He sees them as his property and could not give a damn about creating any positive invested interest within the communities from which many of these players come from. It would be nice if more African/black professional athletes saw the web of exploitation that they are caught within. It would be nice if these same athletes took a righteous stand regarding social justice issues rather then being obsequious puppets to their corporate sponsors and team “owners”. Demanding an end to the “Redskins” name would be a good start in the right direction.
African/black people, as well as all social justice oriented people, should stand with our Native American brothers and sisters who are rightfully offended by the name, “Redskins”. We all should be offended by this vile and reprehensible name. It, quite simply, is the right thing to do. Even if only one Native America was offended, we need to still be opposed to a term like “Redskins”. It is inhumane and completely wrong. Taking stands against the naming the Washington football team’s name, the “Redskins”, can go a long way in creating new societal parameters by which we all live. A society that will not tolerate racist team names and imagery, such as the “Washington Redskins” or “Cleveland Indians”, should be a society that refuses to accept social maladies like, imperialism, institutional racism, sexism or Xenophobia. Unfortunately, presently, the United States stands as a champion when it comes to facilitating an environment of social injustice and inequality. The United States harvests and cultivates oppression within their gardens of injustice. This is why the names of mass murderers, slave owners, Native American exterminators, and land thieves, receive federal holidays, cities, colleges, airports, and streets named after them (and much more). The US is a place of revisionist history, frequently whitewashing the brutality that white people committed against people of color.
How long will we, as a society, continue to allow ourselves to blindly champion the history of barbarity and savagery, all in the name of Americanism? How long will we tolerate the brutality of white supremacy and institutional racism? How long will we make excuses for racist and inhumane imagery, all in the name of sport? When will we collectively stand with historically oppressed people and not with traditionally racist names and the white men who promulgate them? This author personally hopes that the end of these inhumane practices will end one day soon. The impressionable youth deserve much better. They deserve a better society, a better world. Let us all demand better. Let us all stand as paragons and say no to all forms of institutional injustice, white supremacy, and inhumane symbolism.
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, and the host of the Your World News media collective (www.yourworldnews.org). Mr. Comissiong is also a founding member of the Pan-African collective for Advocacy & Action. Solomon is the author of A Hip Hop Activist Speaks Out on Social Issues. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org