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While We’re Objecting to the Word ‘Redskins,’ Shouldn’t Oklahoma Change Its Name, Too?

4 months ago

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RYOT POINTS

oklahoma

Big Cabin Travel Plaza's Native American sentry in Big Cabin, OK (Randy Curioso)

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name… or coach, or maybe both.  It’s a valid question, and everybody with a mouth or a keyboard is weighing in. 

Since we’re on the topic and asking questions, should Oklahoma change its name? 

Back when Andrew Jackson decided the biggest problem with America was actual Americans, indigenous people were rounded up and sent packing on the Trail of Tears.  The final destination on the trail was a patch of dirt we call Oklahoma, likely to the chagrin of natives already living there (imagine your neighbors being evicted into your house).  

First among the resettled tribes were the Choctaw, from whom we get the words okla humma, which literally means “red people.” 

Yes, that’s the name we gave the whole state: Red People.  It’s like Connecticut being named “White People” or Florida being named “Wrinkled People” or California being named “Fake Boobs.”  Kinda racist, right?  It’s one thing for the Choctaw to have the term okla humma, but isn’t it a bit crass for us to use that as a name for a state with, you know, red people we put there? 

What kind of racist does that? 

The red kind, actually.  It was the idea of Allen Wright, a Choctaw chief, during treaty negotiations. 

As an ofay of suspect ethnic pedigree, who am I question a Choctaw chief? 

So if we’re to consider changing the name “Oklahoma,” we have to arrive at the conclusion that “red people” is inappropriate, as many are suggesting is the case with “Redskins.” 

A 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey — the most recent poll to canvass American Indians for their opinions on the subject — found that 90 percent of Native Americans are not offended by the Redskins nickname.  

Not a very flattering logo legacy (Redskins logos 1937-present courtesy SportsLogos.net)
Not a very flattering logo legacy (Redskins indicia 1937-present courtesy SportsLogos.net)

So is it racist to assume that Native Americans would be offended? Is it possible that advocates of the name change have been wrong?  Or is it just that, of all the things in Washington Americans should find offensive, the name of the football team ranks well below official corruption and incompetence? 

Maybe it’s the fact that “Redskins” features a color and the word “skin” right there in the name. But if Native Americans are generally cool with it, is it really offensive?  If it’s an epithet, why do we never hear it used as such, or at all?  As in, “This program is designed to provide greater educational opportunities in the redskin community,” or “Man, those redskins sure got a good thing going with those casinos.”

Comedian Bill Burr notes that “There are a lot of Asians in this restaurant” is not necessarily racist; more a racial observation.  On the other hand, “What the fuck are all these fuckin’ Asians doing in this goddamn restaurant?” is clearly racist.  So let’s put “Redskins” to a simple test: Would you use the term if you were talking to a Native American?

“Hey, Joe, you’re a redskin, right?  What’s the deal with pow-wows?” 

Unless your friend’s last name is Theismann, you’re probably not going to say that.  There’s probably a good reason for that, and it’s the same reason you don’t harp on beer and potatoes around your other buddy, Paddy O’Hooligan. 

So, yes, Redskins, as a name, is a bad idea.  Is “red people” any better?  For consistency alone, should we not argue against calling a state “red people?”

As you ponder that, consider these questions: 

1.    When you think of Oklahoma and racism, do you think, “Nooooo, not Oklahoma?!”

2.    Would any change in Oklahoma really be a bad idea?

RYOT NOTE from Jordan

Native Americans don’t comprise a very influential voting bloc in this country, explaining why it occupies very little of the national discourse. Culture Collective uses new media to recognize the rich textures and customs of Native American cultures like the Hopi, Lakota, Cherokee as a means of celebration and transformation for communities. Click the gray box beside this article to learn more, donate and Become the News!

Tagged:

American Indian native americans Oklahoma racism Washington Redskins
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14 comments
cyrusbor
cyrusbor

I'm amazed at the stupidity of who wrote this, it is full of grammatical errors, the argument has no direction or logic. Curious where the figure of 90% support the name came from? 768 from the 48 of the states (16 per state average) claiming they were of Indian descent  is so small, they could have been hand picked. No other such surveys were stated, and 2004 was 10 years ago, so how can it be valid. The arguments supporting the Redskin name are getting more ridiculous.


alrightalready
alrightalready

Only 90% are not offended?  This will never do.



And put that oversized cup down.   Soda = 16 oz container.   Coffee = 12 oz container.



NO REFILLS.

cyrusbor
cyrusbor

Red People, White People, Black People is not a slur....Not sure of the history of the name, but would guess, because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was called so because it was supposed to be reserved for all the Southeast Nations....No Whites...and therefore not part of the USA. My great grandmother was a child of the displacement (not sure if first or second generation), moved east I believe after marrying a Kelly, do I find the name of the state offensive, not really, but have not given it much thought or do I think its practical to change it. But do find the Word REDSKIN so, which is a definitely a slur, and easy to change. Economically Snyder could make billions on re marketing, every Washington fan would buy the new merchandise, the old logo would become collector's items in about 25 years Funny how the NAACP & the Department of Civil Rights are not on board in support of anti-Redskin issue. I think it is only a manner of time, after the Donald Sterling incident, that Snyder would want to change the name now before the NFL or government, who by the way should not have the power to do so, takes the team from him.


ostatejay
ostatejay

I went to Law School at the University of Tulsa, where the country's premier Native American legal studies program is offered. Native Americans aren't a bunch of helpless morons in need of your guilty white sympathy, they are happy taking care of themselves. If do-gooders pursue this one, they will quickly discover just how competent a nation exists in Tahlequah, and just how many helpless Native Americans are in fact high power activist lawyers who would love the attention. 


Also keep in mind that virtually every citizen of Oklahoma who has family roots back beyond 3 generations or so has a native heritage. Our State nickname is Native America...

Nymphiascoopie
Nymphiascoopie

Oklahoma should change its name. "red People" is offensive.

Pfranks
Pfranks

The term 'redskins' had nothing to do with the color of the Indians

natural skin color. The Europeans applied it to the Algonquians in general but particularly to the Delwares but Indians loved the vermillion make up from berry juice and minerals. After sweat lodges they repainted their bodies.Although they did use other colors RED was their favorite. They even painted their canoes and bows and arrows (how can that be 'racist/!)It was an honoring of their practices that gave them the name.If it were derogatory chief Seattle wouldn't have referred of themselves as REDMan in the postscript of the book,Wisdomkeepers.All the other information can be verified in Readers Digest books from the 70's "Through Indian Eyes"and Americas Fascinating Indian Heritage

fed_upwithlibs
fed_upwithlibs

People should be more worried about how we treat the Native Americans than the name of a football team.We (the white man) stole their land and pushed them onto resevations where they can't even make a decent life for themselves. We should be ashamed!!

Pen_City
Pen_City

The name was never looked at as racist...until people made it an issue, and reminded everyone of it.  You took an innocent football team and made it racist.  Mission accomplished?

JohnBrown7
JohnBrown7

Good article. It is better to be open and have discourse then sneaky back stabbing racism. We can learn from humor and discourse.

Sadly, the real problems in Washington DC are not discussed enough, the lazy, lying, cheating politicians that are being bought up by the likes of Rothschild, Rockefeller, JPMorgan; and hey, what's with the private company, The Federal Reserve Banking System, why does it exist, and why are all their chair people from one religious group?

So, better to focus attention away on Native Americans, abortion, and gay marriage....ah America!

anonymous411
anonymous411

Hmmm......it appears as if your racism is trumped only by your ignorance. Based on your last two questions/ comments, you obviously don't have any knowledge or interactions with anyone regarding the state of Oklahoma. As a transplant to the state,I too once thought that the only people in Oklahoma were ignorant bigots or drunk Indians. Unfortunately, I was wrong as are your two stupid assumptions about the state. Maybe before you state your opinion you should get a f.ing clue and get off your pseudo~intellectual high horse.

TylerHennessey
TylerHennessey

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government  for a redress of grievances."A lawsuit against the Washington Redskins to change their name is a direct violation of their Freedom of Speech. While people may petition a company over the matter, they are not required to comply. Oklahoma is one state out of 45 that are named after or refer to words of the Native American languages. This does not include other towns, cities, street signs, businesses, lakes, rivers,  and land masses.

I have a problem with this statement: "same reason you don’t harp on beer and potatoes around your other buddy, Paddy O’Hooligan "
My last name is Hennessey. My family has been asked hundreds of several times, and me personally several times in my 23 years, "Are you related to the (cognac maker)  Hennessy family. I laugh and smile, saying "No, I wish". I have admitted to the potential of myself dying, had i live through the potato famine on SEVERAL occasions. I'll admit, when i was a child, myn mother asked me what i wanted for dinner. "Baked potato, mashed potato and french fries" as quickly as I could.

And as you might say its racist to assume that every Irish man drinks, I can guarantee you 99% percent of my family are drunks. The 1% being me, whom doesn't have the slightest interest, and others who are recovering alcoholics. My brother's gamer tag is IrishIwasDrunk.

To the point, there was once upon a time in this country where Irish had racism towards them, late 1800s, early 1900s. Can I ask you, when was the last time you heard someone complain or state issues of racism towards Irish descendents? What's not changed is not whether people still use these terms like, drunken mick, etc. Its the attitude of the person whom receives them. We have to remember, that anything said about race, is not always derogatory. And to those whom are derogatory towards a race, are baiting for a fight.. They want you angry. Suing them, jailing them, fighting them will only make them more jaded.

I've heard these statements all my life, "eye for an eye makes the world go blind", "Sticks and stone, may break my bones, but name calling will never hurt me"..Let them state, freely, their words, with every emotion they contain. It is our reaction that will either bolster their hate or open their hearts.

ljleblanc69
ljleblanc69

@Nymphiascoopie stupid waste of  time    are any of the many tribes that proudly call the state of Oklahoma offened by the name  ?   Give me one example of this ever being so.  Walk up to any native American in Oklahoma and ask them of they are offended and they would probably give you a blank stare...or think your some sort of screw ball   

claytonmagnet
claytonmagnet

@fed_upwithlibs thats just it, we don't have to stay on the reserves, we're free to go anywhere in North America that we want. If they choose to stay on the reserves and rot that is totally their choice.

Pen_City
Pen_City

@anonymous411 Why would an Indian choose "Red People," as a state name?  Was he racist toward himself?

While We’re Objecting to the Word ‘Redskins,’ Shouldn’t Oklahoma Change Its Name, Too?

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