Which Do You Think Is Worse: An Offensive, Bigoted Epithet Or Cultural Appropriation? Same Shit: Different Pile As Far As I’m Concerned

I need to spend more time with the SA news ticker. Look what fell into my lap last night.

The Washington Red Clouds: A team name to honor a great warrior and leader

by Bob Drury and Thomas Clavin, authors of The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend.

When we last saw the hegemonic colonial ethos come face to face with history and good taste, my new hero Bob Costas was decrying the bigoted, anachronistic, but long-lived name of the Washington, D.C., American football team. I won’t even repeat it here. But I can certainly make you squirm with some never-before-tried discursive equivalents. Imagine the Pittsburgh Pollacks, or the Cleveland Kikes, the Wisconsin Wetbacks, or the Arizona Amish. I think you get the picture.

I foolishly thought that once the lid was off, and the name “Redskins” finally crept back under the rock out from under which it first crawled into the light of day, a new, possibly culturally sensitive replacement would prevail. Talk about wrong!

Oglala Lakota Chief Red Cloud (1822–1909).

I can’t condemn these guys for their earnestness. But to begin to redress, at a minimum, decades of humiliation of the original inhabitants of this continent, and lifetimes of cultural and ethnic cleansing up to and including strategic massacres and forced relocation, the NFL is gonna hafta do a lot better than propose this non-starter—at least from this anthropologist’s point of view.

Since when did cultural appropriation balance bigotry and genocide? Without doubt, Red Cloud was a superlative leader and warrior. But on which side of the European usurpation of the Americas do the two benighted historians stand with their proposal calling for the team name to be switched from Redskins to Red Clouds? You might just as well ask on which planet they dwell.

Every word of this Washington Post article vibrates with the same lordly self-righteousness that presided over the original name. Drury and Clavin suggest that calling the team the Washington Red Clouds would heal old wounds and show the NFL establishment and the American people’s respect. They believe that the suggested team mascot would please all of the living descendants of this continent’s original inhabitants. Why? Because Red Cloud was the Sioux man who united a fifth of what’s now the lower 48, and alongside his nation battled the U.S. government to a stalemate in the 19th century.

Did anyone ask his living descendants if they thought this was a good idea? [Obviously they couldn’t ask Red Cloud.] So, by what right do Drury and Clavin, the Washington franchise owners, or the NFL brass steal the man’s name?

If you’re a fan of conundrums, riddle me this. First you call yourselves “redskins” because you want a team name that would evoke the ferocity and cunning of the American Indian. But, you can’t think of another way to refer to Native Americans, as a group, except by using an epithet that was always meant to diminish and subjugate a people. Thus, the suggestion of the new name, even in the enlightened 21st century, amounts to barely disguised bigotry.

The Washington Red Clouds? How does that differ from the original choice? [Hint: it doesn’t.] You’re stealing a man’s name to replace a bigoted epithet because the individual’s name sounds vaguely like the status quo. Hmmm. But you have a precedent, you say. The Cleveland Browns were named for one of their own. That’s a precedent for using a dead guy’s name from within your ranks—it’s not carte blanche permission to use any dead guy’s name. The suggested name change is especially tone deaf when you remember that the dead guy’s name and person represent a highlight of Native American resistance to oppression and cultural annihilation. Changing the team’s name to Red Clouds makes. no. sense. at. all.

Reproduced with many thanks to The Elephant Journal. 

The suggested name change is not just misplaced conscience, it’s what’s known as cultural appropriation. If you’re not familiar with the term or are inclined to pooh-pooh the idea, at left is a cartoon I found this afternoon on the intertubes that helps to make the point.

“No, really.” It’s fine! Dress like the people your ancestors persecuted and who your culture made certain would lose all touch with themselves as individuals and  as whole cultures, and who you choose, in the present, to marginalize.

Honest to gawd, they’ve never met a reality they couldn’t spin to their own benefit. And this piece by Drury and Clavin* only perpetuates the status quo.

K. I’m outa here. Sleep the sleep of angels, for tomorrow the battle will be joined anew.

* wasn’t he a character in American television’s long-lived sitcom, Cheers?

ANY TIME IS A GOOD TIME TO GET GOOD STUFF AT THE SUBVERSIVE ARCHAEOLOGIST’S OWN, EXCLUSIVE “A DRINK IS LIKE A HUG” ONLINE BOUTIQUE

SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist‘s facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett’s news feed), on Robert H. Gargett‘s Academia.edu page, Rob Gargett‘s twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog’s RSS feeds. You can also become a ‘member’ of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You’re the reason I do this.

A Day Of Shame—Columbus Day, October 14, 2013—And An Unhoped-For Cause For Celebration!

Today’s the day the [American] teddy bears have their [annual] picnic to honour the day’s eponymous merchant capitalist, Cristoforo Colombo. His so-called voyage of discovery was aimed at finding a short-cut to the riches of island Southeast Asia, to line his pockets and the coffers of Spain’s fifteenth-century monarchy. Given the geography of his route it was a fateful inevitability that Columbus’s little fleet would come ashore on land inhabited by the descendants of the original inhabitants of the two American continents. The endeavour wasn’t glorious: it was hapless. Only one thing is certain. What turned out to be a windfall for Europe was the beginning of a genocidal invasion by European oppressors bent on extracting every ounce of value from the ‘new-found’ lands. I would go so far as to say that wherever you reside, dear Reader, is highly likely that you are reading this today only because of Columbus’s misguided voyage. For, without the transfer of wealth from the Americas to the home countries of the despoilers, there might never have been a “Rennaissance” or an “Age of Enlightenment.” And you might well be reading this by candlelight.

Speaking of light. There is a little light peeking out from under the 600- to 700-year-old ideology of European occupation—a growing number of Europe’s pan-generational scions view their forebear’s activities over the centuries to have been criminal and genocidal. Hardly the basis for celebration on this day of true infamy. However, as recently as last night, and as incredible as it might seem, the highly respected voice of “Sunday Night [NFL] Football” and the Olympic Games, Bob Costas, voiced a criticism that has taken a very long time to surface in the popular conscience. Like so many team names, from Middle School on up through the college ranks, the U.S. National Football League’s Washington, D.C. team’s nickname—”The Redskins”—evokes terrible memories of the time when the U.S.’s “Manifest Destiny” was to destroy all vestiges of the original inhabitants and span the continent with its people, its railways and its industries. [They are not alone in using an epithet drawn from the genocidal history of North America. There are the Atlanta “Braves,” there is “Squaw Valley,” the home of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, and even in normally quiescent Canada, there is the Canadian Football League’s “Edmonton Eskimos.” And on and on.]

Back to Bob Costas. Last night he acted as the American body politic’s designated conscience. And he has given me a little something to celebrate today. More than 19 million watched last night’s gridiron match-up, and a good portion would have seen the snippet embedded below. Remember that those 19 million are a real cross-section of American society. So, the audience would have comprised members of the Ku Klux Klan, The Aryan Brotherhood, Southern Baptists, liberal academics, right-wing politicians, tree-huggers, vegans, and a whole lot more—farmers, roughnecks, porters, and you and me. You don’t need to know a great deal about U.S. history to know that, like cigarette smoking, glorifying bigoted epithets may soon become socially unacceptable in these United States and elsewhere. Have a look.

I honestly don’t know if—as a child of European colonization and oppression—I am philosophically barred from declaring my solidarity with the First Nations of Canada and aboriginal people across the globe. But FWIW I hope that in what’s left of my brief candle I will be around to witness a sea change of sentiment toward the original inhabitants of these lands.

Next up:

Blinkhorn, et al. Are Totally Mired In MP Mythology, So It Would Be Cruel To Make Fun Of What They Found In The Thar Desert. 

TTFN.

ANY TIME IS A GOOD TIME TO GET GOOD STUFF AT THE SUBVERSIVE ARCHAEOLOGIST’S OWN, EXCLUSIVE “A DRINK IS LIKE A HUG” ONLINE BOUTIQUE

SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist‘s facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett’s news feed), on Robert H. Gargett‘s Academia.edu page, Rob Gargett‘s twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog’s RSS feeds. You can also become a ‘member’ of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You’re the reason I do this.