Amy Donaldson: Sister's subtle racism experience provides convincing case for eschewing ethnic sports mascots

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  • Stable thought FORT MORGAN, CO
    July 3, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    Ok, as soon as I read the story about the cashier ask if she was adopted, I knew this was going to be one of those articles that would lead us to the sad conclusion that some how we are racist. Since when does asking if someone is adopted racist? The stretching of this kind of thinking gets longer and longer.

  • The Moose Southern, UT
    June 30, 2014 10:13 p.m.

    It seems to me that we need to look at the purpose of the team mascot. Is it positive or negative? Obviously no team chooses a mascot to cause it to be a negative symbol. The mascot is always (I know never use absolutes but I think I can here) used as a positive symbol by those who chose it and a negative symbol by the rivals of the sporting franchise.

  • Go Big Blue!!! Bountiful, UT
    June 30, 2014 9:53 p.m.

    The NFL team became the Redskins in 1933. They became the Washington Redskins in 1937. 77 years building their business and trademark. When I hear redskins I think of the NFL team. For me there is no slur intended. So who gets to be the politically correct police? Who gets to decide what is proper? What makes some people believe they have the right to destroy a 77 year-old legendary trademark? After you get rid of the Redskins what is next? When does it stop?

    Is it right for the government to force the team owner spend millions of dollars to create a new untested trademark? Some would say that he would make more money selling new merchandise. The fact is that the team would have to pay all of the new costs, but then it would have to share all of the revenue with the other NFL teams.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    June 30, 2014 8:51 p.m.

    Right. There goes the Runnin' Utes.

    Wait a minute, hold the phone. PETA called, can't use Cougars either.

    And soon vegetarians will decry using "Aggies" becaues it's vegetablist.

    Oh, Come On!!!

  • chromedome27 Orem, UT
    June 30, 2014 5:59 p.m.

    Well written article, Amy. And you have beautiful siblings!!!

    This isn't about change coming because you or your sister are insulted. Racism isn't about those that are being marginalized, it is about those doing the labeling. Even if 100% of all native Americans told me they were ok with me using a slur, I still won't do it, because it is the wrong thing to do.

  • Johnny Triumph American Fork, UT
    June 30, 2014 3:08 p.m.

    For such an educated society it's amazing to me that we continue to hold onto prejudiced, tired, and downright offensive mascots in our sports world. It's time we change them, not because we might assume that someone is offended, but that we instead choose to make changes because we want to do the right thing. Whether or not anyone or any minority of people are offended by a term like Redskins we should hope for change because it's the right thing to do. Justifying prejudicial terms like these only lessens our standing as a leader in the world. It's time to stop classifying groups of people and live together as a society.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    June 30, 2014 3:03 p.m.

    I think we need to be careful about terms like "subtle racism" or "subtle bigotry" for that matter. Using the word "subtle" implies that the intent of the question or comment is clearly understood by the "victim". How tightly do we want to regulate free speech second guessing people's intent?

  • DOM Ivins, UT
    June 30, 2014 2:01 p.m.

    Does anyone remember the old adage that sounded like "stick and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you". I currently see tv commercials that push "word do hurt you". I believe that words only hurt you if you let them. I think it is sad they we have to change for the few, maybe I have other things more important than what people say about me. Seriously, would anyone be offended if the "Redskins" were called the "Whiteskins". I don't know, and I really don't care. I agree with the comments that we are really just "getting behind our teams" and using the Mascot to show our own team pride/spirit. Maybe we need to stop worrying about the words. Worry about being a good parent, you could teach your kids about what words you would like them to say. Worry about driving down the street without hitting someone or doing a good job at work, not about a stupid word someone said to you.

  • RockOn Spanish Fork, UT
    June 30, 2014 1:45 p.m.

    Why does JD and others keep making the incorrect remarks about Redskins being based upon skin color. It is NOT. It is based upon the war paint applied to the equivalent of Delaware native's Navy Seals. Red referred to the vermillion or red paint they applied before battle. They were feared for that. It's the same as if we called the Seals, Camouflage Faces.

    Why get insulted over something that isn't an insult??????????

  • J D Davis, UT
    June 30, 2014 12:36 p.m.

    I think Amy said it best:

    "The reality is that we’ve outgrown it. We’ve evolved. We didn’t know better when we chose the Redskins as the team’s mascot. Back then, we chose a lot of mascots and depictions of people and their cultures that were silly or belittling. But we know better now. "

    We know better now.

  • KSUBYU Las Vegas, NV
    June 30, 2014 12:27 p.m.

    Could someone tell me when the Native Americans became offended with the name of this football team? Was it in the last five years, last 10? I just do not remember any objections until recently when the PC world went crazy. How offended will the Native American tribes be when the organization decides to start funding programs that truly help the people. The name does not help of hurt anyone. Give me a break.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    June 30, 2014 12:17 p.m.

    This is a great article! There is no reason to refer to a team mascot based on skin color. None. Would we use 'blackskins" or "yellowskins"? And to use the term "redskins" after our genocide policy of the 19th Century, along with other meanings I'll not discuss here, is beyond offensive. How many movies from the 20th Century that had lines like "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" and others, which showed utter contempt for Native Americans. Rationalize all you want, but the mascot name for the Washington, DC football team is unacceptable. Period.

  • Cletus from Coalville Coalville, UT
    June 30, 2014 12:08 p.m.

    The irony here is that "multiculturalism" is all about celebrating diversity. Now we are being told to eliminate anything that draws attention to our differences because someone has decided such diversity might hurt someone’s tender feelings.

    What's truly offensive is this nonsense that indigenous peoples need help – that they will be forever dependent on someone to protect their feelings similar to a parent protecting the feelings of their children.

    We are indeed an entitlement society full of victims and fools. We spend so much time now crying about being offended that it's become downright offensive.

  • RockOn Spanish Fork, UT
    June 30, 2014 11:06 a.m.

    Redskin does not refer to Native Americans. It came from the warrior class (their version of the Navy SEALS) of the Delaware natives who put vermillion on their faces to make them RED and their enemies referred to them as Redskins. It's an appellation of respect and fear.

    Let's use the facts instead of hysteria to make decisions.

  • RBB Sandy, UT
    June 30, 2014 10:32 a.m.

    When Donaldson stands up against the Notre Dame mascot, among others, she may have some credibility. Until them she is jumping on the victimization train.

    The fact that people are surprised when children look nothing alike should not cause offense. Because we are a multi-racial family our children look very different. My son's name is usually mispronounced because people assume he is from a different racial group than he is. Hearing "is he your brother?" or "is she your sister" was common for my kids even through they were the only ones in their school with the same last name. They did not take offense - they laughed about it.

    We have become way too thin skinned as a people. What is even more concerning, however, is that there are a growing number of people who are willing to use the power of government to restrict the free speech rights of others. Isn't it great when journalists are promoting censorship.

  • JonA Ogden, UT
    June 30, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    I'm surprised the author has never been on the end of racist comments and/or jokes. I'm white and I've certainly been on the end of racist comments. I am very white, in that I have freckles and I burn more easily than just about anyone you'll ever meet. I get made fun of all the time about how "white" I am and how I should keep my shirt on as to not blind people. I have been called a Cracker several times and have also been called "whitey".

    As I child I hated my freckles, white skin, and red hair because it always brought unwanted jokes and attention. I literally wished my skin was darker or that I could tan. I've since grown up and have come to accept it and I don't mind it anymore. I still get comments and jokes but I just choose not to be offended. If there were a team called the Whities or Red-headed Freckle Faces I think I'd actually cheer for the team.

  • DCJ Washington, DC
    June 30, 2014 10:14 a.m.

    Re: xert "2. Would you honestly walk up to a Native American child and tell them they are the cutest little redskin you've ever met? If not, why?"

    It depends. Is s/he wearing a Redskins jersey? Context matters, and as much as we would like things to be simple, sometimes they are not. I could call someone a "Cougar" and the person might be honored (BYU grad), offended (woman dating or married to a younger man) or REALLY offended (U of U grad). Even in a football context, it's not so simple. Native Americans might feel differently about the Redskins name and logo than they would about the dopey, drunk-looking Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. Even use of the "N" word (sadly in my view) is contextual (black rapper vs. white guy).

    I understand Amy's concern in the situation she described, but I don't think it easily equates to the issue of the Redskins' name. The polling data suggests it does not. We ought to be sensitive to possible insensitivity, but we should be wary too of being too presumptious in telling Native Americans how they ought to feel.

  • Utegar Mapleton, UT
    June 30, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    "The Redskins suck" may be a common refrain from the opposing this okay? I suggest it is not. I agree with xert on this one. It appears to me that many comments above are truly ethnocentric and one sided, despite the effort to tell someone not to take offense at innocent and even attempts at positive connotations.

  • Chris B Salt Lake City, UT
    June 30, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    The Utes seem to be ok with it and don't see it as racism - and mind you that many American Indians SELF identify as redskins.

    So it usually comes down to $ as to whether a group is "offended" or not

    I'm sure if the Washington Redskins brought out the checkbook the American indian redskins would find a way to not be offended, as the Utes have done

    June 30, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    I think it's a no-brainer. The name is overtly racist. Non-natives did enough damage by violently stealing land from the native americans and nearly whiping them out entirely. What historical context is there for sport teams to use native americans as mascots other than some twisted sense of entertainment? I am no friend to anyone who insists on continuing the humiliation just because they think the name sounds cool and/or because the team makes money off of it. And I don't care how many part-native-americans tell me they are not offended. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so carelessly disinterested in the integrity of your ancestry.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    June 30, 2014 9:32 a.m.

    Two points. 1. Why, when anyone and I mean anyone, looks to justify this disgusting term--do they always say "many native Americans have no problem---blah blah blah." Why is it that you don't use the term "Redskin" there? Native Americans love the term, right? Go ahead and sub it in for Native American. Nobody hurt, right? Let's not be so easily offended.

    2. Would you honestly walk up to a Native American child and tell them they are the cutest little redskin you've ever met? If not, why? What would be wrong with that? If you would do it, would you do it while their large and tough looking father was standing next to them. If not, why? The polling says they love the term so why your hesitation?

    I submit in both cases, that the reasons are exactly the same as the reasons you don't use the N word in similar situations. Let's start talking to each other like adults. The sooner the better. This argument is going one way and fast.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    June 30, 2014 8:37 a.m.

    Nothing better than a bunch of white people talking about how Native Americans should feel about this, that, or the other. White guilt is alive and well.

    If we learned anything from the Utah Man fiasco, it's that the majority telling the minority what is and isn't acceptable is more offensive than the mascot (or language) in question.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 30, 2014 8:24 a.m.

    I've noticed that the majority of letters here are from people who presume to decide what should or should not be offensive to other people. I'm sorry, but we don't get to decide what offends other people. We can only take note of their feelings and act accordingly.

    From a business standpoint, why would anyone choose a team mascot that is going to offend part of the potential fan base? If I had a sports team, I would want as many people as possible cheering my team on, buying tickets, attending the games and purchasing team-related items. While in this case, there may be people buying Redskins stuff out of spite, it's gotta be hurting the bottom line in the long run.

  • techpubs Sioux City, IA
    June 30, 2014 6:19 a.m.

    If people are going to be offended by sports mascots and nicknames insisting that they be changed we should eliminate all of those that could be offensive now.
    Browns could be offensive to people with darker skin. Yankees is a slur against Northerners and Rebels is a slur against Southerners. Fighting Irish, Vikings, Pirates, Buccaneers, Saints, Blue Devils, etc. There is a long list of names and mascots that could be offensive to someone so they all must be put under the microscope and examined very thoroughly to determine which ones need to be changed immediately.

  • Million Bluffdale, UT
    June 30, 2014 5:52 a.m.

    That ridiculous looking Irish mascot that Notre Dame uses sure does impugn us Irish. The Irish were the much hated immigrants in the 1800's and of course the British hated the Irish when so many of them fought against Britain in the American Revolution so our ancestors know of this hatred. I guess if we make everything politically correct then someday we won't be able to annoy anyone and therefor end up being a docile people.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    June 30, 2014 12:08 a.m.

    I read the article carefully and can't find the offensive negative stereotype Ms Donaldson is complaining about. My nephew, a Navajo, was adopted by my brother, who didn't have an affair with a Navajo woman. I'm offended by Ms Donaldson getting so bent out of shape as to explain her sister's complexion by disparaging falsehoods about her father.

    Brigham Young said that if you take offense where none is intended, you're a fool. He went on to say that if you take offense when offense is intended, you're probably still a fool. When I introduce my beloved Navajo nephew, we are not offended by curiosity over the difference in our complexion. We explain it proudly!

  • RationalPlease Spanish Fork, UT
    June 29, 2014 11:57 p.m.

    I agree with the majority of the previous posts. The use of the name is not a put-down of Native Americans. I lived in Washington DC, and the fans of their football team are extremely proud of their mascot.

    I am a fan of Amy's. I love her columns--they are usually the first I read. But she is off the mark here. But I still love her.

  • happylife OREM, UT
    June 29, 2014 11:03 p.m.

    @ Wazzup??
    I didn't do the polling and this is not a new issue. I'll leave the Google search to you but it is not hard to find that of the numerous pols that have been done over the years, 90% of Native American's do not find the term offensive and many Native American High Schools use the term Redskins as their mascot. (find the recent CBS report on the issue and Google the Red Mesa Redskins for example.) Comparing the term Redskins to the N word is laughable and dismissive of the harm and history that the N word is. You stated that the term Redskins has "now" become one of them. What do you mean by "now?" It is only now because a group of grievance hucksters want to make it so to further entrench the culture of grievance. There has always been something racist to the N word. Redskins is not a racist term. It is not used as a racist term. It is not derogatory or insulting to me and yes, the vast majority of Native Americans in any way.

  • Hmmm... North Ogden, UT
    June 29, 2014 10:58 p.m.

    My ancestors came from Scandinavia does that mean I should be offended by those teams that use Viking mascots? Utah and several other states are Indian derived names does that mean we should change the name of all these states? States or mascots with Indian names is not an insult, on the contrary, it is an honor! When we name our child we are deliberate, thoughtful and considerate; that child is part of us. Likewise, to name a place or choose a mascot to identify and represent our team or institution shows extreme respect and places it in high honor; it too becomes part of us. Mascots are team symbols of strength, toughness, and other winning traits.

    Some criticize our government for trying to eradicate their culture; is it not ironic that they now want to obviate them even further into obscurity by removing them from the public eye? If anything tribes should be promoting themselves as mascots.

    It seems to me the only ones taking advantage of anyone here, are lawyers who twist things around and stir people up just to make a quite buck. I hope tribes are not duped by this and sell themselves short.

  • HJC Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 29, 2014 10:26 p.m.

    An integral part of being an adult is refusing to take offense when none is intended. Quite frankly, it's one of the main factors that separates a temperate grown-up from the children.

    As a red-haired male, I have been the subject of plenty of mean-spirited, "racial" teasing. I've been the butt of many jokes, stereotyped as hot-tempered; I've been mocked for nothing other than my hair and freckled skin - physical, racial characteristics that are beyond my control. Historically, signs such as "No Irish Need Apply" in the US and "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish" at English boarding houses underscore the discrimination that my ancestors suffered.

    I could choose to be offended by the Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" (a mascot that caricatures the racial characteristics of the Irish and their tendency toward drunken hotheadedness). But I'm not. It's not offensive, nor was it intended to be so. It's quite literally a badge of honor to have an organization choose to use me, and others like me, to identify themselves.

  • Sirveaux Taylorsville, UT
    June 29, 2014 10:06 p.m.

    If we ought to defer to those to whom it refers, then we have to take a poll of every living Native American and determine how many of them are truly offended by it. If that's the criteria under which action must be decided, then you can't take action until you have the data. If the argument is going to be made that even one person offended is cause to change the name, then I'm going to start demanding that everything that I find offensive to me which I am the only person who feels that way be changed.

  • wazzup?? Provo, UT
    June 29, 2014 9:43 p.m.

    Just because SOME Native Americans have no problem with the use of "Redskins" does NOT make it o.k. to use. Words like "vast majority" attempt to exaggerate the number of agreeing Native Americans as if ALL of them were polled. Yeah, right!

    The fact of the matter is that those who haven't experienced racism, and then on a very large scale - do not know how powerful of an affect derogatory words can demean a group of people. The word "Redskins" has now become one of them. The "N" word was used without care until we became a more conscientious society. This matter is the same. We know better therefore we need to behave accordingly.

  • happylife OREM, UT
    June 29, 2014 9:35 p.m.

    I am part Chippewa and like the overwhelming majority of those of Native American decent, I find no offense in the use of the word Redskins. In fact, like most, I take pride in it. As I read your story, I can only recommend that there may be a better approach than the one you chose. With the grocery clerk's inquiry, why would you hate such a question instead of choosing to use it as an opportunity to express your complete love and support for your sister who is different? What a great opportunity missed to demonstrate that love is not based on these differences. I find it puzzling that you would find it difficult to express that and instead impugn your father's reputation. Nevertheless, what is it about the name of Redskins that you find so "hurtful or insulting?" I certainly never had any reason to question or hate myself and my heritage because of the use of this term and I find it even bizarre that you do. I find this whole situation with the Redskins name as little more than the Grievance Industry's necessity to validate their existence with yet another non-existent wrong.

  • Go Big Blue!!! Bountiful, UT
    June 29, 2014 9:02 p.m.

    I respectfully disagree. Polls show that a vast majority of Native Americans have no problem with the Washington Redskins. I strongly disagree with those in the government using a heavy hand to terminate the redskin trademark. It seems that many who preach tolerance are very intolerant to those who believe differently than they do.

  • Michael L Mulcady Prattville, AL
    June 29, 2014 7:20 p.m.

    Is it possible that we can choose not to be offended,and not look for reasons to be offended, and certainly not write about it? Enough, please.