Maybe it didn’t create the to-do the other day it should have, but it was hardly a big to-do about nothing.
For in a move that had to surprise a whole bunch of folk, the editorial page of The Washington Post made a decision that other news media should make as well: It has stopped using the word “redskins.”
“While we wait for the National Football League to catch up with thoughtful opinion and common decency,” the editorial board wrote, “we have decided that, except when it is essential for clarity or effect, we will no longer use the slur ourselves.”
All of us should applaud the board. What we should all loathe, however, is the insistence of other media, including The Post’s news side, to continue using perhaps the most demeaning racial epithet in all of sports.
No one should feel good about words that disparage a people, and slowly – too slowly, it seems – the tide is rolling against those who believe an NFL team’s use of a racist nickname is all right.
Of course, we know Americans aren’t quick to change habits – racist though the habits might be. We see that in the public’s embrace of gay marriage, which took years to gain traction and only now is gaining momentum faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 meters.
We saw the same conduct in past decades when the United States, despite the contributions Blacks had made to America, refused to treat those of us of color like first-class citizens.
While more than a few Black folks would argue we’re still treated second class, even they must admit we’re better off now than we were in the 1950s and ’60s. We don’t routinely hear people taunt us with the “n-word” – not anymore.
In that respect, we must take sides with our Native American brothers. For too long – even longer than Black people – they’ve been enslaved in this country; they’ve had their lands stolen; they’ve been subjugated and relegated to reservations on lands that nobody else would want.
Yet their calls to end such mistreatment have gone unheeded.
No better example of that exists than what the NFL team in Washington, D.C., has refused to do. In the face of withering criticism, led by the Oneida Indian Nation in Upstate New York, the team and the tone-deaf NFL itself have clung to the position that the nickname has noble roots.
But we all know that’s a lie. We know it because of what the nickname itself means. We know it because of what Native Americans tell us the nickname means to them. They see nothing ennobling about a word that might trump the “n-word” as the worst of slurs.
Late last year, the city council in D.C. voted to urge the NFL team to drop the use of the "r-word," and it has supporters from President Obama, to U.S. senators, to NFL referee Mike Carey and to a cadre of Native American tribes who detest the word. The latter groups have refused to stop the drumbeat.
They should not. They should not for the same reason any group that has its culture abased should not stop fighting for its dignity. For what does culture mean if those who are part of it aren’t willing to fight for it?
Native Americans should know they don’t fight alone. Others out here in this melting pot of a nation back their play. The Post editorial board is the latest to join them in insisting that the NFL rid itself of a racist remnant from America’s yesteryear.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Nick Wass/AP Photo)
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