Saturday, October 11, 2014

Good-bye, Redskins


“Redskins” was always an insult, at best (and not much good), it was a crude name, lacking even the poetry of Bruce Springsteen’s "Born in the USA": So, they sent me off to Vietnam, to go and kill the yellow man.  The name Redskins was from the time of the Yellow Peril and the White Man’s Burden. 

ST:NG "Home Soil"
It calls us "ugly sacks of mostly water."
Some of my conservative comrades on “Objectivish” message boards for fans of Ayn Rand continue to defend the Washington Redskins.  Most recently, on Galt’s Gulch Online, a video appeared in which Native Americans give their support for the team.   Neither a convenience sampling nor a statistically valid survey can disprove the racism behind the mascot name.  In point of fact, their arguments on behalf of the insult only raise basic problems with all such mascots.

Minnesota Vikings, the Michigan State University Spartans, the Trojans of the University of Southern California, all seem harmless enough.  So, the Atlanta Braves and similar mascots fall into that latitude.  However, even as Cleveland should keep the Indians, the cartoon of Chief Wahoo should be re-imaged. 

The Fighting Irish are not known for their wars against others, not even in defense of Ireland.  They mostly fight among themselves, so famously at Donnybrook Fair that we can drop the capital letter of the locale and just keep it as a common noun.  The Boston Celtics are honorific; but the Drunken Irish of Notre Dame are embarrassingly archaic. 

We have occupations: Milwaukee Brewers, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers (gone), Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Mariners, even the Pittsburgh Pirates, hearkening back to the wild frontier days of the western Allegheny region.
 
We have no shortage of animals: Ravens, Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Bruins, Cougars, Wildcats, Stallions, Broncos, Colts, Marlins, Sharks.  I like the pun of the Huskies for the University of Connecticut. As long as I lived in Oho, I never perceived the buckeye as an aggressor, or even much of a defender. Although the symbol works well enough for Ohio State University, they never have to face any Redwoods, Pines, Oaks, or Maples – and gratefully, no Termites or Ash-borers. 

Maybe someday Earth First activists will object to our forcing animals to fight each other for entertainment.   For now, the names seem harmless enough. It is difficult to imagine cheering for the Bricks, Rocks, Asphalts, or Concretes. 

But, then, English football teams do well enough just being “United”, although some escutcheons do display mythical beasts.  Manchester United has a devil – but so does Duke University of North Carolina.  Too bad we will never see them play against the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels, or the San Diego Padres.

Not all Vulcans are green;
nor are all humans pink.
In the Star Trek: Enterprise series, the Andorian captain Thy’lek Shran calls Jonathan Archer, “pinkskin.”  It was intended at first as an insult, but came to be something of a soubriquet as their friendship evolved over the years.  The underlying meaning for the viewer is that although the Andorians are warp-capable, they are not philosophically enlightened - at least not on that point. Technology does not make you (them, us) wise.   Curiously, perhaps, the Andorians met the Vulcans first; and even had a brief war and many subsequent border skirmishes.  Yet, Shran never referred to “greenskins.” 

In the Original Series, Dr. McCoy similarly teases Commander Spock about his green skin, as well as his ethos of logic, and other points of difference.  It is all meant to be accepted as jocular.  However, Captain Kirk never engages in that except for the few times when his mind was being compromised and he needed to get a subtext message through: “I am not me.  I am in trouble here. And you are about to be.”   When the NCC-1701 Enterprise first sees a Romulan, the navigator, Lieutenant Stiles, makes a comment about Spock – and Captain Kirk relieves him of duty. No racism is tolerated on the ship, or in the Federation.  

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