Opinion | Sports

Megan Red Shirt Shaw: What really matters are Indian children





The following is the opinion of Megan Red Shirt Shaw. All content © Native Sun News.


Megan Red Shirt Shaw

White students are calling Indian students Redskins
By Megan Red Shirt Shaw

I’ve become a fan of watching NFL Sundays and like many, feel amped up when that Carrie Underwood voice comes out (but actually #BringBackFaith) and feel a sense of pride when my team wins (nondisclosure: this barely happened last season).

This morning as I was making breakfast, I turned on the television to see an interview with Roger Goodell in which he was asked about his favorite team growing up. After saying he had initially been a Baltimore Colts fan, he shared that he became a Washington Redskins fan. A few voices from the audience let out a whoop cry. I stood with my arms crossed watching the remainder of the interview.

In March, a story arose about Pit River tribe students in Northern California who came to school to find notes that read “Watch Your Redskinned Back” and “White Pride Bitch” sitting in their lockers. It was reported that students within that community started a “Redneck Club” as a response to those Native students holding elections for their Native Youth Council.

Parents from this community have started transferring their kids to other schools because of the nature of the hate crimes that have ensued. Families have stood up to the school system, challenging the racist environment and trying to talk to school officials about solutions to make it safer for their children.

I’m an adult. I am able to discern for myself that the term “Redskin” is not a reflection of me or of the other beautiful Native people who have been a part of my life. What we don’t talk about enough is how the “Washington Redskins” brand alongside other teams like “Atlanta Braves” or “Kansas City Chiefs” impact our children. I keep looking at the photograph of the Pit River students who feel unsafe to go to school because of students who have formed the idea that it is okay to call them “redskins.”

I think about their parents and siblings and how deservedly, they should be able to learn without the pressure of being called something that hurts. That name hurts our kids. Roger Goodell and RG3 and those fans who paint their faces and wear racist outfits to games don’t seem to understand this about why the name change is important.

Goodell loved the Redskins when he was a kid, but there are kids out there who are preventing other students from going to school, throwing out your beloved team name as a racial slur. Anyone ever put a note in your locker that made you feel small? This is a reality that’s happening now. Your polls for “Native American approval” don’t matter; what matters are our kids.

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, started a foundation called the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” to show his care for Indigenous people, in an attempt to settle the conversation about changing the team name.

Dan Snyder, those students don’t care about your foundation. They care about being able to go to school and learn so they can progress; they want to come home and take care of their families someday. The entire nation should be rooting for these students and for other students in Native communities to beat the odds laid out by going to school, graduating, and going on to college. This is not unique to the Pit River community. This is happening in communities across the nation and we, America, are not paying attention.

At the draft there were players accepting a Redskins hat. They hugged Roger Goodell, they smiled for the cameras, they hugged their mother – the mother who loved them and believed in them as a small child and who wanted a safe environment for them at school.

In Northern California, there’s also a Pit River mother hugging her child – the child who loves her and believes her when she says she wants a safe environment for him at school. Wake up, Redskins Nation. Change the name.

(Contact Megan Red Shirt Shaw at meganredshirtshaw@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News