Opinion | Sports

Naomi Brisley: NFL's team mascot dehumanizes Native people

The logo for the Change the Mascot campaign

Naomi Brisley addresse the dehumanizing nature of the Washington NFL team's racist mascot:
What do you envision when the term comes up in discourse? It is not a person with RED skin, this is quite impossible. Instead I believe the popular conception is someone with high cheekbones, large eyes, a big nose, feathers, barely clothed, maybe with a tomahawk or a peace pipe or bow and arrow or something of the sort. With this in mind; I would like to ask are there any representations or caricatures that come to mind when speaking of white people? Is there a standard get-up for people of European descent complete with clothing attire, facial structures and expressions? Can you imagine the feeling that whenever someone is introduced to you they try to pick out these characteristics in your personality or wait for you to behave a specific way in order to confirm their biases about the ethnic group you belong to? Or maybe even being the token representative for ALL of your people in a given situation? Like saying, “So and so, you are white-how would white people feel about this?” Or “Uh-uh, I talked to white people before and they don’t feel the same way you do about that situation.” At this point your whiteness is taken into question and attempts to categorize your amount of whiteness are enforced. (e.g. through blood quantum)

What the term “Redskin” and the mascot actually do is reinforce the mass ideology of symbolic annihilation. Symbolic annihilation is the absence of representation, or underrepresentation, of some group of people in the media (often based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.), understood in the social sciences to be a means of maintaining social inequality. By confining all Natives to this one representation or depiction cultivates the misconceptions our society has indoctrinated in us from a very early age. It is an attempt to glamorize the genocide of millions of people with this friendly slogan for a competitive American sport. I’m sure if we try to think back to grade school we can all remember the symbolic annihilation that took place against Native Americans in the first 4 to 6 pages of our history textbooks. In this introductory chapter the historians cover hundreds of thousands of years of the histories of hundreds of tribes, their interactions with one another, their complex legal, moral, religious, and philosophical approaches, their helpfulness and brotherhood that was extended to the Europeans when contact was first made, the way they helped shape the American constitution, the way they helped the Americans fight the British and “win” American away from England, and also their bravery in the face of colonization. Or wait a second…..I had to take college courses to learn all of this stuff.

Get the Story:
Naomi Brisley: 'Redskin' Is a Symbolic Mass Annihilation (Indian Country Today 6/1)

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