Sunday, June 15, 2014

Politically Correct = Political Club

I was going to continue with my article on Independence and Competence, but it's a long complicated subject and something else snagged my attention -- namely, the flap about the Washington Redskins.

Somebody has decided that the name of the Washington Redskins is "racist" and offensive to the "Native Americans", and he/she/it/they is hammering the team's owner to change its name (to what?  The "Natives"?).  This somebody has spent a lot of money on this campaign, even televising ads that feature supposedly-real Indians, piously claiming that they never called themselves Redskins -- and never mind the facts.  Go talk to the real Indians, and you'll get a very different story.

First off, my maternal great-grandmother was a Chippewa medicine-singer (probably where the family's musical talent comes from), who was also literate and left tales and letters with her descendants -- which plainly state that, in her day, Indians preferred being called "redskins" to the more vulgar term, which was "red niggers".  The Chippewa themselves had no qualms about calling Whites "white-eyes" or "fish-bellies".

Second, as Indian archeologists and anthropologists (yes, there are some) can tell you, despite the temptation to please guilty-patronizing Whites, no, the term "Native Americans" is not scientifically accurate, and "Indians" is actually a lot closer to the truth.  The first humans to visit the Americas were Neanderthals, soon followed by Java Man.  They didn't stay to settle because, in those days, most of the land was covered with glaciers and the rest was inhabited by very large and unfriendly animals: the mammoth, the mastodon, the giant sloth, the giant deer, the giant humpless camel, the giant short-faced bear, the giant dire-wolf, the rather large saber-toothed tiger, and so on.  The first people to stay and settle the Americas were the Clovis Point people, toward the end of the Ice Age -- and they, thank you, came from Europe: northwestern France, to be precise.  That's right;  the first Americans were White people.  Yes, as the Ice Age receded, another group of people from northern Asia (not actually India, but a little closer) came across the Bering Straits and mingled with the original settlers, producing the Folsom Point people who were the ancestors of the modern Indian tribes -- but they were Johnny-come-latelies as much as the later Whites.  Because the Asians came (and continued to come for centuries) in greater numbers than the original Clovis Point people, their genetics came to dominate the American population;  thus the name "Indians" (which, in Columbus' time, meant "Asian") is the more accurate term.  There's nothing "racist" about it.

Third, the Washington Redskins -- like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves -- originally were made up of Indians.  In the late 19th century the old hunting/gathering/fishing/small-farming Indian economies were in shambles, and a lot of the tribesfolk had to come to the Whites' cities for work.  (This was when the Michigan Indian tribes, with their excellent ears and superb sense of balance, came to dominate the high-iron construction trades.)  On their days off, since there wasn't much entertainment they could afford, they organized ball teams and played among themselves.  Eventually they came to play against other amateur urban ball teams, and won respectable numbers of games.  Sports fans in those cities came to respect those "Indian", "Redskin", "Braves" ballplayers.  In time, those teams became serious professionals.  They kept the names they'd started with as a point of pride, even after most of the players were no longer Indians.  It's a classic case of Yankee Doodling.

Side note: the term "Yankee Doodle" was originally British propaganda.  When the American colonies started grumbling toward revolution and British troops were sent in to "maintain order", the British governors launched a propaganda campaign intended to discredit the grumblers. These malcontents, the British claimed, weren't real Britons -- or else they'd never do something so disgraceful as to question and defy the divinely-ordained Crown.  No, these had to be resentful leftover Dutchmen: not John Bull, but John Cheese -- stupid John Cheese.  In the contemporary Dutch language, that was: Jaan Kees dudel -- pronounced: Yan Kees doodle.  The British commanders even made a song about it.  Now, is anybody going to tell the New York Yankees that they should change their name because it's an "offensive" term for a Dutchman?

  Finally, in case the Politically Correct crowd have forgotten this too, people tend to name their sports teams after things they admire: symbols of courage, fortitude, ferocity, beauty, or great skill.  They name teams for noble animals like lions, tigers, bears, bulls, mustangs, eagles or dolphins -- or skilled trades like steel-workers, or brewers, or meat-packers, or globe-trotters -- or not-so-respected but definitely fierce trades, like pirates, or raiders -- or fierce natural phenomena like cyclones, or sun-devils, or hurricanes -- or even respected ethnic groups, like 49ers, or metropolitans, or saints, or Vikings, or...yes, Indians.

The Braves, the Indians and the Redskins earned their names honestly, and are proud of them.  Let them keep those names, thank you.

Frankly, I'm wondering about the connection between this anti-Redskins campaign and the rather famous example of, hmm, a certain ball-team owner who made a few drunken racist remarks in what he thought was private, and the resulting storm of well-orchestrated outrage that forced him to sell his team.  If you researched just who's been paying for those anti-Redskin TV ads, and then see who's funding the group behind them, would you possibly find somebody who's made offers to buy that team?  Just a thought.

--Leslie <;)))><