The Washington Black Faces

Going back to my junior high school days, I always thought the Washington Redskins, a National Football League team, should change its name. Historically speaking, American Indians have had the weakest political clout in US History. In essence, American policy toward the American Indian has been one of prolific lies. Can you imagine what would happen if Washington called themselves the Washington Black Faces? Think about it: A man with a painted black face dancing around with watermelon in one hand and fried chicken in the other. In reminds me of 19th century minstrel shows in which whites mimicked black culture by making fun of their norms. This was pervasive in the antebellum South.

I am curious to see how this plays out with the trade mark issue. What bothers me the most is that the VAST majority of Americans do not see what is wrong with the name Redskins. But, why would those who hold power feel that way. I have elected not draft a Redskins player for fantasy football, watch their games, nor those of the Cleveland Indians.I want RG III to put money away and make an Arthur Ashe like argument against his team. Of all people, how can black folks support this? We were once mocked.


2 thoughts on “The Washington Black Faces

  1. Here’s the thing (and forgive me; my thoughts about this are hasty and unpolished): it seems to me that naming a sports team after a particular group – ANY group, really – is an act of oppression and diminution.

    Stay with me for a second.

    Sports teams are, by their very nature, frivolous. They exist only to offer diversion, pleasure, and not uncommonly, outlets for aggression that would be unacceptable anywhere else.

    Think about what we tend to do at sporting events. We dress up in “our” team’s colors. We paint their logos on our faces. We chant, we yell, we verbally abuse the opposing side (both on the field and in the stands). We feel an ownership of the team (notice the language we use when we talk about “our” teams). We develop mascots which are most often caricatures. The only time we show anything even remotely approaching respect at a sporting event is immediately after some sort of tragedy; our default is to behave badly, and while that is socially acceptable at sporting events (and, I’d venture to say, it’s even healthy), the fact that we continue to perpetuate stereotypes in the ways that we do with sports teams is shameful. I don’t care if it IS “all in good fun” or how often people cite admirable qualities (teamwork, sacrifice, perseverance, strength, blah, blah, blah); that we continue to caricature ethnic and racial groups is unacceptable in a society struggling to approach enlightenment.

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