White Christians Say “Redskin” Shouldn’t Offend Indians

Flipping through radio stations this afternoon I landed on a Christian station. Within a minute I heard such an absurdly offensive assertion that even the callers were confused.

On Way, Truth, Life Radio (WTRL) 89.9 in State College, PA the evening begins with “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” This program is produced by Moody Radio which gets us to the core of American Fundamentalism. What is the purpose of Moody Radio?

Moody Radio promises to provide programming filled with solid biblical insight and creative expressions of faith that help you take the next step in your personal relationship with Christ.

This isn’t just about programming radio for your listening pleasure; this is about converting people to their distinctive understanding of Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know that it was a Christian station until I heard a little spot from Ken Ham who is the brain trust behind the infamous Creation Museum in Kentucky. His little bit was about how dragons were real and that they were in fact dinosaurs.

The assertion that Janet and guest Craig Parshall made went something like this:

  • Football teams market their brand based on success.
  • Invoking a racial slur is not a good business decision if you want to have a successful image.
  • Therefore, “Redskins” is not a racial slur.

The hosts went on to say that the debate over the mascot of Redskin is a fabrication of political correctness. “Where do we go with this? Where does it end?” they said. A 49er is a dirty gold digger. A Buccaneer is a nasty pirate. So what about them?

What I heard was: Well everyone else is doing it so why can’t they?

I wouldn’t dare teach my 8 and 6-year-old boys that such an ethic is responsible. I teach him to be principled no matter what others are doing or saying. That is just what virtuous people do from Socrates to Confucius.

The image of the Indian our Radio hosts conjured follows a white myth of the Indian. He is an emotionless, brave, and fearless warrior. The Indian is more of a mystical deity than a human being. This was a popular image in film before the Great Depression.

As I learned in a recent presentation, viewing, and discussion about the film Reel Injun, that mythic imagery was blown up by one movie – John Wayne’s persona in Stagecoach. From that point through several decades, the American Native was seen as savage, mindless, aggressive, unethical, and closer to animal than man. The women were sexualized and became sources of masculine pleasure. The American Indian became the race that could uphold white dominance all the way through to the Civil Rights era.

This is significant. Either the mascot for the Redskins was an intentional slur drawing on the image of the savage native, or it was that false idealization of the native as someone less than human. No matter what, the image of the Indian changed. Even if the image of the Redskin may have once been an image of dignity, it most assuredly has not been this way for a very long time.

Ethics 101: Just because something is so, therefore does not imply that it ought to be so.

In my mind that was where the academic assertion fell apart. I thought it was absurd, short-sighted, and a clear ploy to get me all frustrated. It worked because I kept listening.

A self-identified Choctaw called in. He said in no uncertain terms that Redskin is an offensive term and has been for quite some time. It did not make sense to him why his people were not given the same protection as other minorities. Why couldn’t his people tell us why a term used to give them an identity? Why couldn’t they dictate their own racial identity? To me, that seemed like a very reasonable question.

Rather than address the question, they dictated to this Choctaw why he should not be offended by the term “Redskin.”

Let me put this in sharper terms to highlight the offensive nature of this statement and the assertions made by the Parshalls – two privileged white people talking on a self-identified Christian program.

  • Faggot should not be offensive since it can mean a bundle of wood or even a cigarette.
  • Nigger just means the color black.
  • WOP is just an acronym for someone without papers, basically an illegal immigrant.
  • Kike is really a term that points to the anti-Christian sentiment of immigrant Jews.

If you were offended by any of that, good. You should be. I should be and am. The conservative diatribe that I heard is what I have been hearing for the entirety of this year with regard to racial slurs: It’s 2013 people, lighten up.

It does not matter what year it is. It does not matter how long and deep a tradition is. If we are acting with indifference and apathy to the psychological and social needs of any group of people, we are ceasing to protect the pursuit of happiness that defines an American citizen.

Theirs is not a position against political correctness, whatever that may mean.

It is a bold-faced dismissal of people of color.

Advertisements

One thought on “White Christians Say “Redskin” Shouldn’t Offend Indians

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s