Renaming the Redskins


What would Americans do without Twitter? The online social networking and microblogging service is filling the vacuum created by a dormant Congress. Everyone – including the President qnd other national leaders – posts a tweet to provide vital information or air their views now. Twitter has become the national forum, where the people’s problems are discussed and sometimes solved.

The most pressing problem at the moment is finding a new name for the Washington Redskins.

The NFL team needs a new name. It doesn’t want a new name but it definitely needs one. And Twitter is on it. Dozens of suggestions are being tweeted as I write this blog.

Native American activists have decided they won’t put up with the insulting name any longer, and a lot of people agree they have a case. Pressure is mounting on owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s 80-year-old name. Intense pressure. Even the US Patent Office has joined the crusade, canceling a bunch of the team’s patents because  they include “a racial slur.”

That could make Snyder give in. Critics’ words might not impress him but when the team’s patents are affected, you can bet he is going to listen. We’re talking serious merchandising losses here.

I didn’t find the name all that offensive at first. I come from Jamaica, where “skin” is used with abandon. In Jamaica we couldn’t seem to identify each other without referring to our skins. Terms like “cool skin,” and “brown skin” and – yes – “red skin” – are in common use. (Even the national beauty contest was once divided into skin-color segments – “Miss Mahogany,” for example.) And you’d better not be thin-skinned when these terms are used to describe you, or you might hear a lot worse. Jamaicans don’t hesitate to “trace” you – and your ancestry – if you provoke them.

But I guess people are more sensitive here in America. And when I think about it, “Redskin” is not a very nice way to describe a human being. Potatoes yes. Humans no.

And I don’t think American Native People have particularly ruddy complexions. But then, my Chinese friends certainly don’t look yellow. And the so-called Caucasians don’t look “white,” either. They are sometimes pink, sometimes beige, but – unless they’re very sick – never white.

Nobody cares what I think, of course. But the team’s owner probably cares what all those folks on Twitter think. And I’m sure he cares what the patent office thinks.

So far,most suggestions on Twitter have reflected the chaos in Congress, rather than anything to do with football – or Native Americans. (“Filibusters” is one suggestion, for example.)

What about you? Have a suggestion?  Write your congressional representative – or, better yet, jump on Twitter and let America know. (But I wouldn’t mention “skin” if I were you.)

Click for more on the name change.