“A new poll claims that 9 in 10 Natives not offended by the R*dskins slur.”
This is the headline that has Dan Snyder saying,“Today’s Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree. We are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name.”
It’s a headline that is leading into the hundreds of articles being written by journalists after rabidly contacting the advocates that they know within the mascot movement to get their response. Inadvertently, their use of the headline makes them just as complicit in the misrepresentation of our Native communities as the poll itself since many people do not read beyond the headline.
It is a headline that has those of us in and throughout Indian Country taking a deep breath. Once more we are forced to deal with the violent impact of polls that aim to undermine the voices and work of our native nations in order to justify the continued use of a racial slur and the misappropriation of our culture and imagery.
Social media has given us the platform to discuss our issues and form alliances on such a scale that the mainstream society can no longer pretend that we are a conquered or extinct people who can continue to be marginalized, fetishized, and exploited for their entertainment and profit.
This is why the R*dskins organization is desperately trying to perpetrate the belief that this issue is being “manufactured” and is the political agenda of White Liberals. As long as the general public believes that this is a “Liberal” temper tantrum, the longer that Dan Snyder and supporters can continue to marginalize native involvement and continue the R*dskins’ 81 year tradition of normalizing and promoting racism towards indigenous people. The problem with their “let’s pretend 91% of all natives are honored by our use of a slur” approach is that they continue to illustrate how out of touch they are with the native community and reality.
What I wrote then, remains ESPECIALLY true today.
These polls are not about giving a voice to native people or representing the diversity of our opinions or communities. They are not conducted for our benefit, but for the benefit of the R*dskins organization and their supporters that depend on the knowledge that non-Native society at large does not interact or know enough about our native communities to discern fact from their fiction.
And that ignorance leads to these polls being weaponized in order to invalidate indigenous people and the decades of work that we have done to address the misappropriation of our identities, imagery and culture through native mascots.
So, don’t be fooled into thinking that these polls accurately reflect the perspectives of native communities.
All you have to do is look at Native Twitter and you will find millions of tweets from natives discussing the need to #ChangetheName. Read the hundreds(if not thousands) of articles written by natives, or the tribal resolutions passed by native nations against the name. Google the psychological studies that have been conducted that provide empirical evidence of the negative impact that native mascots have on the self-esteem and well-being of our native youth. Check out this list started byNative Appropriations that is signed by 5980 natives against the R*dskins slur.
More importantly, listen to our youth who proudly proclaim that they are #NotYourMascot.
Know that our communities will not be intimidated into silence. We will not stop fighting against the acceptance of a racial slur that demeans, normalizes, and encourages racist behavior and attitudes towards native peoples.
As frustrating as it is that we have to continually debunk and clarify the misinformation that is spread through the use of these polls, we will do so for as long as it takes. It’s time for the name to change. And make no mistake, change is on the horizon.
Johnnie Jae is of the Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw tribes of Oklahoma. She is the managing partner of Native Max Magazine, founder of A Tribe Called Geek, and contributor to Native News Online. She is also the manager and producer for the Success Native Style Radio Network.