I have watched with interest as the brouhaha over the Washingon Redskins team name as it spilled over from our nation’s capital to the deepest backwaters of Red and Blue America. And I admit to being puzzled. After all, as Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder says of the name, “It represents honor, it represents pride, it represents respect.”
It is hard to disagree. Few people have a greater sense of racial sensitivity than a man who once threatened a lawsuit against a local weekly, the Washington City Paper, saying that a cover photograph of him bedecked with graffiti-like scribblings of a devil’s horns and a moustache and beard was an anti-semitic slur.
But what I don’t understand is why Mr. Snyder, with his finely tuned sense of racial outrage, lets such an inaccurate representation of his team’s racial makeup be so blatantly promoted. I looked closely at team photos and saw no one with what I would call red skin. There were, to be sure, some rather ruddy fellows, especially the beefy offensive linemen, but that seemed to be more an issue of blood pressure or some other medical condition than actual skin tone.
What I did see was a very high percentage of players who had what I have been taught to call “black” skin. I have always thought this was a bit of a misnomer, applied broad brush to all folks whose skin tone is somewhere on the dark side of tan. But, once again, this is not my decision to make. Better minds than mine have determined that all people leaning a certain way on the color scale shall be called “black” while those leaning in a pinkish direction shall be called “white.”
From this cursory glance at his team, I think even Mr. Snyder would agree that this disrespects, dishonors, and quashes the pride of those whose actual skin colors are being misrepresented and ignored.
So I would like to make a modest proposal: from this point forward, let us simply refer to the team as the Washington Blackskins in honor of the predominant racial makeup of the players.
It would correct an oversight, be more accurate and is simply brimming with honor, pride, and respect.
“The Washington Blackskins.” It seems inconceivable to me that anyone, especially a man with such finely tuned sensibilities as Mr. Snyder, could possibly take umbrage at such a fine and noble name.
Kent Nerburn is the author of what has become known as “The Trilogy”: Neither Wolf Nor Dog; The Wolf at Twilight; The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo. He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota.