Brad Gallant has added a great new tool to the campaign to combat mascot racism: a 6-minute YouTube video, titled "Redskins No More." The title expands the Twitter hashtag, #redskinsnomore. The video itself expands the critique of mascot racism into a laugh-out-loud and gut-serious presentation.
We are familiar with the fact that humor helps the presentation of difficult or sensitive subjects. People often avoid paying attention to topics that make them defensive or uncomfortable, or that call into question deeply held beliefs and habits. When such topics are discussed in a way that makes people laugh, the chances for the listener to hear increase.
The rarity of combining humor and serious commentary marks Gallant's video as an important contribution to public awareness about the anti-Indian racism embedded in sports mascots, sports broadcasting, and sports reporting. Not a shrill note sounds in the entire six minutes, yet the comments and images hit hard. Though Gallant makes you laugh, he pulls no punches.
"Redskins No More" opens with the actual situation in American sports, which embed racist nicknames and mascots in everyday discourse. It quickly moves into a parody of sports commentary, in which Gallant—playing a sportscaster—recounts results of various games: "The Carolina Coons were lynched by the Mississippi Inbreds, 35-1."
Gallant's faux sportscasts reach to global matches, between such teams as the German Krauts and the Italian Wops. While he speaks, texts appear above the screen images, assuring us that, in seriousness, all racist slurs are wrong.
At the two-minute mark in the video, Gallant continues to pile on spoof examples of racist-named teams, while another text asks, "Is this racism getting old to you?" The next text reads: "Imagine 500 years of it. You are two minutes in." The following text reads, "First Nations People hear it every night!"
The sharp contrast between sports racism we never hear on mass media and the anti-Indian racism we hear literally every day jolts the viewer. Whatever racism exists in private conversations among sports enthusiasts, we all know that no mainstream sports media anywhere uses derogatory, stereotypical anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-German, anti-English, Irish, French—you name it—rhetoric.
Yet, while the sports world has cleansed itself of all other derogatory and demeaning rhetoric, anti-Indian rhetoric permeates sports broadcasts. Team owners refuse to abandon names and images that would, if applied to other peoples, bring immediate outrage and scorn. Sports broadcasters, using these team names and images, embed the demeaning language into every broadcast, without hesitation or reflection.
As the text declares, "Nobody should be subjected to sanctioned racism," the video becomes deeper, more complex. No longer simply declarative statements, the texts present historical documents of anti-Indian racism. An excerpt from The Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the decline of the Piscataway Nation in the 17th century.
One screen fills with a digital facsimile of the 1755 Massachusetts Bay Proclamation setting bounties on Penobscot Indians, ranging from "50 Pounds" for "every Male Penobscot Indian above the Age of Twelve Years," to "20 Pounds" for "every Scalp of such Female Indian or Male Indian under the Age of Twelve Years." The Proclamation "require[s] his Majesty’s Subjects of this province to embrace all Opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing and destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians."
Massachusetts Bay substantially increased its Penobscot bounties in 1757, ranging from 250 to 300 Pounds! As a different document states, "Scalp-hunting was not only a sporting pastime: it was a profitable business."
Gallant pivots from this series of historical documents to ask, "Is your country racist? Do you think you are a racist? Will you teach your children racism?" By this point in the video, how can anyone deny that anti-Indian racism was both virulent and prevalent from the outset of colonialism in the "New World"?
The video builds on this basis of outrageous humor and undeniable historical documents, to a series of suggestions for action in the present: "Limit [sports] concession spending." "Don't buy NFL merchandise." "When Washington Plays, chant Red Skins No More when they have the ball." "Boycott [Washington owner Dan] Snyder's radio stations and sponsors."
Gallant concludes that for team owners, leagues, and broadcasters, "racism is only racism if the affected groups have the power to hurt you." Team owners, franchises, and merchandisers make money from racism. That cash flow is the target in the campaign against racism in sports. Gallants asks viewers to "show your disgust with the RedSkins by wearing an old sports team hat to any sports event and post a photo on [social media] under the hashtag #redskinsnomore."
Harking back to the "sport" and "profitable business" of "scalp-hunting," Gallant says, "Sorry, your genocide failed." In asking viewers to cut off the flow of cash that makes sports racism profitable, "Red Skins No More" points to the jugular vein. It shames big sports businesses that profit on anti-Indian racism. It calls them to account and it calls on sports fans to do the accounting.
Will you laugh it away, or will you laugh through the pain of acknowledgment to end your involvement with institutionalized racism in all its forms?
Peter d’Errico graduated from Yale Law School in 1968. He was Staff attorney in Dinebeiina Nahiilna Be Agaditahe Navajo Legal Services, 1968-1970, in Shiprock. He taught Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1970-2002. He is a consulting attorney on indigenous issues.