A Response to a Misinformed Expert

ChangeTheMascot

I was recently at a holiday event and, as is inevitable around DC, the conversation circled around to the local NFL team and the name debate. Normally, I engage in this discussion (since my thoughts on this are pretty well known here) with the intent to educate a lot of the misconceptions that have been floating around out there. (In large part, no thanks to the football team’s horrible attempts at PR.) But that night, before I could readily engage, the speaker launched into a more authoritative style and dominated the discussion with his ‘facts.’

As he began his litany, I heard things that were so appalling, I was somewhat dumbstruck by the audacity of his claims – which he firmly believed was true – to the point I closed my mouth and just listened. Before I had a chance to step in and rebut the group’s esteemed knowledge leader (yes, sarcasm), the food had arrived and discussion veered into other topic areas. I never had a chance to lay out the opposition, and sadly, those who listened never got to hear where the truth really lies.

It does bug me that I never forced my way into the conversation to correct these horrible “truths,” but those who know me also know that’s not my style. I’m not comfortable with it, and I won’t apologize for being me. I think part of the problem was the sheer outrageousness of a couple of these claims – especially the last one – that I couldn’t quite get a grip fast enough to respond.

So after a couple of weeks of letting it marinate in my brain, here’s my rebuttal. Will said speaker ever see it? I don’t know. But I do hope that someone, somewhere, will correct his fallacies and redirect his thinking.

“There aren’t any tribes left on the East Coast, just small pockets of unrecognized tribes. They’re all out West because we killed them all out here.”

Let’s ignore the implied superiority of colonialism of the last statement. The first one is indicative of the impressions of a lot of the majority of America’s population: Natives are a forgotten culture and sadly, many Americans believe that Natives no longer exist.

As to the truth of his statement of fact, it’s total BS. There are 44 federally recognized tribes east of the Mississippi River, and more than that which are state recognized.

Now, I could give him the benefit of the doubt that he was specifically thinking of the DC-MD-VA region, since that’s a common argument by fans of the football team, that “there are no Indians here, so there’s no one to really care about misrepresentation.” In that case he’d still be wrong, since there are two state-recognized tribes in Maryland, and 11 in Virginia.

“Snyder’s an ass, but at least he has the balls to stand up to liberals on this non-issue.”

This isn’t a ‘liberal’ issue, nor is it a political one. This isn’t being raised and fought by white Democrats. It’s an issue that has found rising support in Indian Country, and continues to build momentum.

“Why do they care now? Where were they 80 years ago? It’s just political-correctedness going amuck.”

Actually, 81 years ago when the name was given. And back then, if you cared to remember history, was a time of racial insensitivity, ignorance, and bigotry. The National Council of American Indians lodged a protest about the name in the late 1960s, as the American Indian Movement and other groups found their voices fresh from the Civil Rights Movement. The first trademark suit was brought about in the late 1990s. And there’s been protest about the name for more than half the life of the team.

It’s just loud today because Natives are finding a new digital voice with the fast rise of social media and a new generation who want to correct the wrongs so long visited upon Indian Country.

“My friend is part Indian – he doesn’t use the term ‘Native American’ – and he thinks ‘R*****n’ is just fine; there’s other things to worry about out there.”

Ah, two classic rejoinders tossed in together. I don’t much care if his friend – and I’ll give benefit of doubt about the claim and assume his friend IS Native – calls himself a Native, an American Indian, an indigenous person, or a First Nations member. It’s immaterial.

Second, so what if a Native isn’t offended by the name? There are many who don’t care/ignore racial epitaphs that demean their race. The problem is that there is a sizable portion in Indian Country who *are* offended by the word, which is also a dictionary-defined slur.

Third, the “other things to worry about” line. So, by such thinking, we’re only allowed to concern ourselves with one issue at a time? Some believe the slur is part of the foundation of problems that plague Indian Country. (Some don’t.) Why can’t we fight against poverty, alcoholism, education, health, and other issues at the same time?

“Why bother with a team name? They’ve got suicides and alcoholism to deal with; they’re f*cking stupid to worry about a team name, especially when they have tons of schools on their reservations that use ‘R*****ns’ anyway.”

This kind of goes back to the previous point, though I’ll address the last statement now. The example brought up was the high school on the Navajo reservation, which does use the word as their team name. But context is needed to understand just why it’s in use there.

Oh, and in the last decade or two, more than 1,000 schools/institutions who used Natives/images as mascots have since changed them to something else.

Lastly was this gem, something I’ve not heard yet and caused me to mentally reel from shock. Someone had asked as to why there were so many suicides among Native Americans. His response:

“Oh, it’s the fact that their blood can’t handle alcohol. You know, it’s the Asian genetics from the land bridge thing. So they kill themselves easier.”

I’m not entirely sure how to handle that statement.

Let’s set aside that the whole Bering Strait land bridge theory isn’t fact. (It’s treated as such orthodoxy, but it’s really not been proven true; in fact, there’s more research that is debunking it now than before.) The whole “Asians get drunk faster” is a complete myth. Natives do have a higher risk of alcoholism due to genetic susceptibilities based on how its metabolized, yes. But it’s not proven to be the same genetic factors as Asians.

Yes, alcohol abuse does have a factor in suicide. But there are other factors in play within Indian Country besides substance abuse. Most recently, research among Native youths shows that poor self-image  due to the harmful impact of racist representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth creates a hostile learning environment in K-12 and postsecondary schools. This plays a heavy factor in youth-related suicides among Native youth.

ChangeTheMascot

I think the hardest part of the whole evening was listening to ‘facts’ being bandied about as essential truths, with no admission that these statements are ignorant or representative of microagressive racism. Honestly, the last time I observed such one-sidedness was a rabid political argument between Reds and Blues, where neither side would acknowledge any statements by the other side as true or even just worth consideration; they were all beholden to their party flavor and wouldn’t budge.

The whole football name debate is in the same camp, though here the conversation is dominated by the team’s fanbase. They repeat the fallacies with gusto, like using a megaphone, and refuse to sit and listen to the other side – because it means that they’d have to admit the possibility that the thing they know and love and worship could possibly be offensive.

And that just won’t do.

There are two poll results that show the hypocrisy and absurdity of it all: 56% feel the word is an inappropriate way to describe a Native, yet 66% don’t want the team to change its name. And yet if the name changed, 82% wouldn’t care if it changed or not.

Finally, the last comment before the holiday gorging commenced:

“It’s not a big deal, so I don’t get why they even care.”

If changing the name isn’t a big deal to you, then why argue about it with such outrageous ‘facts’ and superlatives?

Change the name.

Happy holidays.

Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

(Originally posted at WeLoveDC on 10/10/14)

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Greg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!'”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

The Football Name Debate: Are We Missing the Point?

One of several indigenous college students at the CAP panel.

“The debate is over about the R-word; it’s now about whether if it’s proper to have a football team in this country carry on using a defined slur.” That was the closing statement by Jacqueline Pata, the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Her comment capped off a forum at the Center for American Progress, Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The Center released a new report that examined several bodies of research about the harmful impact of mascot representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth, how they create a hostile learning environment, and the decades-long movement to retire them. The report by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips looks at recent key findings and incorporates statements from several Native youths, providing context that is relevant today regarding the use of these mascots and imagery.

Sitting on today’s panel was Pata; Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter, ThinkProgress.org; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist; and Erik Stegman, Associate Director, Center for American Progress. The forum started with very poignant remarks by fifteen-year-old Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a student at Argonaut High School in California, and a Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke briefly at the event.

Over the last year, the debate over the use of the slur by the Washington professional football team has largely centered on issues of economics and fan nostalgia. The larger issue at hand, however, is beyond the sports soundbites that dominate this discussion. Data and research now shows that the use of such racist and derogatory team names (and by association, ‘traditions’ and fan antics) have real and detrimental effects on Native youth today. With fifty percent of the Native population being of 25 years of age or younger, the danger of perpetuating this practice and continuing the cycle of defeatism, hostile learning environments, and poor self-esteem is all too real.

(R to L): Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter, ThinkProgress.org; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians

Studies are also showing that these mascots are undermining the educational experience of all students, particularly those with little or no contact with indigenous and Native peoples. These stereotypical representations are too often being understood by the population as factual representations of Native culture and people, contributing to the development cycle of cultural biases and prejudices.

Think that’s not really an issue in today’s progressive twenty-first century? Brown shared some of the experiences that happened in his high school. “Our cheerleaders dressed up one of our own in a Halloween ‘Pokahottie’ costume, tied her to a stake after dragging her out on the field in shackles against her will. They proceeded to dance around her, acting as if they were beating her, treating her as a slave. It’s one of the sickest halftime shows I’ve ever seen.” An avid football fan, he nonetheless dreads the game against rivals Calaveras, who use the R-word slur as their team name. “The most offensive stuff doesn’t even come from the [other team fans]. It comes from their rival schools, mine included. I have heard my own friends yelling around me, ‘Kill the Redskins!’ or “Send them on the Trail of Tears!'”

It took a lot of courage for Brown to address the audience, knowing he would be returning home to California and his schoolmates, many whom taunt him and other Natives on a consistent basis for his ethnicity. “When they hear the world ‘Native’ all they see is a football helmet or a big-nosed head on a jersey. Even the staff isn’t immune,” he said. “I was with a group of Natives at school and a teacher asked us what we were talking about. We said we were discussing some Native issues, and the teacher responded with ‘Oh, you are all Indians? I wouldn’t have known by looking at you.'”

Congresswoman McCollum put the debate into perspective. The entire issue was past the debate of the use of the name, and has moved into education on the issue. “It’s important for young people to have a positive image about themselves,” she said. How can that happen if the word is given a free pass in schools and by organizations, and yet other dictionary-defined slurs are considered forbidden? “This is an educational experience we have to be willing to take a journey on.”

Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians and Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist

The panel largely discussed how detrimental these mascots and imagery are towards Native youth. A decade ago, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a resolution calling for the immediate retirement of all team names, mascots, and other derogatory representations. They found through several key findings that such imagery “undermines the educational experiences of members of all communities–especially those who have had little or not contact with Indigenous peoples.” In 2001, a statement from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said:

The stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious, or other groups when promoted by our public educational institutions, teach all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society. Schools have a responsibility to educate their students; they should not use their influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or people. Children at the elementary and secondary level usually have no choice about which school they attend. (Statement of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols, 2001)

The APA also found that these misrepresentations create hostile learning environments that decrease student academic achievement and the ability to succeed. Native youth today have some of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country and endure poverty at nearly double the national rate.

Ultimately, however, it’s tribal leadership that needs to be there to support their youth. Pata noted that as a tribal leader herself, it’s important that every decision the tribe makes is for the next generation. “Tribal leaders are recognizing the issues our youth are facing today,” she said. “We want their lives to be different, and this is one way [by opposing mascotry] to do that.”

Friedman emphatically noted that the suicide rate among Native youth is two-and-a-half times the national average. “This isn’t a political correctness issue,” he said. “It’s a public health issue.” He noted that these high rates are set against the backdrop of the highest poverty rates, poorest health, and lowest educational outcomes in the country. Combined with rampant substance abuse and poor self- and community-esteem, the challenges are nearly insurmountable for Native youth, holding back their entire community and preventing future opportunities. This carries forward as they age, keeping tribal identities suppressed and perpetuating these ills.

Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, Student, Argonaut High School; Champion for Change, Center for Native American Youth

Before one can brush off such statements, an understanding of the unique perspective of Native communities is necessary. A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology said:

The military action, missionary efforts, the Federal Indian Boarding School Movement, the Dawes Act, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and the Indian Child Welfare Act forever changed the economic, physical, and social lives of AI/AN people. Once self-reliant and self-sufficient, the policies of the federal government forced tribes/indigenous people toward removal, relocations, isolation, and in some cases, termination and extinction, resulting in social, economic, and spiritual deprivations. (Journal of Clinical Psychology 66(8), 2010)

But there’s hope. Native youth today are making their stands. “Our younger generation is now saying what’s acceptable,” said Pata. “Schools are beginning to talk about what’s right, tribal history, and other discussions that helps bolster our youth to formulate change.” The road is hard, however, because the Native minority population in this country is so small; to make their voices heard, a consistent push for change is necessary.

“Part of the problem,” Macarro said, “is that we are invisible by the numbers, so these characterizations and stereotypes perpetuate in society,” making Natives ignored in the conversation. This concept of invisibility is a big deal among tribal leaders, who grew up in the previous era, noted for termination, removal, and revocation policies. Even today, many Native-dominant schools – founded and started by non-Natives – retain similar racial slurs as their mascots and names. “It’s a fact that many Natives do submit themselves to conformity by wearing the apparel, accepting the slur as a team name, perpetuating the racism,” said Macarro. “But what is wrong on the reservation is still wrong in the world.” It doesn’t diminish the argument for change.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)

Despite the fact of such acceptance, trumpeted by some media and opponents of change, Natives are out there facing the task ahead. “It’s not just a fight about the Washington football team mascot,” said Stedman. He indicated other steps that can be taken, or are being undertaken by Native advocates. The report outlined several at the local, state, and federal levels, including working with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education. Similar actions such as that taken by Oregon in banning outright all discriminatory mascots are mentioned, and suggests nonprofit legal assistance programs provide education programs for students and families about their rights, and help file complaints to OCR and other relevant agencies.

Additional research is needed, of course. Stedman recommends that the “federal government work across agencies to identify new research topics to better understand the extend to which these mascots and team names perpetuate bullying, hostile learning environments, and negative attitudes about AI/AN people.”

While the spotlight remains on Dan Snyder and his organization, the fight has progressed beyond the simple economic and soundbite war of using the current moniker. The deeper issue, when one takes the time to wade into the waters, is the ripple effect that washes over Native communities in this country, affecting tomorrow’s Native leaders and continually damaging their communities. The cycle has to end, and eliminating these racial stereotypes is a giant step in the right direction. With all the rhetoric, politicizing, media soundbites, and PR spin, let’s not miss the point.

“The use of these slurs and logos homogenizes tribes and their individual identities into a false grouping and stereotype,” said Macarro. “What it comes down to, fundamentally, is respectfulness.”

Change the name.

Hey R**skin Fans, Snyder Cares! (Not Really)

#changethename by Michael E. Woestehoff (used with permission)

#changethename by Michael E. Woestehoff (used with permission)

(Originally posted at WeLoveDC on 3/26/14)

With little fanfare, Washington pro football team owner Dan Snyder slipped a letter out to the team’s fan mailing list this past Sunday. It was a masterful work of self-service. In it, Snyder finally realized there were problems in Indian Country, based on a supposed 26 visits to various reservations around the country. The visits – all cherry-picked to councils who “agree” with him about the “non-offensive” nature of the team’s moniker – apparently opened his eyes to the plight and ills of reservation residents.

Let’s set aside for a moment that Snyder refuses to meet with tribal councils who oppose the name, including the still-open invitation from the Oneida Nation in New York. Snyder quickly jumped to the “hey, there’s more important issues to deal with than changing a football team’s name” defense, pointing out the horrific poverty rates, unemployment, poor health, and abysmal education found on many Native reservations. And yes, these are real problems. Big ones.

Changing the name would be a step in the right direction.

But Snyder, in his lovably (read: infuriating) sly and slick manner, forces you to think that you can only solve one or the other. Either change the name, or address these other problems is the implication. As CBS Chicago columnist Tim Baffoe says so eloquently, “Because sound logic dictates that we should ignore less significant issues that can easily be resolved in favor of the big ones that will take a whole lot of time and money to fix.”

So to that end, Snyder pats himself on the back for his revelation experience, and shares his latest plan: the formulation of a charity (the Washington [slur] Original Americans Foundation) to dole out money and goods to tribes in need. And, I suspect, only to those who “agree 100%” with the team’s racist name. Oh, and notice the addition of “original Americans.” If the R-word name is meant to honor, then why not just call it the R-word Foundation?

This latest move by Snyder is tantamount to bribery, really. And obfuscation. What, we can’t demand the removal of something that symbolizes hundreds of years of rape, theft, and genocide just because you’ve now had your eyes opened and decided to help the poor and disenfranchised? It’s like saying it’s okay to go wear blackface to a costume party because you donate to the United Negro College Fund or the NAACP. While Snyder may claim a supermajority of acceptance from his hand-picked supporters, it’s clear a significant chunk of Indian Country disagrees with him.

I’m all for new avenues of assistance to the reservations; God knows every cent is sorely needed. But using this latest charity ploy as a deflection tactic to tacitly approve his stubborn insistence that the team’s name isn’t racist or derogatory is reprehensible.

But then again, this is Dan Snyder. And as we know, he’ll “NEVER” change. And you can put that in all caps, people.

What’s In a Football Name? Snyder Thinks He Knows – And He’s Wrong

(Originally posted on 10/11/13 at WeLoveDC.)

So this popped out the other day.

It’s no secret how I feel about the whole name thing with the Washington football team. I oppose it. I think it’s racist. I have several personal issues with the name. But that’s not why I decided to post something about it.

The letter is a poor public relations attempt, mostly to mollify diehard team fans who will, unto the bitter end, support the racist moniker. Not out of reason, but blind emotion.

Hey, I get it. I understand why. Team fandom is a complicated, deep, personal thing that involves a lot of emotional investment and history. It’s difficult to hear that your beloved franchise is doing something wrong – simply by using a name (and by extension, mascot and other fan accoutrements).

The problem comes when that moniker is unveiled to be racist. The Washington issue isn’t anything new; it’s been around for decades. The movement today has found new momentum and has begun to find rightful traction in righting a wrong. (Just like the Civil Rights Movement began finding traction nearly one hundred years after Emancipation.)

The first third of Snyder’s letter is a play on his loyal fanbase’s emotional strings. “I still remember…the passion of the fans…the ground beneath me seemed to move and shake…he’s been gone for 10 years now…” All phrases and words evoking emotions and certainly causing the reader to recall their own cherished memories. Setting them into their defensive stance, so that the rest of the letter, which uses standard PR spin and deft deflection, only ratchets up the emotional volume for their impassioned – and misguided – defense.

Oh, and then there’s the trite “Our past isn’t just where we came from–it’s who we are” phrase. Bold and italicized, even. Because it’s important!

And yet that same phrase should be viewed in the light of the atrocities and attempted genocide of the native population that tried to co-exist here during the nation’s past. Dan, Native Americans have a past, too – and it isn’t just where they came from. It’s also who they are.

Okay, first “point” made by Dan: the team name was changed from “Braves” to its current incarnation because “four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans.” Right.

Problem the first: There’s strong evidence to show that William “Lone Star” Dietz actually posed as a Sioux native for several reasons–none of them altruistic. Dietz was nothing more than a “wannabe Native.”

Second “point” made by Dan: George Allen consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund on Pine Ridge to design the emblem. And was then honored by the organization a few years later. He then uses that to claim the emblem and plaque as a “symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect…”

Problem the second: George Allen actually created the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. So…yeah. The organization that owes its existence to Allen was used to create the emblem and then “honor” the man. There’s a lot you could infer or assume from that, which I’ll refrain. Basically, Snyder’s making his case based in part on consultations Allen had with a group he created. And was then honored. By same group.

Third “point”: Two polls are mentioned, the infamous Annenberg poll from 2004, and the AP survey from back in April this year. These are trotted out to show that the Native community overwhelmingly supports the team name.

Problem the third: The Annenberg poll is suspect, based primarily on its methodology. This article does a great job outlining all the problems with its methods, including the entire “self-described” hooey. (Oh look. Wannabe Natives popping up again.) And the AP poll? While 79% said the name shouldn’t change, he fails to mention that just about 80% said that if the name WAS changed, they’d still support the team. So…yeah. Clearly changing the team name would oh-so-upset the fanbase to the point of abandoning it. (Not.)

Fourth “point”: Snyder trots out a columnist’s interview with three tribal leaders, who were all quoted as not being offended by the name.

Problem the fourth: Well sure, of course there will be Natives not offended! Just like you can find Democrats who dislike Obama, or Republicans who do support the ACA. So what? There have been plenty of statements by Native leaders who have stated that they-and in a few cases, the entire tribe-ARE offended.

Dan then finishes off his teary-eyed missive with more emotional phrases and calls to the fan heart strings: “participated in some of the greatest games in NFL history”…”won five World Championships”…”the passion of our loyal fans”…”speak proudly”… Yep, build up the emotional groundswell there, Danny-boy.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the final, personal tug: “So when I consider the Washington [***] name, I think of what it stands for. I think of the Washington [***] traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me – and just as you have shared with your family and friends.”

Oh, and as a kicker, he hammers once again about the “81 year history” and “the team name…continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

Funny. When I hear the name, I cringe inside. I think of other names and places: Wounded Knee. Black Hills. Trail of Tears. Gnadenhütten. Ash Hollow. Red River. Sand Creek. Achulet. (Don’t know them? Look them up. Be horrified.)

Nowhere in Dan’s letter does he address other points about the name: that dictionaries define the word as offensive; that the team, held up as some sort of racially inclusive organization ‘honoring’ its ‘native’ coach, was the last to desegregate – and only because the federal government forced the issue; that over the last 35 years, more than 2,000 high schools have changed their similarly racial nicknames to something else; that studies have shown that negative racial stereotypes are known to play a role in exacerbating inequity and inadequacy among Native youth; and that many Native leaders have indeed spoken out against the name. Among other things.

Dan closes with this final thought: “I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn.”

Good. Then I urge you, Dan, to take up the Oneida Indian Nation on its open invitation to visit the tribe’s homeland and talk with its leaders and people.

I personally dare Dan to walk in and greet the nation using the name as he contends it to mean.

I’m fairly certain he’d learn firsthand what that word really means to Natives.