You can call me Ray, or you can call me Ray-Ray, call me what you want, but don’t forget to call me when it’s time to get paid.
What do you think of the “Redskins” debate? The Redskins organization and owner Daniel Snyder have been under a lot of pressure to change the team’s name, amid mainstream claims that it’s “racist.” These people argue that the word is a racial slur – like chink, wetback, or the N-word. Actually, the political correctness in opposing the Redskins’ name does not even hint at addressing the real problem. After decades of being overlooked by the media, Native Americans are now being cast into the national spotlight for the wrong reason. The truth of the situation is: if the Redskins’ name changed today, the lives of Native Americans would be just as desperate as they were yesterday.
In truth, some senators are knee-deep in a private sector issue, sponsoring a bill that would strip the NFL’s tax exempt status if the Washington franchise’s name is not changed. Someone should tell those senators that the Redskins have had that name ever since 1932 when they were still in Boston. The senators should stay in their own lane and put forth legislation that pays Native Americans for wrongs done them.
The name “Redskins” is probably politically incorrect at some level, but it’s hard to believe that any offense inflicted upon Native Americans because of a pro sports nickname outweighs the fact that their ancestors were slaughtered and robbed of their land by Whites. For centuries, the U.S. government basically treated Native Americans as prisoners of war, relocating them from tribal lands to barren, desert-like reservations in the West. They were forced onto land that deprives them of basic means of subsistence and viable economic development. They still live the least among American lifestyles.
Native Americans lag behind the rest of the country in almost every leading indicator of health and well-being. And yet, we rarely, if ever, hear these problems discussed in mainstream media. Politically-correct Americans need to know that Native Americans are suffering, but it’s not because of the name of the Washington sports team. Forces like poverty, substance abuse and suicide continually strike this segment of the population to a greater degree than most other Americans. More than a quarter of them live in poverty, a rate two and a half times higher than Whites. While Americans are lamenting use of the word “Redskins” living conditions on the reservations are the same as in third world countries. Many of the homes do not have indoor plumbing or electricity. The U.S. Census Bureau reports about one of every four Native Americans live below the poverty level. On some reservations, unemployment runs as high as 80 percent. Compare that statistic to less than five percent for the U.S. as a whole.
As some compensation for the sins of its past against them, the U.S. government has authorized Native American gaming in sovereign Indian nations and states. Gaming is a relatively recent phenomenon and has developed into an enormous and still-rapidly-growing industry. In 2012 Native American owned casinos nationwide combined for a $28.13 billion in gaming revenue.
It’s time to call a spade a spade. The Washington Redskins are under attack for the name they’ve had for 80 years. It’s one of the world’s most valuable sports teams and is valued at $1.7 billion. To counter public pressure, Snyder has created the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” as a charitable organization to utilize the team’s assets and its corporate and community partners to help make a positive and measurable impact on youth development across the country.
Snyder is setting the right tone. Those senators would do well to put money toward correcting two of the country’s greatest crimes by righting treaties and paying just reparations to Native Americans and to the descendants of slaves by endorsing and supporting Congressional legislation similar to the H.R. 40 bill.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via the BaileyGroup.org