Tripple Overtime: White? You’re Ben Affleck
People are too easily offended these days. We live in a society that demands politically correct terminology, to the point where I don’t even know what the right term to call anyone is anymore. One term offends one person and a different term offends another. It’s exhausting — ridiculous, even — and it’s certainly other adjectives that further emphasize the point I’m trying to make.
I don’t get offended very easily, but then again, I’m white. The Caucasian race doesn’t exactly have a long and painful history of oppression inflicted upon it by other races. You wanna tell me I can’t jump? Can’t dance? Don’t even know what “twerking” means? Go ahead. I won’t call you a racist, I’ll call you correct.
I was walking from the beach the other day and passed a group of African-American (I have no idea if this is the correct term or not) children from a camp on my way up the dunes. As I walked by I heard one of them exclaim, “Hey, look — it’s Zac Effron!” Even though I’m a much better actor, I thought it was funny — I guess all white people really do look alike.
However, just because I don’t get offended by stereotypes and terms that aren’t exactly “PC” doesn’t mean that other people don’t. For years, I’ve half paid attention to one of the sports world’s most controversial issues — the pressure on Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name.
I was pretty indifferent about the situation initially. In fact, I kind of just chalked it up to our easily offended society. What did I care anyway? I’m not Native American. From my perspective, if Los Angeles landed an NFL franchise tomorrow and called themselves the “Caucasians,” or the “Gringos,” or the “People Who Don’t Understand Tyler Perry Jokes,” and used Ben Affleck’s face for their logo — I wouldn’t care. It would just be a team name to me.
My stance on the Redskins name change debate began to change when I found out what the term “redskin” actually meant — even though there still is some controversy over the word’s origin. I used to think it was just a term exaggerating the color of Native Americans’ skin, but last week I discovered that it was once also a term to denote something far more disconcerting than just an ignorant observation.
It turns out that it was also used to denote a Native American scalp — whether it be man, woman or child — that would often receive bounties or trophies. The more “redskins” settlers collected, the more they were rewarded. For a word that signifies such a shameful display of human nature, it’s no wonder that Native American organizations are pressing Snyder to take it off his team’s jerseys.
The flip side of the controversy is that “redskin” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Dan Snyder isn’t paying people to practice genocide, the last time I checked. A Washington Redskin is a football player now, not a bloody scalp that warrants 50 pounds. When people chant “Hail to the Redskins,” they’re just cheering on their team — not insinuating the ruthless obliteration of a native people.
The team their cheering on has history, too. A far more recent and proud history than the old meaning of the word. On one hand, changing the name would almost be a slight to Redskins’ legends such as Joe Theisman and Art Monk — who proudly wore the burgundy-and-gold and gave new meaning to an otherwise unfortunate word.
On the other hand, not changing the name calls for an apparently never ending media circus of accusations and demands.
No matter what choice Snyder ultimately makes, there will be people who are outraged. That’s just the world we live in. Someone will always have a problem with something. We all have different opinions, beliefs and points of importance. Ironically, it’s those differences that have been the catalyst for some of the worst acts of inhumanity throughout the history of mankind.
Maybe it’s a good thing if they don’t change the name. Maybe one day it can serve as a symbol of change. After all, it already is. A word that once expressed the tactless murder of a different race is now the reason for an entire city of different-minded and different races of people to come together to support the same thing. For a word with such shameful origins, it is now spoken with pride.
It’s difficult for me to really weigh in on the subject without being able to see it from another perspective. I don’t have any ancestors that were viciously robbed of their land and their lives, but I also don’t have any British blood that I know of, either.
Whether I, or anyone else, take a firm stance on the issue or not, it probably isn’t going away any time soon and I certainly don’t know what the right answer is. I do know that this is one sports reporter who is going back to half paying attention while the rest of the world gets offended about something that is out of their control.