Emma Teitel’s advice to gropers and the Washington Redskins

On those who feel the need to cling to racist symbols and labels (Confederate flag, Washington Redskins), good piece by Teitel:

But team owners, convinced of their moral superiority, intend to appeal the decision right away. In fact, they maintain, in the words of team president Bruce Allen, “the facts and the law” are on the side of their franchise, which “has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.” Team owner Dan Snyder, employing the logic of the party-groping apologist above, argues that the Redskins name is complimentary to Native Americans. “The Washington Redskins fan base represents honour, represents respect, represents pride,” he said last year. To illustrate this point, Snyder has pointed repeatedly to Native Americans who are linked, positively, to the team’s history: The franchise was named after William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, its first head coach, who claimed he was of Native American descent. (Some contest his claim.) And Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians, helped to develop the Redskins logo.

Snyder’s historical justification for the team’s name, applied to the groping scenario described above, amounts to this: “You may not be happy that I groped your rear end, but I assure you that my grope was a compliment, justified by the long and storied history of groping—one full of women who are reported to have relished the occasional uninvited pinch on the tush.”

It takes a special kind of ethical blind spot to dismiss the feelings of a present-day offended party because someone else, long dead, saw it your way. “Redskins” is, plain and simple, a racist term, as racist as any ethnic slur under the sun. If we wouldn’t celebrate a sports team called the (insert bigoted, derogatory term here), we should not celebrate this one. But it appears that slurs used to denigrate certain groups (see Native Americans) are taken less seriously when white nostalgic pride is at stake.

Snyder and company would do well to follow the lead of the white Texan man who reportedly had his Confederate flag tattoo removed when, in the wake of the Charleston shootings, he saw an elderly black woman grimace at the sight of it.

When faced with the distress the symbol on his arm caused another human being, nostalgic pride seemed suddenly crude and insignificant. This is the reaction of a normal, compassionate person. Worshipping a controversial flag or insignia doesn’t make one automatically bad or bigoted. People make mistakes; nobody is born enlightened. But continuing to worship such a symbol despite the harm it causes others? Clinging to your racist flag or jersey with a passion and intensity most people reserve for their loved ones? That’s more than a little weird. It’s scary.

Emma Teitel’s advice to gropers and the Washington Redskins.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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