In Which I Write A Counter-Letter To Dan Snyder's patronizing, self-aggrandizing, blowhard, transparent, condescending Letter announcing the Washington Racist Slur Original Americans Foundation or Change The Name, Change The Name, Change The Name
An Update: Apparently Dan Snyder who "rarely takes questions from reporters" did just that on Tuesday where he basically said that people should stop trying to change the Washington Racist Slur team name and instead 'focus on reality.' According to Dan Snyder the Washington Racist Slur team name is "not an issue."
A little while ago the owner of the Washington R*dsk*ns (derogatory racist term, bleeeep) wrote an open letter about how he was starting some kind of foundation to help Native people. It's called the "Original Americans Foundation" although I have taken to calling it the "OG Americans Foundation" because Natives are the original gangstas. Sometimes I call it the "OMG I thought you'd be happy with a darn foundation WHY are you still complaining about my racist team name... foundation" and other times I call it the "OH GEE I really thought that this would make you shut up about my derogatory team name... foundation."
Any way you cut it, Dan Snyder, owner, started a foundation after he visited some Native people who told him they had better things to worry about than a degrading team name that promotes stereotypes and affects how children perform in school. Then he wrote a letter about it.
In response, I wrote my own letter. I have included Dan Snyder's original letter which inspired my new letter so that you can compare and contrast (that's the literature teacher in me). I'm the big bold writing, because that's how we do here in the Cutcha Risling Baldy Nation (look, if everyone is claiming to be a nation now, ahem, R*dsk*ns Nation, then I'm starting my own dictatorship nation where everyone pays taxes to me by folding and putting my laundry away... let it be written!)
#ChangeTheName #NotYourMascot #DealWithIt
March 24, 2014
April 10, 2014
To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation:
To Dan Snyder Who Probably Thinks He Is A Nation (You're not dude, you're a guy who owns a football team, a team, not a nation)
Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage.
For many years I have written to about your racist, derogatory, offensive team name and our unfortunate, disappointing, baffling, yet shared Washington R*d*kins history. (Seriously, why is this still a team name?)
I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.
I wrote then - and believe even more firmly now - wait, scratch that - I am still QUITE POSITIVE as I was then - that your team name captures the best of the justified racism against Native American peoples by erasing their humanity in order to feel more comfortable about hunting and killing them. This is the "deep, enduring values" your name represents.
In that letter, I committed myself to listening and learning from all voices with a perspective about our Washington Redskins name.
I have also committed myself to listening and learning from ALL voices. BTDubbs there are also a lot of voices who think you should change the name, and for good reason. When was the last time you were on twitter?
I’ve been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive. Most – by overwhelming majorities – find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values.
I have been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support changing this name and the tradition of stereotyping Native people . Most - by overwhelming majorities- understand that our world has no place for the derogatory treatment of a group of people for "sport" and they find your name to be rooted in racism, prejudice and bigotry.
“There are Native Americans everywhere that 100% support the name,” Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Chairwoman Mary L. Resvaloso told me when I came to visit her tribe. “I believe God has turned this around for something good.”
"There are white people everywhere that 100% support changing the name. " One of my white friends told me. "I believe that this is an opportunity for Dan Snyder to do something good, rather than continue to perpetuate his narrow-mindedness."
She told me that it was far more important for us to focus on the challenges of education in Native American communities. I listened closely, and pledged to her that I would find ways to improve the daily lives of people in her tribe.
She told me that it was far more important for people to focus on the challenges of education, poverty, debt and equal rights. "Why are we so worried about keeping some offensive, racist team name? Just change it!" I listened closely, and pledged to her that I would find ways to improve the daily lives of all people because that's what we should all do.
What would my resolve to honoring our legacy mean if I myself—as the owner of and a passionate believer in the Washington Redskins—didn’t stay true to my word?
What kind of Native person would I be if I didn't remain true to my word that I would write something to remind people that bigoted team names are never okay?
I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what Native Americans truly thought of our name, our logo, and whether we were, in fact, upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community.
I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what white people truly thought of this name, this logo, and whether you were, in fact, upholding the principles of racism, prejudice, and disrespect in regard to the Native American community.
So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.
So over the past four hours, me and myself and my staff (which is me) traveled to 5 restaurants, a pizza place, coffee shops, Trader Joes and other places where I could find white people, across twenty blocks, to listen and learn first-hand about the views , attitudes and experiences of these people. I was invited to stand very near them, or to shake their hands, sometimes they offered to open doors for me, other times they helped me carry my groceries to the car and this is how I learned about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.
“I appreciated your sincerity to learn about our culture and the real-life issues we face on a daily basis,” Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki told us after we toured his reservation. “I look forward to working together with you to improve the lives of Native Americans in any way possible."
"I appreciated that you wanted to learn more about the things I face on a daily basis." said one white guy who helped me load my groceries into the car. "I look forward to taking your cart back to the store and keeping your eggs from being smashed. Also, the R*ds*ins is a racist team name and we don't need it."
The more I heard, the more I’ve learned, and the more I saw, the more resolved I became about helping to address the challenges that plague the Native American community. In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it’s plain to see they need action, not words.
The more I heard, the more I've learned and the more I saw, the more I resolved that a lot of people could care less about this history of "honoring and deep enduring values" of this derogatory team name and instead wonder why you are holding on to it when it is a racial slur meant to degrade a group of people.
Yes, some tribes are doing well. And in our candid conversations, we learned that we share so much with Indian country. We find their appreciation of history, legacy, caring for their elders and providing a better future for their youth inspirational and admirable.
Yes, some white people are doing well. And in our candid conversations over glasses of pinot noir, we learned that we share so much with their people. We find their appreciation of our casinos, and our land and resources, also their obsession with all things Kardashian, pretty understandable if not somewhat baffling.
But the fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities. They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them. Here are just a few staggering, heartbreaking facts about the challenges facing Native Americans today:
But the fact is, too many white people face much harsher, much more alarming realities. They have genuine issues (not petty, meaningless issues like keeping a team name that reminds them of days where their relatives hunted and killed Indians for sport) that they truly are worried about (not like if they get to chant "Scalp em R*ds*ins" with their families over dinner) and keeping that racist team name is not one of them. Here are just a few staggering, heartbreaking facts about the challenges facing football fans (and members of your sad R*ds*ins "nation") today:
-- The official poverty rate on reservations is 29 percent, as determined by the U.S. Census.36 percent of families with children are below the poverty line on reservations, compared with 9 percent of families nationally. Jobs are scarce, and so is genuine opportunity.
--By one measure, U.S. income inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928. The U.S. is more unequal than most of its developed-world peers.Wealth inequality is even greater than income inequality. Also, the poverty rate in Washington DC is at 21%.
-- Rampant diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and heightened suicide rates afflict Native American youth, adults, and veterans. Life expectancies in high poverty Native American communities are the lowest anywhere in the Western Hemisphere—except for Haiti
--The United States spends more on health care than Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia combined. A 2009 study found approximately 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical bills. 78 percent had health insurance, although many were bankrupted anyway due to gaps in coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services. Today, people living in Puerto Rico have a greater life expectancy than people living in the United States do.
-- Tribal reservations can lack even the most basic infrastructure that most Americans take for granted. For example, according to the independent, highly respected Millennium Project, 13 percent of Native American households have no access to safe water and/or wastewater disposal, compared with just 0.6 percent in non-native households. Similarly, 14 percent of homes on Native American reservations have no electricity, compared to just 1 percent among non-native households. It is hard to build for a better tomorrow without the basic needs of today.
--A large percentage of American families have low incomes, which lead to a host of challenges and disadvantages for both parents and children. While these families face many of the same challenges as other families, they are particularly financially vulnerable. These low-income families struggle to find and keep work, pay their bills, and provide their children with essentials like housing and health care.
"It is hard to build for a better tomorrow without the basic needs of today." -Dan Snyder
These aren’t rare circumstances. These are the unfortunate facts found throughout Indian country today.
These aren't rare circumstances. These are the unfortunate facts found throughout our country today.
I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.
I've listened. I've learned. I've read. I've lived here. And frankly, its heart wrenching, it's not enough to give lip service to all the people out there who say "why the heck are we trying to hold on to a name like the Re*ds*ins when it is so obviously a racial slur." We must do more.
I want to do more. I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life—one tribe and one person at a time. I know we won’t be able to fix every problem. But we need to make an impact.
I want to do more. I believe that the entire community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on the world around us and all of our qualities of life - one person at a time. I know we won't be able to fix every problem. But I also know we can make an impact, a difference and actually do something right away that solves ONE PROBLEM.
And so I will take action.
And so I will take action.
As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
Change the name Dan Snyder. Change the name. Change the name. I don't even have to start a sad, insulting "Foundation" to give you the answer. I can just say it right here, right now. CHANGE THE NAME.
The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities. With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs.
You're mission is clear. Instead of wasting millions of dollars trying to convince Native people that we somehow don't understand what the name is really about. Instead of trying to pretend like one foundation, one letter, and a couple of coats can take away what this name really means just CHANGE THE NAME.Your efforts can still address the "urgent" challenges plaguing Indian country, Dan, but guess what, they can also urgently address your racist team name. You may have created this brand new organization to act like you are doing SOMETHING but in reality you are just avoiding doing THE ONE THING THAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW.
Our work is already underway, under the leadership of Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and retired Deputy Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service, as well as a founder and chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association.
My work is already underway, under the leadership of the Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry organization.
Because I’m so serious about the importance of this cause, I began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight, to learn and take direction from the Tribal leaders themselves. In addition to travelling and meeting in-person with Tribal communities, we took a survey of tribes across 100 reservations so that we could have an accurate assessment of the most pressing needs in each community.
Look, I'm so serious about the importance of this letter, I began my efforts a long time ago when I was in high school and decided to write a paper on the portrayal of Native Americans in sports focusing on the Atlanta Braves. I have been confronted by people telling me I should "just get over it" and not take it "so personally." But, as my mother once said:
“They accused it of being personal to Indian people but when you said stop the [mascot] it was personal to them.” -My Mom
The stories I heard and the experiences I witnessed were of children without winter coats or athletic shoes; students in makeshift classrooms without adequate school supplies; text books more than decades old; rampant and unnecessary suffering from preventable diseases like diabetes; economic hardship almost everywhere; and in too many places too few of the tools and technology that we all take for granted every day—computers, internet access, even cellphone coverage.
The stories I know and the experiences I have not only witnessed but experienced are of children who have their hair pulled by kids because they are "Indian squaws." These stories are about children who internalize the pictures of big nosed cariacture Indians, and they start to believe that Native peoples are cartoons.
In the heart of America’s Indian country, poverty is everywhere. That’s not acceptable. We have so much, yet too many Native Americans have so little.
In the heart of the R*ds*in Nation there is a man named Dan Snyder. He writes very long letters to announce degrading foundations in the hopes of keeping a racist team name. That's not acceptable. I have so much more to tell you, but man this is getting exhausting.
Our work has already begun:
My work to eradicate these prejudice depictions and give back to communities of Native peoples has never stopped:
-- As the bitter Arctic winds swept across the Plains this winter, we distributed over 3,000 cold-weather coats to several tribes, as well as shoes to players on boys and girls basketball teams. “It’s been one of the coldest winters on record,” Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau told me. “The entire Tribe is so appreciative of the coats we received for our youth and elders. It’s been such a great relationship, and we hope it grows.”
-- We assisted in the purchase of a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. The Tribe will now be able to complete the burial process for their loved ones even in the coldest winter months, as well as assist in water pipe repairs which, without a functioning backhoe, has left the tribe without water -- for days.
These projects were the first of many and we currently have over forty additional projects currently in process. We look forward to telling you more about these as our work proceeds.
You can learn more about some organizations that are doing really great work in Indian Country here.
For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.
You won't solve Native issues with your foundation. And guess what, while you are out there "saving" Native people and giving them coats you will STILL BE CONTRIBUTING TO THEIR CONTINUED DEGRADATION. You will still be contributing to their children doing poorly in school. You will still be the guy whose team name is a racial slur that encourages people to scream that racial slur on national television.
The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will serve as a living, breathing legacy – and an ongoing reminder – of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins. I’m glad to be able to launch this vital initiative today.
The Washington Racist Slur Original Americans Foundation will serve as a living, breathing testament to your bigotry- and an ongoing reminder- of how little you actually think of Native people to believe that we would fall for and embrace your patronizing, self-aggrandizing, blowhard, transparent, condescending attempt to silence us.
With Respect and Appreciation,
Change the Name
Cutcha Risling Baldy
P.S. Throughout this journey, there have been many incredible moments. One of my favorite fan moments took place in Gallup, NM – to the cheers of dozens of Washington Redskins fans. As Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki noted, “We even had an unprompted welcoming party of Washington Redskins fans from Zuni and Navajo greet you when you departed from the airport!” The passion and support for the Burgundy and Gold throughout the country has been overwhelming.
P.S. Dozens? Really? Dozens of Washington Racist Slur fans showed up? I tend to get the cheers of dozens too, when I do a presentation, talking about how racist slur team names have gots to go. The passion and support to change the name has been overwhelming and growing. But you knew that... or you wouldn't be starting foundations trying to make it go away now would ya?
I would not have been inspired to write this letter without eating lunch today with my friend Angel. She reminded me of the good that can come from humor and gave me the spark with which to write today. Thanks Angel.
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, fan of "The Good Wife" and "The Walking Dead", who likes to go for long walks on long piers...
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