That wonderful video, "Proud to Be," was released by the National Congress of American Indians just in time for the Super Bowl in its effort to eliminate the offensive R--skins from the national vocabulary and let people know that we Indians are not mascots.
For decades, the 70-year-old NCAI has sought with considerable success to eliminate racist mascots and nicknames from high school, college and professional sports teams. Team after team, across the nation, the offensive names have fallen.
But there are the obvious holdouts.
The Washington R--skins football team is the best known. As pressure has built from Indian organizations and their allies as well as a growing cadre of media outlets and individuals, including a number of sports writers, team owner Dan Snyder has vowed never to change the name. He's gone so far as to enlist the support of fake Indian "chiefs," other liars and methodologically sloppy polls to make the case that few people are offended by the name, which he claims actually shows respect and admiration for American Indians.
That's the bogus argument that's been made since I attended high school where all the teams carried that same racist name, with an appalling mascot to go with it. The girls' gymnastics team there was called the R--skin squaws. Twenty years ago, the school finally dropped those wretched slurs. But the retrograde Snyder keeps holding out.
Last October, NCAI published its report Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Sports Mascots. For those both knowledgeable and unfamiliar with the issue, the report is a worthwhile read. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress writes:
The NCAI ad is a forceful and often beautiful reminder that Native Americans aren’t a monolithic community. That’s a term that subsumes hundreds of specific identities, a huge range of cultural and artistic practices–and yes, as the ad doesn’t neglect to leave out–specific sets of social and political issues.
“Native American” may be a blanket identity category, but it’s one that invites curiosity, asking hearers to consider what came before the political and territorial consolidation of the United States, and the fact that American identity is rich and multifaceted, rather than a single way of being. “[R--skins]” is both a slur, and a term that invites the listener to skip over the work of thinking about what it means. “[R--skin]” reduces Native Americans to simply the color of their skin, and to the attributes we associate with football (a practice that’s also a product of a very specific marketing history, as my colleague Travis Waldron reported in his epic look at the fight against the Washington football team’s name): physical strength, maybe speed, and not much else. Not only is that kind of thinking profoundly lazy and racially reductive, it’s a tragedy both for the people who are subjected to it, and the people who deny themselves the experience of more of the world by practicing it.
The NCAI is not a wealthy organization and cannot buy a television slot during the Super Bowl to run its ad. But you can help make it go viral by emailing it, tweeting it and putting it on your Facebook or other social media pages.