By Casey Harper
After a new poll revealed that 9 out of 10 Native Americans are not offended by the Washington Redskins team name, a Washington Post editor is trying to come to grips with crusading for a group that didn’t want his help after all.
Columnist Robert McCartney writes “It’s humbling to admit it, but Dan Snyder wins,” and announces he will no longer fight the NFL team’s name. The Redskins have fought off protests of their name from opponents who called it racist and offensive to Native Americans. But a Washington Post poll released Thursday showed that, in fact, about 80 percent of surveyed Native Americans said they would not be “personally offended” if someone called them a Redskin.
The columnist had thrown away all his Redskins gear and campaigned against the name by writing columns for the Post, adding that “every major American Indian organization has resoundingly condemned the team name.”
I also acted partly out of what I saw as a high-minded desire to support a politically weak ethnic group. It felt like a token of penance for the sufferings imposed on Native Americans over the centuries by the continent’s European conquerors and their descendants. One of my direct ancestors was a U.S. soldier who fought the Sioux on the Minnesota frontier in the Dakota War of 1862. The conflict culminated in the mass hanging of 38 Indians in the largest one-day execution in U.S. history. I don’t agonize over this, but it’s worth remembering personal connections to an ugly common history.
So it’s unsettling to learn now that I vented all that energy and passion on behalf of such a small fraction of the Native American population.
McCartney points out that a 2004 Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found similar results of the Post poll, but he simply chose not believe it. Now he says he can’t ignore the data.
In light of the new facts, we non-Indian critics should stop pressing the team to change its name. We should drop the cause, even if we privately dislike the moniker. We shouldn’t let the name stand in the way of building a new stadium. If we really want to help Indians, we should instead advocate for better schools, job opportunities and social services for them.