Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Erasing the Redskins

My father served on the Rib Lake School Board for sixteen years. One of the mascot name changing waves occurred during his tenure. Rib Lake athletes compete as the Redmen. Uniforms display a warrior in a head dress.

The school polled the student body and the community. I don't recall the results of the poll. What I do remember is the letter written to the School Board from the only Native American to graduate from Rib Lake High School.

The gentleman asked the Board to stand proudly behind the mascot. He didn't find it disparaging, rather he took pride in it. What most stuck with me was his assertion that if they changed the mascot, it would be one more step toward erasing his culture from the collective memory.

Some get indignant when told that redskin is not a racist term. Those people don't realize that Native Americans were the first to coin that term, though in French, peau-rogue. The term was later translated into English and never in history meant collected scalps.

Suzan Harjo, one of the plaintiffs in a case against the NFL, has long held that as the origin of the word without written proof.

Of course, these days no one needs something as silly as evidence to get all fired up. You don't need to know that the Washington football franchise started in Boston, then known as the Braves. Or that Lone Star Dietz, a Native American, was the first person to coach the Boston Redskins after the name change.

A quick search indicates the the leading choice is the Washington Redtails. That's a nod to the Tuskegee Airmen. I could go on about how it isn't really any different to cheer for black Americans and Haitians than it is to cheer for red Americans. But instead I'll just sign off by saying that if Redskins offend you but Redtails don't, you may be a racist.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Did Political Correctness cause the current Pandademic?

There's an old joke about why the Garden of Eden couldn't have been in China. It's a racist joke. Like all jokes, it has a hint of truth. Pure humor has what those who study humor (yes, people study humor) call a "Benign violation." A good way to visualize regular versus benign is to think about tickling. If someone you know and love rubs your ribs just the right way, you'll squirm and giggle. If a complete stranger or a creepy uncle does the same thing, you'll squirm but definitely not giggle because assault isn't funny.

Another thing that isn't funny is the current shared global experience. The world has been shrinking since before Polynesians loaded seeds and chickens onto canoes and slid offshore. The planet has changed due to human travel and trade. Oranges are from China. Coffee is native to Ethiopia. Potatoes come from Peru, not Ireland. Humans have been stuffing treasures in their backpacks to smuggle home since way before your cousin brought back some hash from Morocco.

And of course, we unwittingly smuggle stuff in. Like a dandelion seed stuck on the sole of a shoe or a virus up your nose. It happens and is happening. Some people play the blame game while others try to corral and contain the damage. New vocabularies emerge. If I lived in a bubble and someone asked me what I thought contact tracers were, I would've guessed unexpected visuals acquired from standing too close to the white guy with dreds spinning the hula hoop at the Phish show.
 
 Wuhan virus caused an uproar. Sure it's killing thousands of people a day but what an offensive name. Lyme disease is named after a town in Connecticut. Those poor people with the highest household income in the United States have to deal with the stigma of the being the namesake of a disease that makes people tuck their jeans into their socks when they walk in the woods.

You know why? Because contact tracers followed the radiating lines of people with new symptoms back to Lyme, Connecticut. Same thing with Wuhan, it's the hub of the spokes. That's it.

Too many of the recent outbreaks have been traced back to that part of the world and more specifically, wet markets. Mad cow disease, remember what causes that? Feeding cows sheep. Cows don't eat sheep, they eat grass. We realized that beyond the disturbing, feeding cows sheep was dangerous, so we stopped. No more mad cow. No more wet markets, no more pandademics?

The punchline to that joke is because they would've eaten the snake.