Racism stinks; can’t you smell it?

The following is my opinion about the controversy that has erupted because Ian Campeau (of A Tribe Called Red) made a completely reasonable request that the Nepean Redskins change their racist name. I speak for no one else but myself. My thoughts are directed at First Nations and other Aboriginal individuals whose views on racism are contrary to mine. These people do not know my heart, what gives it joy nor what brings sadness into it. It troubles me that someone outside of myself, would think they know my mind when they really know nothing of my life or my experiences of life.

Do I believe the word “Redskins” to be racist? I most certainly do!

Back in the day, I’ve been called a “dirty redskin” and a “fuckin’ redskin”. I heard racist people tell tales of encounters they had with “a drunken redskin” or with “wild redskins”. The names I was called and the stories I heard connected to the word “redskins” were not meant to flatter or to bring a friendly, brotherly chuckle. They were directed at me in the hope of bringing pain and shame into my heart only because I was Anishinabe. If you are of First Nations blood and have never been called a redskin by a bigot, then good for you. Your good fortune however, does not give you the right to tell the world that because “you” are not offended at being called a “redskin”, then neither should I be. I did not ask you to speak for me. You might not give any more of a hoot to my view or opinion regarding what constitutes racism for me than the man who first named a sports team “Redskins” did for the opinion of the Aboriginal people of that time. He just didn’t give a damn what their views were and it saddens me that your stand appears to hold the same grain.

Does the word “squaw” offend you? It is an ugly word and it offends me too. Guess what! There are Aboriginal people living in our community who are not offended by it. Tactics of assimilation used against us were pretty vile and vicious, some of us were overcome. Does this mean the rest of us have to tolerate the word “squaw” being directed at our women? If the answer is “yes” for you, then you need to know it is an unequivocal, absolute “NO” for me!

The first sports team owner who chose the word “Redskins” as the moniker his players would carry into the field of battle did not respect the Aboriginal People of this land. Keep in mind that at the time it occurred we had yet to be given the sacred right to vote, we still had to apply to a white man for permission to leave the rez, the list goes on and on, not signs for sure that society was in “respect” of us as Peoples. The team owner of the day gave his team the name “Redskins” because the belief of mainstream citizens living in those times was that we were a cunning, ferocious and brutal people. You know, much in the same way a lion or tiger or other ‘bad’ animal is when bringing down their prey.

I am against the word “Redskins” as a name for any sports team. I believe it is racist. But even if I did not see the name as such I would still feel duty-bound as a member of a First Nations community to support the stand of those in my community who felt the name was offensive to them. Whatever sensible reasons they had for feeling as they did would be good enough for me.

The blade of racism cuts deep. It has cost me much over the course of my life. I will not sit idly by and watch my children suffer mental and emotional pain because a racist society flaunts their indignation towards them even at a football field supposedly built for the benefit of all communities who make this country great. If someone reading this is keeping a tally, sign me up as a protester.

Keep the Circle Strong,
Albert “South Wind” Dumont.

UPDATE: On 19 September, the Nepean Redskins announced they will change their name at the end of this season. Congratulations to Ian Campeau and everyone who helped achieve this! And I am glad the Nepean team’s management has chosen to do the right thing.

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11 Responses to Racism stinks; can’t you smell it?

  1. Nadia says:

    Powerful and emotional piece. Thank you

  2. Audrey says:

    Great post, so honestly and truthfully written. You are voicing a truly important opinion and I hope that this post gets shared by others.

    I am absolutely appalled by the racist comments people have been making about, and to, Ian Campeau and the Redskins issue. As a Canadian citizen who is not of First Nations descent, it turns my stomach to hear other non-Natives spewing such hate and ignorance. It embarrasses and frustrates me to no end that Canadian society contains such blatant racist idiots, and I am astounded at the number of horrible comments I have seen on facebook and other posts about the Redskins team name. I am truly disgusted and ashamed of their behaviour. I am so sorry this kind of thing still goes on. Please keep spreading your message, you are fighting a difficult but incredibly important fight.

  3. Nijiskode says:

    Well said! Any word with a derogatory connotation has no place in public. “Redskin” has been used as a racial slur since Europeans made contact, perpetuated by the media ever since, and by Hollywood since the days of the silent film. While that racism was common in the past, we must speak against it to eliminate racism from our future.

  4. Dave Henry says:

    Well said Albert.

  5. Context says:

    Racism does stink, no doubt about that.

    It’s been noted in history that Redskin was coined by Native Americans. I’m sure they didn’t intend it to disparage themselves.

    http://anthropology.si.edu/goddard/redskin.pdf

    Some ignorant bigot using it in a derogatory way doesn’t make the WORD racist though. Plenty of words can be used in a negative context to be disparaging. Adding “dirty” or “fucking” (your examples) in front of anything is going to turn the context to a negative. I yell “fucking Cowboys” at the TV it’s meant to be negative.

    Words are only as harmful as the intent behind them.

  6. wonderful you are nominated inspiration of the hour shared article across my wee network

    SHAME on the whole world that racism is tolerated, promoted and exists. Thank you so much for speak from the South Wind point of truth,

  7. Penny James says:

    You know what, its heart touching that You think this but in all honesty, get over it, a lot worse has happen to our ancestors, I’m an enrolled native American, and I like that the Washington team is called the Redskins, not just cause I’m a Cowboys fan, go figure! But because you have the white people wearing a native symbol on them! So what we get called drunks, skins, or injun, all that happen in the past to make us better people, just like the Africa Americans and they went through hell like us, being slaves. So here is more of my input, change all the names then not just Washington D.C. for starters, Cowboys cause that relates and connects to us Native American in the past, Brown’s for all the brown skin people, Giants for all the midgets that view taller people as giant, Eagles cause its the Native American symbol, the Patriots cause of the British war. As you can see my list can go on andon aabout how a word can be offensive to one or a “slur”

    My name is Penny James and I’m proud to be a supporter of the Redskins namend team!

    • South Wind says:

      Good Afternoon, Ms. James,

      Your comment reads like an opinion brought to the public by any number of the crew that write editorials for Sun Media. Never will I allow myself to live my life letting the dominant society tell me what I should and what I should not find racist as a First Nations person. Before Europeans arrived on this continent, there was no such thing as a “redskin”. We called ourselves the “First Peoples”, “human beings”, “civilized people”, “The People”, and so on. If you are proud to be called a “redskin”, then good for you. But when you call me that, you offend me. And that will never change.

      What you should “get over” yourself is your belief that some people are so mighty that they can dictate what offends and does not offend others.

      I urge you to read Don Kelly’s Op-Ed in the Ottawa Citizen: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/Redskins+honour+insult/8885045/story.html

      I wish you well in all you future endeavours.
      – Albert “South Wind” Dumont.

  8. Doug Gordon says:

    I thought of this post today Albert when a FB friend posted this joke:

    The Redskins could keep their name if they just made their logo to a potato.

    • South Wind says:

      Hi Doug,

      To be sure no protest would be coming from me if a football team had a potato logo and called themselves The Redskins. As a matter of fact, I might be inclined to cheer them on.

      All the best,

      Albert

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