In its tradition of reporting the news with a merciless realism and zeal, The Daily Show aired a segment this past weekend about a certain sports team making waves for holding on to “tradition.” Of course I’m referring to the infamous Washington football team whose management and image have made headlines consistently since the launch of the Change The Mascot campaign. Loud and wrong soared to new heights in the segment introduced by Jon Stewart, where a show producer interviewed American Indian activists that presented their case against the team name currently in use, followed by testimonials from fans of the team defending their right to eat, drink and be merry while wearing people as costumes.
After showing executives of the Washington team refer to the name as one that exudes “honor, pride and respect,” harshly contrasted with a historical definition of “Redskin,” the segment references a study stating that 90% of Americans don’t find the name offensive. Well thank goodness for that, right? If Americans who aren’t physically identified as American Indian by their culture and outer society were offended by the actions of this team, then and only then would it be an issue
We see this mentality in action once the narrative switches over to four fans of the Washington team. In a spirited defense of their “culture,” fans used their 1/12th (or a lesser percentage of) Native American heritage to validate their approval of the team’s name, arguing that there is no reason it should be changed.
It wasn’t until meeting the activists in person that the tone of the conversation took a turn. Some fans were quoted post-interview as saying that they felt “ambushed” and, had they known about the final phase of the in-studio interview, they would not have worn their Washington apparel (they later asked to not to be shown on camera at all).
Watching this segment was a surreal experience. As if on cue, people of color were once again asked to rationalize the anger that stems from being oppressed. It’s never enough when a person of color cites media content, public statements, etc. as offensive. POC are constantly asked to provide evidence of the fact and give a compelling argument for why dehumanization is problematic.
Fans of the Washington team have the privilege of dressing in garments that stereotype American Indians, reducing them to an image comparable to that of animals (if you think this is an exaggeration, consider the fact that the most popular mascots in professional sports are all animals and American Indians). This privilege extends itself to allow fans to watch games within a community that embraces their behavior, then later remove their regalia, all without the burden of being visually associated with it by society. To be frank, frail egotism over a costume exists light years away from fighting the mockery of an identity, culture and legacy. If you want everything but the burden, this is not about you.
Watch the video and decide for yourself what the next steps should be.