Is Name ‘Washington Redskins’ Appropriate?

Is Name ‘Washington Redskins’ Appropriate?

By RAY HANANIA
Southwest News-Herald Newspaper, Friday, November 01, 2013

I was listening to a radio debate over the use of “Redskins” as the name for the Washington, D.C. professional football team while sitting at a light at 63rd Street and Pulaski Road, which is named after the famous Polish Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski.

Indian statue 63rd and Pulaski Road

Indian statue 63rd and Pulaski Road

On my left, atop an old retail store that is now an eye clinic, I saw the 24-foot tall statue of a bare-chested Indian with his right hand raised high in the air in traditional (at least according to John Wayne) Native American greeting, imagining him saying the word “How?”

The Indian statue has been there for as long as I can remember when the store was the Capitol Cigar Store, a tobacco shop — in the old days (not sure what that term means), tobacco stores often had Indian statues at their entrance. It was made famous when the movie “Wayne’s World” included it but added an arrow in its back.

The Indian statue has long hair, parted down the middle, the way television has defined Native American hairstyles over the year. He didn’t have a tomahawk or bow and arrow, but wore a blue sign with white letters that read “Eye can see now.” The Indian statue has a pair of black-rimmed glasses on its face.

Cute, I have always thought, until I wondered what it might feel like if I were a rabbi and turned and saw a statue of a rabbi in black rabbinical clothing, carrying a copy of the Torah in his left hand and maybe the Star of David or Ten Commandments in the other.

Or maybe they could put a statue of an Arab wearing a white keffiyeh (head covering) with a black strap (igal) holding it to his head, and a long black robe (bisht) with gold lapels covering a flowing white gown underneath (thwab).

OK. That’s too much information.

Oak Lawn Indian

Oak Lawn Indian

Or maybe a black kid wearing a hoodie. Or, a Mexican man with a sombrero on his head and bullet belts crisscrossing his chest, or bandolero.

I could have been at a stop light in downtown Chicago where I would see the two statues at the entrance of the Congress Expressway at Grant Park. The famous dual bronze bowman and spear holding naked Indians bareback atop horses wearing feathered headdresses.

Of course, I wouldn’t be there because Chicago has too many red light cameras and speeding cameras making it unsafe for hardworking taxpayers like me to drive through the city.

I might be speeding down Southwest Highway at Meade Avenue in Oak Lawn and pass another, more decorated Indian statue with his blue belt and right hand shading his eyes as if searching the corn plains in the distance that are no longer there.

It is considered the largest Tobacco Store Indian in America, originally located a few blocks southwest on the road atop the former County Tobacco Warehouse. Now it is freshly painted and kept up by the owners of the nearby liquor store. He continues to hold a bundle of cigars in the palm of his left hand.

Personally, I don’t blame any of the store owners for keeping these relics of the American past. They were novelties of a long past age.

I can hear a lot of people — probably mostly white — who are tired of the issues of race and racism, grumbling under their breath “everything is racism these days.”

Like the Washington Redskins, they’re not really tributes to Native Americans at all. Just things we’ve gotten used to.

Is it right? You tell me.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. You may reach him at http://www.TheMediaOasis.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RayHanania.)



Categories: Chicagoland Topics

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  1. The American fixation with race and Arabs « Ray Hanania Columns

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