I have a confession to make. When I was in the third grade, I really wanted to be a Native American.
Their culture just seemed so awesome and deep when we studied it in school, I had this longing to somehow be connected to it. Heck, I would even get real jealous of the kids who got to brag about having Native American roots. And they did brag, a lot.
So perhaps this fascination was part of the reason I decided the Washington Redskins were favorite team around that same age. Full disclosure: The other parts were likely my grandfather’s love for them and former Pulaski County High School standout, Gary Clark, being a wide-out for Washington at the time.
As of late, being a Washington fan typically causes a person to take one of two polarizing opinions, as the name “Redskins” has become highly debated.
A fan can either jump on the side of those saying the racial roots of the nickname should be cause for its elimination or to the side of those stating the name is a long-standing tradition, “HTTR!”
By the way, I’m not going to tell you what side of that coin I think you should be on, you’ve got to decide that for yourself. I’m just here to explain my thought process.
For the majority of my life I would have likely been among the latter group and said people were making far too big a deal of the issue. I mean, I’ve honestly never thought of the term “Redskins” as a racially demeaning term nor I have ever heard it used in a racial charged manner.
I can’t even remember the first time I was confronted with the thought that this term might be a racial slur, but I can assure you I quickly blew off that opinion.
But as this becomes more and more of a divisive issue, I have begun to wonder if I am standing on the right side, and more importantly, right or wrong, is it that side worth making a grand stance to remain on.
As I listen to more and more testimonies from Native Americans, those questions become harder for me to answer.
I mean, am I, as white man with no Native American ties, really capable of deciding whether or not “Redskins” is offensive? Should that be my call?
I tend to think we should all, regardless of race, have some input on what our culture deems offensive or not, but if I’m being honest, my race doesn’t allow me to really know how “Redskins” makes a Native American feel. I can’t add that aspect to my thoughts on this topic.
I’m not a Native American, but I am a Christian, and as a Christian, I know sometimes doing the right thing isn’t about my feelings, but the feelings of others.
Paul touched on this when he wrote to the Corinthians about eating the meat sacrificed to idols. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the skinny of it: The Christians were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols because they knew the idols were false gods, therefore, why waste a solid lamb chop? But other folks living there were used to the idols and saw the sacrificed meat as evil. Paul basically said it was best to just avoid the meat as to not cause issues between the two groups.
Now, I kind of hesitated to use this passage because I’ve too often seen it used by preachers as a way to sway people into taking their loosely backed opinion on issues of what is or isn’t a sin. I’m definitely not trying to do that here.
But in the case of the Redskins, I think Paul’s advice has a very real application.
Perhaps the issue for me really isn’t whether or not the term “Redskins” is or isn’t right, but whether or not it’s going to cause issues between me and another person, or group of people.
Maybe I have every right to stand on the side of those proclaiming the history of the nickname, but is taking a stance for that right going to bring me any closer to people? And is it going to bring those people on the other side any closer to Jesus? Is taking that stance really going to reflect Jesus’ love?
If not, than maybe the fight, right or wrong, isn’t worth the fallout.
But that’s a question we can only really answer for ourselves.