Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Step In the Right Direction...

It was 9:29 this morning, when I saw my phone light up. The message I received contained only a link. I was in disbelief when I read the headline: In Landmark Decision, U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark For Redskins Football Team

After so many years of advocating against racist mascots, I hate to admit it, but I was not very optimistic that the Trademark Board would reach this decision. After all, they seemed to do backflips to dismiss the earlier suit without a trial on the merits.

It wasn't until other reports started appearing (the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and others) that I started to really comprehend what had happened. This isn't the end of the fight, by any means. It doesn't signal the absolute immediacy of a cultural paradigm shift. However, it's a start.

Cancelling the federal trademark protection is a start to providing a monetary incentive towards changing the name. Hopefully the acknowledgment that the mascot is, indeed, disparaging will spur those teams that have been on the fence about changing to go ahead and do the right thing.

I'd like to thank Susan Harjo & Amanda Blackhorse for the work that they've done on this issue, as well as so many thousands of others who stand up against stereotypical & racist mascots. This includes, naturally, the members and supporters of EONM, which formed following the success of #NotYourMascot.

It was EONM who requested that I respond to a request for an on-camera interview with Fox News. It was such short notice & I felt completely unprepared, but I wanted to lend my voice to the issue. Hope I didn't embarrass any of you. lol

I'm technologically challenged, so I couldn't get the video to embed properly. I've quoted the print article below, but to see the video coverage, click HERE.




OKLAHOMA CITY - People across the country are joining a decades-old debate in Oklahoma: are Native American mascots okay?Wednesday, the U.S. Patent Office canceled six Washington Redskins trademarks because they "were disparaging to Native Americans when they were register."
Groups have been working in Oklahoma to get rid of Native mascots for years.  Still, many Oklahomans do not agree they need to go.

"I don't think they mean it now as being derogatory. I think that's just the name," Sam told FOX 25.

Brent Sanner posted on the
FOX 25 Facebook page, "I, as a person of Indian heritage do NOT take offense of namesakes and I've watched for several years and have never seen the Washington Redskins belittle in any way the American Indian culture."

Still, others say names like "Redskins" have to go.

"I believe with changing times, we have to adjust with social conventions, so if a change needs to be made we need to make these changes," Oklahoman Jose Escapa said.

Oklahoma group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry is celebrating the Patent Office's decision.

"We also found the arguments put forward by the Washington, DC NFL franchise in the trademark case disingenuous. The term Redsk*ns may seem to refer to people in the DC area only to football but this speaks to the elimination of Native voices in the community through the historical fact of genocide. It has only been through the advent of social media and the work of the 900+ Native members and their allies of EONM that many of the team’s fans have ever even spoken to a Native person about how they feel about the name. Citing our elimination from the American consciousness because of genocide is not an acceptable argument to continued use of a slur.," the group said in a statement.

"I think a lot of people don't understand the historical basis for the name in the first place," Summer Wesley said.

Wesley is a tribal attorney who also works with EONM.  She has spent about 15-years fighting for the cause.

Wesley says Native mascots, even those that aren't [intended to be] derogatory are damaging because they perpetuate stereotypes and racism and portray on a caricature of Indian peoples.

"I've found that very few people understand the psychological and sociological impact that stereotypical representations in sports and media have on society on a whole, especially developing children," Wesley said.

 This is a step in the right direction...but there is still so much to do. Many things need to change in Indian Country & being seen as humans is an important first step to achieving those goals.

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