A Letter Sent to the Washington Post’s Editorial Board
December 24, 2015
As the NFL’s Redskins and your editorial board close out 2015, a comparative analysis between the two organizations seemed overdue. While your board “scored points” in articulating the Supreme Court’s due process and equal protection logic in forcing states accept a wider definition of “traditional marriage” you fumbled by avoiding these standards in narrowing and impugning a valid Redskins definition via your biased – “no usage” – policy.
In refusing Redskins usage – a name you subjectively label a “slur” – you surrendered editorial objectivity, logic and balance; elements you elegantly showcased in supporting an often-marginalized same-sex minority seeking marriage equality.
Your juxtapositions in publicly working to broaden one while simultaneously narrowing another is a slap across the cultural face of those who hold Redskins up as one that represents unique nations, tribes and cultures.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center helped most Americans understand what we know to be true, that not all Native Americans are the same and – most importantly – the vast majority of us are not offended by the name. Instead of promoting a derogatory one-name-fits-all policy you could instead educate your readers that natives have diverse and independent national identities. We are as unique in our dress, language and customs as a Romanians are from Norwegians or Chinese are from Japanese – it’s insensitive to think otherwise.
Indeed, many of us self-describe as Red-skinned, Red People or Red Painted People to include members of the Apache, Choctaw, Houma, Beothuk and Red Fire to name a few. The Cherokee Nation, a people forcibly removed by an offensive president but still sadly see on the $20, believe in the spirit of a Red Man who lives in the East and represents power, triumph, and success as just one example.
As a Navajo, I’ve been taught the existence of a red “world” while our war dance – ushered by our gods Nayenezghani and Tqobajishchlni – demands the painting our warrior’s skin with red clay thus we become literal Redskin warriors when facing down evil spirits or our enemies. Our “red” concepts are powerful and meaningful with our society and have been passed on for generations. Our pride in our traditions is reflected in the naming two of our High Schools as Redskins – it’s an elegant tribute to my people’s customs and it’s not offensive.
Moreover you waited 82 years to make up your editorial minds on our name, only finding your “moral high ground” after saying you were prompted by – among others – a gambling mogul, activist and multi-millionaire Democrat-Party donor Ray Halbritter who controversially claims Oneida tribal heritage. But in backing this well-funded and politically connected Redskin-bashing “native”, you’re supporting a tribal spokesperson who isn’t even from a red-identified tribe – did you not know the difference.
Thus, Halbritter’s and the Post’s “change the name” agenda may be viewed as conceptually parallel to one where England lashes out at the United States for the NFL’s name “Patriots”. Would you support England’s meddling in our American football culture? If not, then why support Halbritter’s non-“red” subjective interpretation while minimizing our rightful, objective and positive Redskins definition?
Unfortunately our unique Native American identities have routinely been stripped from us – usually by the uniformed or those with an agenda. We are being forced to conform to, in this case, to the tyranny of the “PC” minority which might make White Liberals feel more comfortable but it’s devastating to us. Remember, we can’t simply fly back to our European homelands to re-gain cultural focus on who we are! Once our red culture dies here… it will be gone forever.
Clearly Halbritter and your Redskin policy do not fairly represent the Navajo or any other red-centric Native American – neither speaks for us. We are as unique, proud and engaged as any other minority group and should deserve the same active support you campaigned for from a same-sex marriage minority who now benefit from a wider, more diverse and accepting notion of marriage. Why treat us differently?
This month – with the passionate assistance of their local tribal community – a small town in Oklahoma rejected the narrow Redskins thinking you proffer and fought to keep their high school’s illustrious Redskins name. Similarly, with the assistance of an Amicus Brief filed by my group – The Native American Guardians Association – the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the negative anti-Redskins trademark decision in a whopping 10-2 decision sending a clear message to those who would seek to infringe on due process and equal protections.
May I suggest that in 2016 the Washington Post’s Board consider a New Year’s “red-solution” – one that seeks to both understand and support “red” centric natives and the non-racist Redskins culture we defend.
Mark Yellowhorse Beasley
The Post’s editorial board has rejected this letter. We gladly give voice to Mr. Beaseley here. Sadly, our reach is feeble compared to that of The Post. The opinions stated are those of the author. The emphasis are those of the editor (Hog Heaven).
It’s Christmas Day. We know that people of goodwill can honestly disagree. We do not see as “goodwill” the uncritical acceptance by major media of highly disputed claims by the “cultural appropriation” camp. Why, in their moral outrage, should The Post be so dismissive even of arguments made by Native American Redskins fans? And if the Redskins brand is so offensive, why does The Post continue to use it in their Sports Section?