Dr. Dawg

Annals of racism: what's in a name?

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Nepean redskins.jpg

Nepean Redskins? Are they serious? Why, in 2013, are we even discussing this?

The football club first got its name nearly thirty-five years ago, but times have changed since 1978, and not all traditions are benign. Ian Campeau, an Ojibway, rightly asks what the reaction would be if the club were called the Blackskins, or the Yellowskins, but judging from some of the responses he’s received, he might not like the answer.

Needless to say, Ottawa City Councillor Jan Harder leapt to the club’s defence, and actually scolded Campeau for his effrontery. Yup, that Jan Harder. The one who complained publicly a few years back that “non-whites [were] coming into our community looking to cause trouble.” I guess Campeau was just another one. But I’m prepared to believe that, for the most part, the defenders of the status quo aren’t all so explicitly…ideological.

In any case, it’s the resistance to change here that is far more troubling than the word itself. “Redskin” is, of course, a racial slur, pure and simple, and you can’t get around it. Equivocating about that is just an embarrassing waste of time, like rummaging around for “acceptable” uses of the n-word. And pointing it out should have been sufficient for the club to find a new name. But Campeau has been at this for two years, and finally, after all this time, he has lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. He’s clearly a patient man.

Racist and colonialist attitudes run deep in our society, as reaction to the Idle No More protests demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt, and this is what’s at stake here. It’s precisely what the extraordinarily stiff opposition to renaming the club is all about, and it’s high time that we drag the whole thing into the open and deal with it. If “Nepean Redskins” were “just a name,” then changing it would be a fairly minor issue, amicably resolved. But both the name and the show of resistance to finding a new one are synechdocal. The real issue isn’t about this particular site of struggle. It’s about the struggle itself.

Well-known blogger âpihtawikosisân, for one, is fed up with the defensive posturing that has been going on, and provides this helpful “derailment bingo” card that pretty well sums up what we’ve been hearing:

Derailment Bingo.jpg

Any of that sound familiar? It should. Pick up a copy of the Ottawa SUN tomorrow, or listen to Lowell Green, and play for yourselves.

“If anything, [the name] honours the redskins…the Native cultures,” said one parent of a club volunteer. Good grief. Res ipsa loquitur, and I rest my case.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on September 4, 2013 1:12 PM.

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