Tag Archives: native americans

Happy Columbus Day (And My Honest Thoughts On It)

First off, Happy Columbus Day!

I know that’s a somewhat political statement these days, but I’ll say it anyways, just to get it out of the way.

I’m not saying it to be political. These days, I try to be very careful about statements that can be even partially construed as political. That’s just the nature of the times we’re living in. We’re so divided, defensive, and tribal that it’s hard to see anything we don’t agree with as a politically-motivated attack.

As a result, Columbus Day has taken on some very political overtones in recent years and not in a good way. It used to just be a day to celebrate the landmark voyage of a famous explorer from the 15th century. That voyage, regardless of the politics surrounding it, opened the door to a new age of exploration between the Americas and Europe. Some believe that is worth celebrating.

On the other side, there are those who rightly highlight the negative impacts and outright atrocities that Columbus’ voyage incurred. If you were a native living in the Americas at the time of his arrival, you had no reason to celebrate. The man ushered in an era that saw the utter decimation of the entire native population.

He was also, even by the standards of his time, quite the asshole. He took slaves. He wasn’t exactly popular with his crew. He might not have been the worst offender of his time, but he certainly didn’t raise the bar.

Like many historical figures from the distant past, Christopher Columbus was a complex figure. There’s a lot we’ve come to know about him, especially in recent years as the less savory parts of his story have become more accessible. With that knowledge and the benefit of hindsight, a critical question remains.

Should Columbus Day still be celebrated as a holiday?

I admit freely that, for most of my life, I saw Columbus Day as little more than an extra day off school. I didn’t know or care much about the man or his story, beyond what I was told in school. Since then, I’ve tried to keep a balanced perspective on him.

If you want a fairly comprehensive assessment on who Columbus was and how we should judge him in the modern era, I recommend the rundown from the YouTube channel, Knowing Better. He does make his biases and opinions very clear, but he still gets the point across.

If there’s one take-away worth gleaning from this video, it’s that we can appreciate the achievements of Christopher Columbus. We can even acknowledge the impact he had on world history, for better or for worse. However, celebrating him as a holiday at this point has connotations and implications that just don’t work in the modern era.

Columbus isn’t history’s greatest monster, but he’s not someone who deserves a state-sanctioned holiday in a country that has a diverse population, including groups that suffered greatly due to Columbus’ legacy. For that reason, I think at the very least, the name of the day should be changed.

Some have proposed calling it Indiginous Peoples Day to celebrate the legacy, as well as acknowledge the hardships, of the Native American populations of the Americas. I would certainly be on board with that.

Perhaps we can call it something more generic like World Exploreres Day or Unity Day. While Christopher Columbus may have been an asshole, he did succeed in one critical area. He took a major step towards connecting the world. Whether they called it the old world or the new world, the result was the same. We are now one world because we dared to explore and connect.

That, in my opinion, is worth celebrating and we can do it without glorifying Christopher Columbus.

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Filed under Current Events, political correctness, politics, rants

A (Longview) Question For Those Who Fought To Change The Name Of The Washington Redskins

It’s really happening.

I doubt anyone expected it to happen in their lifetimes, but after years of protesting and pushing, it’s finally happening. The Washington Redskins are changing their name. As someone who has followed NFL football his entire life and knows way too much about the history of every team, I am genuinely shocked. I really didn’t think this was going to happen, especially with how stubborn the owner of the team has been.

Shocked or not, it’s happening. The Washington Post announced it and the team made it official. They are changing their name.

Washington Post: Redskins To Retire Team Name

In an interview July 4, Coach Ron Rivera – who is working with owner Daniel Snyder to choose a name – said he hoped the new name would be in place by the start of the 2020 NFL season. Others have said it will be revealed as soon as within two weeks.

Two people with knowledge of the team’s plans said Sunday that the preferred replacement name is tied up in a trademark fight, which is why the team can’t announce the new name Monday.

Many are already celebrating this victory. In the battle against offensive sports mascots, this was the equivalent of Goliath. It’s one thing to get a publicly funded college to change their name. It’s quite another to get a private multibillion dollar sports franchise with an 80-plus years history. It’s a huge feat. Let’s not deny that.

Granted, it’s a feat that only happened once money became a factor. This was not done for moral reasons or because someone made an impassioned plea. This was a business decision done for the sake of doing future business. If there’s any lesson to be drawn from this endeavor, it’s that. Moral arguments do nothing. Money does all the talking.

It’s because of that, I suspect this is one of those issues that will still divide people. No matter what the new name is, people are still going to see them as “that team that used to be called the Redskins” or “that team that used to have a racist moniker.” Even though the team eventually did what some saw as the right thing, they’ll still be scorned because they didn’t do it soon enough.

That’s just the world we live in. The people who protested the name aren’t going to say “thank you.” They’re more likely to say, “It’s about damn time you racist piece of shit. Now, suffer for the rest of your life while we shame you, your children, and everyone you ever associate with and take it with a goddamn smile.”

That might be hyperbole, but that’s the power of outrage. It’s kind of addictive. The idea of turning anger into kindness, friendship, and harmony just feels like a bridge too far. People do get bored with outrage eventually, but only because they find something else to direct it towards.

That being said, I have a question to all those who are celebrating this feat. I want to ask that same question to everyone who passionately protested this name for years, protesting its racist connotations and use of caricatures. It’s a sincere, simple question that I hope people seriously contemplate.

What real, tangible benefit will changing the name of a football team accomplish for Native Americans communities in the long run?

The key word in that question is tangible. I’m aware of the various studies regarding the psychological impact of Native American mascots and caricatures. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this. However, psychological impacts don’t always translate into tangible impacts. You can feel and think all you want. If you don’t do anything with it, then the impact never goes beyond brain chemicals.

As I write this, nearly a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty and the unemployment rate on many reservations is around 40 percent. That’s a trend that has not improved substantially in recent years, regardless of how many or how few mascots a sports team uses. The Native American community has a host of other critical issues to deal with that include, but are not limited to:

  • Violence against Women and Children
  • Native Americans are Less Educated
  • Poor Quality Housing
  • Inadequate Health Care
  • Unable to Exercise Voting Rights
  • Native Language is Becoming Extinct
  • Limited Financial Institutions in the Native Communities
  • Natural Resources Exploitation

These are complex issues. I’m certainly not equipped to discuss them in detail. Some are more urgent than others, but plenty involve real, tangible impacts on a community. A lack of adequate health care, decent housing, and good education all incur tangible impacts. That’s beyond dispute. How will changing the name of a football team affect any of these issues?

I’m not being facetious. I genuinely want to know how much or how little that changing the name of an NFL football team will impact Native American communities in a tangible way. I don’t doubt that some will feel better about not having a football team with a racially insensitive name, but is that the only extent of the impact? Does that impact justify all the time, energy, and resources that went into this effort?

Please don’t answer that question now. Preferably, I’d like someone who is in touch with the Native American community to answer at least four years from now. By then, there will have been enough time for the impact of this event to play out. Whether it’s a decrease in poverty or an improvement in life expectancy, it should be clear by then. If it isn’t, then that poses another question.

Was all that effort to change the name of a football team a quality use of time and resources?

Again, that’s not a facetious question. I ask this as someone who really wants to know just how much a football team’s name actually impacts a large number of people within a minority community. I don’t expect to get clear answers now, but I hope they become clearer in the next few years. I also expect those answers to raise even more distressing questions.

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Filed under censorship, NFL, political correctness, politics, rants, sports

When (And When NOT) To Apologize For A Costume

There are two things that always happen this time of year. One, some people will complain endlessly about how early all the stores put up their Christmas decorations too damn early. Two, some people will complain about some offensive costume that some celebrity wore on Halloween.

This year is no exception. At this point, I’m starting to think someone passed a constitutional amendment because this happens every goddamn year and everyone still acts shocked. I don’t know when Halloween became just another date where we can find something to get outraged over, but there’s not enough pumpkin ale in the world to make it palatable.

This year, the big offender is Hillary Duff and her boyfriend, Jason Walsh. What did they wear that was so offensive that it required a big public apology? Well, run to your safe space, close your Twitter feed, and prepare to curl up into a fetal position. This is what they wore.

Have you stopped crying? Are you done getting irreparably traumatized? I know. This is hard on all of us. Hold my hand. We’ll get through this.

Okay, that’s enough sarcasm for now, but as good a coping mechanism you can hope for when an issue is this asinine. I get it. We’re a hypersensitive culture that is just one bad tweet away from ruining lives and starting misguided movements. I don’t know if it’s because we’re bored, scared, or just aren’t getting laid enough. For whatever reason, we need to get offended by at least one costume every Halloween.

Now I don’t know much about Hillary Duff. I know she’s a pretty female celebrity so of course she’s going to be harassed, harangued, and deified in ways no human being can tolerate and maintain their sanity. However, when I look at this picture, I think there are way worse costumes she could’ve worn. Would it have been better if she and her beaux wore this?

I rest my case.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand there are some costumes that are just in poor taste. Things like wearing a Steve Irwin costume just after he died is definitely in poor taste. It’s not illegal and it won’t get you arrested, but it is a dick move.

There’s just something a bit more potent about costumes that have a racial component and I don’t think it has anything to do with outright racism. It’s not like Hillary Duff and her boyfriend were depicting genocide, torture, and war with their costumes. Sure, they’re not Native American, but why does that disqualify them from wearing these costumes? They’re not formal eveningwear. They’re costumes.

Native Americans definitely have issues. They have issues concerning poverty, unemployment, high suicide rates, and poor health care. These are all serious issues and Hillary Duff wearing an offensive costume neither hinders nor helps this issue. Again, it’s a goddamn costume.

So why do we complain about this every year? Why do we feel the need to point out all the costumes that make the inner 7-year-old cry like we’re on a trip to the dentist? I have my theories. I doubt any of them are wholly accurate, but I like to think I have some insight. Being an erotica/romance writer, I have to understand what makes people tick on some levels.

I think it all comes back to the politically correct concept of being offended not just for ourselves, but for other minorities as well. It’s not enough for them to just be offended. We all have to be offended. I don’t know if it’s just some way for people to guilt themselves for crimes their ancestors committed or to make themselves feel more relevant than they really are. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t fix anything.

If Hillary Duff and her boyfriend hadn’t worn this costume, would the Native American community be better off? Would their lives be easier and would the crimes committed against them hurt less? I doubt it.

I also doubt this is the last time people will get their panties in a bunch over an “offensive” costume. I’ve been to comic book conventions. I’ve seen all kinds of costumes, offensive or otherwise. The world has so many offensive things in it. Costumes worn by women like Hillary Duff aren’t one of them.


Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights