Gerard Miller writes: "While I was an undergrad student, this writing and image helped change the perspective of some students who couldn't care less about the Washington Redskins mascot name."

Fun Racism Quiz: Would NFL Have a Team Called Washington Blackskins?

Gerard Miller
September 13, 2013

In the film, A Time to Kill, Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer who, in his closing argument, asks the people of the jury to close their eyes as he describes a vivid scenario of rape and assault. He then asks the jurors to imagine the crime happening to a white girl instead of a black girl. The reason McConaughey’s character does this is because the trial takes place in a racially divided community in the rural south.  Sometimes we as humans are inheritors of our ways and need perspective.

I would propose a similar argument: When listening to the well-known case against an NFL mascot considered offensive by Native Americans, close your eyes and imagine it was a face of African heritage on the side of that helmet, representing a team called the Blackskins. Would such a thing happen in America today? American Indians by majority accounts are not involved in politically correct rhetoric and argument within mainstream media. They do not have a day-to-day presence on TV, in newspapers, or via online news sources. It's highly unlikely we'll see masses of American Indians marching on Washington to effect a name and mascot change. It is also unlikely that we'll see American Indians leave their small but sacred reservation grounds to occupy Wall Street with demands for a mascot change.

Are right and wrong measured on terms of engagement? Are changes made only when a certain number of citizens rally, or enough news outlets cover the story?

There is a lack of sensitivity, insight and respect for those who once ruled American land. Society seems to view American Indians as fictional characters from western movies. The name change issue is seen as an issue of little significance, and ignored.

The Washington Redskins are one of the most recognizable and storied franchises in all of American football. According to Forbes, the Redskins rank fifth in value among all sports franchises in the world. The Redskins have established a billion-dollar brand and a strong tradition; along with that comes a dedicated and passionate fan base that purchases all sorts of products bearing the mascot that they identify with. The Redskins name and mascot are profitable and accepted by the masses, a fact confirmed by the franchise's value.

Condemning those involved with the Redskins organization today for the franchise's checkered racial past is wrong; they simply don’t deserve it. If you’re searching for racially unjust behavior within any historic American organization, you’re likely to find instances. The current President of the United States is not to blame for humans being enslaved during the terms of the first fifteen Presidents. But what if slavery hadn't ended, and were still an institution today? The fact is that the current NFL leaders and Washington Redskins leaders inherited an organization with a name and mascot that are offensive to some. We have to assume responsibility for the present and respond accordingly. Let's start with a clean slate, and let our actions from this moment forward determine the legacy established for the future.

Image by Gerard Miller.



editors's picture
Submitted by editors on

This piece and illustration was submitted to us by the author Gerard Miller, with the subject line, Blackskins in 2013 From a Black Man.

He explained, 'While I was an undergrad student, this writing and image helped change the perspective of some students that could care less about the Washington Redskins mascot name.'

He told us that he thought our website could benefit from his point of view and we agreed. We published his image to provide context for just how offensive the Redskins logo is.

Butts Larue
Butts Larue
Submitted by Butts Larue on

Out of all of the races, all of the different cultures that make up this country, it is only the American Indian that is revered as a warrior, someone to be respected and feared. Why would there not be a team called the "Blackskins"? Because they were slaves. I understand that some find ALL Indian "mascots" offensive and that is a conversation that should occur but making the Redskins the primary objective will only hurt in the long run. The Redskins will change the name eventually but they will change it to the "Warriors" and they will keep the logos, will you satisfied with that? No, of course not but you will never get public opinion on your side again.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on

What Butts LaRue below here forgot is that we NDNS have also been subjected to slavery to go along with the genocide and land-grabbing. He suggests that perhaps "Redskins" is a term that honors our warriors, and he takes the typical stance that Washington doesn't mean anything negative by the use of the word. Nothing could be further from the truth. He fails to realize that Washington is the capital of the country who killed our people, stole our land - it's the very place that spawned the plans to wipe us out as a people.

Why can't people simply understand that they CANNOT chose which slur another culture finds offensive when used to describe its people. What African-American would buy the notion that the term "nigger" was honoring their ancestors hard work and unstoppable spirit? Why are we expected to buy that notion?

Other fans have told me that I'm just making it about race; well what IS it when you name a team based on skin color? It's time for the Redskins to go the route of Little Black Sambo and the Frito Bandito!