An image, created by the author and meant to give a different context for the Washington Redskins imagery, proved highly controversial.

Above the Distraction: More on 'Blackskins' From Gerard Miller

Gerard Miller
September 18, 2013

The Blackskins piece was created for all of us to make a serious reflection of compassion for American Indians, who have minimal representation in mainstream media. An imaginary mirror of truth and realization is presented in the Blackskins writing. The image created in the piece, of a man of African heritage and the name Blackskins elicits anger and dismay, which was the point. The Blackskins image is offensive, disrespectful, and tasteless, especially to me, a black man. When I look into the mirror that’s exactly what I see, a black man. I don’t have any friends who have majority of American Indian blood flowing through their veins, and I cannot recall the last time I saw an American Indian in a day-to-day setting. I began to realize that the American Indian was out of sight, out of mind. The only way I could fully come to understand how an American Indian feels, when seeing the Redskins mascot, was to imitate the scenario. When you look into the mirror what do you see? Take a moment to imagine an image of a depiction of your ancestor and a color referred to your race, attached to the word "skins." After you visualize it, determine for yourself if it is honestly acceptable to you, in your heart of hearts. I urge all of America’s citizens to put yourself in thy neighbor’s shoes, and think about American Indian issues and all race issues in America.

After being honest with myself about how I would feel if a team called the Blackskins existed, I immediately felt pride, knowing that my race would not allow such an offense in the year 2013. Then a sad realization set in: That American Indians, who have had issues with the Redskins name for decades, have not been successful. The gloomy and harsh reality is that the masses don’t care about the Redskins issue. The movements within the American Indian community are not nationally large enough for immediate change. Also, the African American comparison is necessary to use in the Blackskins piece, outside of me being a black man. American Indians and African Americans are the two most oppressed races in American history and both races have similarities, but much can be learned from the different manners that the two attack social issues. What would the African American community do if addressed with this race-relation issue? What have African Americans -- from an American Indian persepctive, the "other" oppressed people of America -- done to overcome?

Gaining perspective, compassion, and understanding for this American Indian issue is the goal and intent of the Blackskins piece. I can only hope that readers see the “bigger picture,” and evaluate the Redskin issue with enlightened perspective. The power is in the people, who ultimately effect change. I challenge all who are, or would be, offended by any skin-color issue, to direct their energy and outrage to the reality of what is actually taking place in 2013. There are many issues, no matter how minor or immense, and they’re all worth fighting for.



sweetgrass777's picture
Submitted by sweetgrass777 on

To be honest......I think this would never had happened. Why because African Americans have too much political clout and Native people just don't. I don't know what the point of this is really. When Native people get out of the bed with whites and join forces with African Americans then maybe they will stand a chance. It's all an illusion. Native people have to come to the realization that we are sell outs. So until then if we even consider ourselves means nothing.

chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on, blue, yellow skins..personally i am getting REALLY tired of being compared to the problems of 'other' races, especially when, to a man/woman, the authors of every piece written openly admit that indigenous 'problems' are in a class of their own...we dont need to be 'compared' to other peoples...are we so low on the 'totem pole' that we constantly need to be propped up next to 'others' to even legitimize a comparison...

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

I've always said that what we need more of in the world is EMPATHY. Things like this would never be necessary if others realized that what they plan is racist or offends others.

To Sweetgrass777: I don't think we're sellouts. What is wrong with cooperating with others? African-Americans haven't even pulled themselves out from under the yoke that was placed on them as slaves, how do you propose they will help us? Ironically, the Redskins unofficial mascot is an African-American who doesn't see anything wrong with the team's name.

In my various debates on this subject, I've run into a fair number of people who CLAIM to be NDN and say they're honored by the Redskins name. Of course I have no way of confirming anything one way or another, but being a devout skeptic I can't help but wonder if these aren't just a ruse to suggest that some of us LIKE being called derogatory names.

Sweetgrass777 also neglects the fact that the Redskins have had this name since the 1930s when African-Americans still had to drink from separate water fountains and use "Black Only" restrooms. How could they have helped us then

Retaining our own idenity is something we've done fairly well considering the circumstances. Gaining respect is something we've done as warriors. Gaining empathy is something we need to do as a people, and stopping people (whether White or Black) from calling us names we wouldn't use on our children is something we have yet to accomplish.