Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Four Feet: The R Word

Note: I have blogged "an inch" every week for over 48 weeks now. When I reach a milestone (a foot, a yard), I often reflect on what it means to write on a weekly basis again. This is not that kind of post, despite hitting another milestone. 

There was an ugly incident in Portland while I was out there that shook me deeply.

Alise, my brilliant, beautiful, loving, witty, articulate daughter-in-law, got called a racial slur when she was doing nothing more than standing beside her car.

Alise got called an "[effing] filthy Indian" in a cowardly drive-by attack.

Having your daughter-in-law called an "[effing] filthy Indian" is pretty horrible. When she told me and her mother, we both gasped involuntarily. As I have thought it over for almost two weeks now, I have concluded that the only word that would have made it worse would have been substituting "redskin" for "Indian."

The R word.

Like it or not, the R word is racist and offensive and wrong, no matter what NFL owner Dan Snyder claims to the contrary.

Over the last several months, as pressure grows to get that Washington team to change its name, I've had friends and others chide me, sometimes severely, for my objections to the team name and its fans who happily and ignorantly dress up as "Indians" for the games. I've been accused of being too politically correct, I've been accused of making a Big Deal out of nothing. Those fans are having fun in their garish gear. It's all fun!

Really? Even my two year old grandchild knows that her regalia is for powwows and not for play like her box of dress-up clothes. If a toddler can understand that key point, what is stopping fans of that Washington team from abandoning their pretend costumes?

Nothing but a sense of entitlement, deep ignorance, and latent bigotry.

I would suggest to those who feel my position is ridiculous or PC imagine a sports team with any other racial or ethnic slur as part of its title. How about the Detroit Darkies with fans showing up in blackface, waving large foam watermelon slices? Or the California Chinks, with fans sticking their fingers in the corners of their eyes to "slant" them whenever the team scores? Or the Kansas City Kikes, with fans wearing exaggerated noses and big foam skullcaps, shouting "Oy Vey!" when their team is down.

The possibilities are endless.

When I made that very point to a friend who had lectured me about why there was nothing wrong with the R word, he recoiled immediately. "You can't use those words," he gasped. He recoiled even further when I asked him how he would react if his adult daughter (adopted, of Vietnamese origin) was called a gook. Would he tell her to get over it? Would he suggest she was being too PC by being offended by it? Of course he wouldn't, he said.


There is a saying: "speak your truth, even if your voice shakes." I often do not speak my truth. I tend to avoid confrontation because I don't handle intense conflict well. My voice usually does shake (along with my hands and my heart), so I many times say nothing and let the moment pass.

But then my daughter-in-law was called an "[effing] filthy Indian."

One day Ramona may well be called an "[effing] filthy Indian."

One day Ramona may well be called the R word.

Whether she is called either of those, without change she will grow up in a country where a multi-billion dollar tax-exempt industry allows a team and its fans to belittle and trivialize her heritage, her people, her family, and herself.

And I don't want to have to tell her that I didn't speak up.


Marcia said...

Wonderfully and courageously articulated, April. Ramona will be so proud of her grandmother!

Out My window said...

I am so sorry that you have to deal with this.

Stephen Greene said...

I'm thinking of times when I didn't speak for fear my voice would shake.

There was a time in this country when a hero was that person willing to be the single voice against injustice, prejudice or racism.

Heroism today is defined by ad agencies and public relations firms representing banking ceos, athletes or the latest box office star. They will push anything, even racism, which seems to be an easy sell in the 'marketplace' that is America.

see you there! said...

Sad that this happened and glad you spoke out. Racism is alive and well in America unfortunately.


Sharon said...

That was an awful, despicable thing for that jerk to say to your daughter-in-law. But I'm trying hard to figure out what that has to do with the name of the football team. Living here in the DC area, I've never thought of the fans disparaging Indian culture, but actually embracing it. I never saw it as a slight. Dressing up in Indian costumes seems like a support not a diss. Too often political 'correctness' goes too far, and things we once enjoyed (i.e. school Christmas parties, Halloween parties and Valentine's Day parties) have all been stopped because they 'may' offend someone. But then again, that's just my opinion.