Sometimes I wonder if Washington team owner Dan Snyder and the co-owners know what type of hate mail those of us who have been battling the Native American mascot issue get. I don’t have a secretary or assistant who assists me in reading messages or organizing my social media, emails and such. Aside from my everyday duties of being a mother and making ends meet in my home, working on the mascot issue will usually take the back burner.
So when I get a chance I will read my “other inbox” on Facebook. After the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted the cancellation of the Washington team’s registrations in June, messages to me quadrupled. I was swamped with messages from all over the world. Much of it was positive and people sent words of gratitude and encouragement, but a majority was hate mail. This one was one of the most shocking to me:
I’ve never had anyone call me an R-skin to my face. I once dared Dan Snyder in the spring of 2013 through a USA Today reporter if he would dare call me an R-skin to my face and his response was something to the effect of, “I don’t know her … I will never change the name of the team, you can quote that in all caps.” I felt that response was very dismissive and patronizing. But otherwise, he has not called me an R-skin to may face or referred to me (to my knowledge) in that manner. I think we both know it would be terribly inappropriate if he did. But apparently this person, Jeff Gates, has no problem calling me an R-skin to my face. In the process he takes a jab at putting down my appearance, which is not up for debate.
And to more hate mail we go:
If it can’t get any worse, the next hate message, “Consider suicide?”, throws more salt on the wound. Many people in the Native American community struggle with suicide. Native American youth suffer at a disadvantaged rate. Wait. Isn’t that one of those “bigger issues” other fans use as an excuse? Yes. So why are people encouraging me, a Native American person, to kill myself?
Another sort of theme I see in all of this are references to casinos. “Now go call a bingo game, redskin!” Or “Just shut the fuck up and collect your casino money.” Well, as an enrolled citizen of the Navajo Nation, I don’t “collect casino money.” We have casinos, which I don’t go to. I think the last casino I went to was in June of this year and before that I don’t even remember. I’ve also never played bingo, so I don’t understand the whole reference to casinos. I’m sure they are referencing that Natives get checks or payments from casinos because we are all allegedly homogenous and all do the same things and all are identical. Many people don’t know we are very diverse. There are tribes out there I’ve never even heard of.
And then more hate mail:
Another common reference I’ve seen is related to Native Americans being alcoholics. Once again, that goes into the category of stereotypes. I know plenty of Natives out there who can drink alcohol and not get wasted or those who don’t drink. So again, why are we constantly under attack? As for myself, I haven’t drank in over nine years and I prefer not to for political and spiritual reasons.
Another point I would like to make is that all of these messages are very aggressive, hostile, sexist, racist, and they are by men, though the anonymous ‘Facebook User’ above could very well be a woman, but what I see here are very aggressive and derogatory references to women. It is no wonder Native American women suffer high rates of violence, most of the time by non-Native American men. This is very apparent. Mind you, these screenshots are random selections. In almost each one there is a reference to my appearance and the word “squaw” or “bitch” was used. As Native women advocates, we are attacked because we are women and then because we are Native.
Many people would beg the question of why I would put energy into displaying these negative messages. It’s like feeding the negativity. Yes, to a certain extent, but my intention here is to show everyday people how others are referring to us. This is what people are thinking about us. I’ve stated before, covert racism is often done behind closed doors, but racism toward Native people is outright, in your face, and this is socially acceptable. I then ask: Is this what the Washington team wants to promote?
As I stated earlier, I wonder if Dan Snyder knows what people are saying and what their opinions are. These messages are nothing short of hate speech. Is this what the Washington team wants to be known for? Aren’t we supposed to feel honored? Well, being called an R-skin over and over again, being called a squaw and told to go back to my reservation (which I am currently on) and being told I am someone’s mascot and there is nothing I can do about it, shows me that Native mascotry promotes hatred toward Native people. Nothing more, nothing less.
This billion-dollar industry of Native mascotry profits off of the degradation of a race, an ethnicity, a culture and religions.
Amanda Blackhorse, Diné, is a mother and activist. She and four other plaintiffs won a case against the Washington football team that stripped it of six of its seven trademarks. She lives in Kayenta, Arizona on the Navajo Nation.