Aaron M. Moe

Assistant Professor of English at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame

Why we have the Washington Redskins but not the Alabama Ni***rs; or, wtf

Image from the Daily Snark

Much more is at stake with Washington’s mascot than being politically correct. Come on, people. Let’s think this through.

The root of problem lies within an education system that fails to teach Manifest Destiny as something other than it really is. In reality, Manifest Destiny contributed to the largest genocide in human history started by the European colonial powers across North and South America.

The LARGEST genocide. An ethnic cleansing of colossal proportions.

My K-12 education never taught Manifest Destiny in the context of genocide. I had to figure it out later on my own with the help of Sherman Alexie. (Thank goodness Hitler came along so that we could all learn about “THE #1 genocide of ALL human history”; we could learn about genocide without making our nation look in the mirror.)

We all learned in our K-12 education that slavery, segregation, and the Jim Crow laws were all bad. Really, really bad. Kids now study how it took a war, an Emancipation Proclamation, a renaissance, a Civil Rights movement, and the election of President Obama to continue moving in a good direction. Kids also learn that ni***r is a racial slur, loaded with the horrific history writers like Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison expose all too well.

There is NO WAY a team, say, in Alabama could have the mascot of Ni***rs. At least our nation has enough dignity to know that such a racial slur could never be a mascot given the horrific history of the slave trade, slavery, the KKK, and so forth.

We do better at recognizing, teaching, and dealing with the blood on this nation’s hands regarding slavery than the genocide of Native Americans. Why is Mt. Rushmore “cool” to visit?–where four white chiefs were carved into the sacred land of the Sioux?

You know, Washington’s football team could be named after another racial slur for Native Americans: the Prairie Ni***rs. And of course, Prairie Ni***rs is much more difficult to say, out loud, than Red***ns.

(Prairie Ni***rs helps, though, to draw a parallel between the histories of Native and African Americans. I want to ask, “Whose history was/is more horrific?”–but it is a poor question.)

When we linger in the horrific history of the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans under the guise of Manifest Destiny—and when we recognize the ongoing cultural genocide of Native Americans living today—Red***ns, like Ni***r, becomes too difficult to say.

Enough is enough.

Change the name.




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