|An Opinion Piece by Daniel Brown
Stop “Honoring” Me
Daniel Brown is a member of the Ho-Chunk
moreover, step away from teams that refuse to rid themselves of these racist images. Chicago’s professional hockey team has reportedly made a statement that
they will not change their name because it “honors” a real person of history. Yes, Blackhawk was real, and we Ho-Chunk have historic ties to him. But I don’t
recall stories of him battling his enemies on a pair of ice skates and a crooked stick in his hand. And have you seen the image that purports to “honor” him? A
smirking cartoon image of a guy with red, green, yellow and orange “feathers” in his hair. While the Ho-Chunk revere the eagle and other sky creatures, I seriously
doubt Blackhawk donned turkey feathers dyed in such gaudy and unnatural colors.
As I have followed this issue with tremendous interest for the past 40 years, it is striking how often the defenders rush to assert that they are “honoring” Native
Americans! My retort to that is, “Stop honoring me like this. It is offensive!” The argument goes like this: Natives were a brave people who fought heroically. They
go on to say how their teams “fight” with the same fervor.
For starters, there are 574 federally recognized tribes in this country. We all have our unique histories, cultures and languages. We did not all wear war bonnets
and fight the US Army on horseback like Hollywood-inspired stories would have you believe. Secondly, we are still here. The argument that people are “honoring”
some bygone race of brave people is ignorant. Additionally, those tribes that were being pushed off of their land and were forced to fight for their lives and
livelihoods were oftentimes referred to as “insurgents,” “dissidents” and “enemies of the United States.” So, by that line of reasoning, when the US invaded Iraq
because they had resources the U.S. wanted…er…I mean because they had weapons of mass destruction (they didn’t), do we now “honor” the ardent defenders of
that country who fought (and still fight) for their own turf? Do we honor what the U.S. propagandized these warriors as “insurgents?” What will their mascots look
like on a football helmet or on the 50-yard line?
Education plays a significant role in these types of social issues. Admittedly, there are a number of Native Americans in this country who support these names.
Bless their souls, in my humble opinion, few have experienced an enlightenment of just how inherently wrong this is. I respect their right to their opinions; I reject
their colonialized and assimilation-inspired ways of approaching the matter.
To all of the alumni of schools that still “honor” Natives, relax. Your fond memories of beating your rival or winning the championship will remain in your hearts
and minds until you perish. I seriously doubt when you are sitting around reminiscing about your glory days, anyone will chime in about your vaunted mascot or
nickname. Your cherished memories of the people you cheered on or went to “battle” with will be just that…memories of the people with whom you shared such
fond memories. The “heritage” of your school nickname is just not that important no matter what your AD, teachers or coaches told you.
The NBA got it right a long time ago. When the Quad City Blackhawks moved to Atlanta, they rightfully became the Hawks. When the Golden State Warriors
changed their mascot, the world did not cease to spin. Like the NBA Warriors did, keep the name, and drop the damned mascot. Keeping this practice alive in this
country is abject racism. End of story.
The issue of dehumanizing a race of people through a shameful practice of using stereotypical and Hollywood-inspired
“Native” images for sports teams’ mascots is quite directly and plainly abject racism.
End of story.
The heart-wrenching and horrific death of George Floyd has sparked intense and much-needed activism and
discussions about institutional racial disparities in the United States of America. Although, rightly, a majority of the
conversations are about the treatment of our Black brothers and sisters by law enforcement, it has also sparked
activism, debate and conversation about other areas of institutional racism both overt and insidiously subversive.
And it has brought the spotlight to a pervasive unevenness in all communities of color.
Recently, major sponsors of professional sports’ teams have begun to pull back their support of teams whose
nicknames are offensive to Native Americans. The National Football League’s Washington, D.C. team comes
prominently to mind. The irony is never lost on Natives concerned with this issue that in a city that should be the
beacon and standard bearer of a country’s values, overt racism is not just tolerated, it has been celebrated.
The sponsors who have stood up to racial injustice are to be lauded, although I question their motivation. A skeptic
might postulate that they are simply protecting their brand. After all, who are the most active people protesting racial
injustice? The young. Why would you not seek to protect and perpetuate your brand by targeting these up-and-coming
consumers? By gosh, it’s just good business!
Nevertheless, an ugly era could very well be coming to a merciful end. Now, other sponsors should step up or