Xavier Smith: Blow struck for Washington Racial Slurs

Xavier Smith • Updated Jun 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM

The Supreme Court struck a blow Monday to the effort to remove offensive trademarks from several entities, including the Washington Redskins, after the body ruled trademark law barring disparaging terms breaches on free speech rights. 

The Asian-American rock band, the Slants, was the focus of the Supreme Court case, but the case was pivotal for the potential future of the Washington franchise, which had its trademark canceled in 2014 after the trademark office ruled the name offends Native Americans. 

Jutsice Samuel Alito argued trademarks are government speech rather than private speech, which means they should receive the same First Amendment protections as government programs and entities. 

Washington owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly defended the team’s moniker, saying the term is not a racial slur, but rather a symbol of pride, honor and respect. The Washington Post attempted to support Snyder’s stance in 2016 when it published the results of a poll that “found” 90 percent of “Native Americans” were unbothered by the team name.

However, the publication did not verify their respondent’s identity or tribal enrollment, meaning the input of anyone claiming to have Cherokee somewhere in their family without any factual evidence was taken at face value. 

That’s one of many slaps in the face to Native Americans in this entire situation. 

In the 1830s, as a part of Andrew Jacskon’s Indian removal policy, thousands of Native Americans died after being forced from land east of the Mississippi River to the western portion of the United States. A portion of that route ran through Nashville. 

There was also the stripping of Native American culture from the people through cultural assimilation, or the practice of conforming their beliefs, traditions and culture to that of the majority of American society. The assimilation was done though various practices, including outlawing traditional religious ceremonies and establishing Native American boarding schools, which required children to attend church, speak English and abandon their native traditions. 

Life on Native American reservations is plagued with high suicide rates, high levels of poverty and low employment rates, according to several studies and reports.

But let’s ignore all of that so we can enjoy men throwing, catching and kicking a pigskin, or baseball, or hockey puck in the name of capitalism. I’m not saying Snyder and other professional sports owners don’t have the Constitutional right to make money off the racial slur of Native Americans, but that doesn’t mean they should.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones highlighted the absurdity of the Cleveland Indians moniker and mascot last year as he sported a “Caucasians” t-shirt on national television. The shirt replaced Cleveland’s mascot, Chief Wahoo, with a white man with a dollar sign replacing the chief’s feather. 

It’s crazy that we, as Americans, are fine with capitalizing off the pain, suffering and harmful stereotypes of our fellow citizens simply to make a dollar. It seems there’s always reluctance to simply admit being wrong and working to amend the wrongs.

 Xavier Smith is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewswritr.

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