June 30, 2014

Replacing white heroes with minorities

Comics curmudgeon John Byrne explains why he doesn't like the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch.

John Byrne Explains Why 'Racebending' Doesn't Help THE FANTASTIC FOUR Reboot

The posting starts with an earlier quote from Byrne to suggest his racial attitudes:Personal prejudice: Hispanic and Latino women with blonde hair look like hookers to me, no matter how clean or “cute” they are. Somehow those skin tones that look so good with dark, dark hair just don’t work for me with lighter shades.--John Byrne, 2005Byrne's main argument seems to be this:If we took a story written by a Black African, set in Africa, about Africans, and arbitrarily turned one of the characters White, there would be (justifiable) outrage. The valid point would be made that we cannot simply “whitewash” a Black character and end up with the same person, the same dynamic, the same presence in the story.

How is it any different to take a White character and paint him/her Black? Nick Fury, to cite but one example, had to turn into a different character when he was painted Black.

Why not MAKE him a different character? Give him is own identity, instead of one handed down from on high by White folk? Make him Gabe Jones, or Gabe Jones Jr, or Gabe Jones III, if you want to tie into existing continuity. As the “Everything That’s Wrong With…” site so aptly points out, Fury in the Marvel Movies has no depth at all. He is defined entirely by the eyepatch.
I don't see how his "solution" of creating new minority characters applies.

It's a fine notion by itself, and it may lead to more minority characters in movies. In 25 or 50 years, when these characters become fan favorites. But how does it help integrate movies now?

It sounds like another way of saying, "Let's keep movies white until those uppity minorities have earned a seat at the table." Which ignores the fact that white creators pander to white fans in a racist feedback loop. That there's no "meritocracy" that gives minority characters a fair shot at becoming stars.

Marvel, champion of equality?

Byrne also gives us a pseudo-history of racial attitudes at Marvel in the 1960s:Lee, Kirby, Ditko and the rest introduced ethnic and racial minorities with a far greater frequency than, say, DC. Wyatt Wingfoot became a regular member of the FF’s supporting cast. Robbie Robertson showed up in Spider-Man. The Black Panther arrived. Heroic non-White figures arose from the ranks of the common man. Remember Al B. Harper, who died to save the world?

When Johnny is race-swapped the inevitable response from some segments of fandom and the media is that this is “necessary” due to comics in the 1960s being hotbeds of White supremacy—while nothing is further from the truth. American comics had long been the home to some of the most liberal, forward thinking people you were likely to meet. They cannot be taken to task for portraying society as that society perceived itself. But they should definitely be lauded for being, often, ahead of the curve when it came to social reform.
I'd say his comments about how 1960s comics merely reflected how society perceived itself are wrong. First, he obviously meant white society, not our actual society with its multitudes of minorities. If Marvel's staffers had looked out the windows, they would've seen a lot more diversity than appeared in their comics.

Second, comics have always been on the trailing edge of social change. Movies such as The Defiant Ones (1958) tackled racial issues a good ten years before comics got around to them. I don't give comics much credit for belatedly changing after more progressive media embarrassed them into joining in.

Also note that Byrne's icons of equality, Wyatt Wingfoot and the Black Panther, aren't as progressive as he thinks they are. Both characters were members of super-scientific tribes that kept their advances hidden from the world. The implications of that are troubling.

What these comics told us is that these exceptional examples of Africans and Native Americans were the only ones worth mentioning. Perhaps one in a thousand of these nonwhite people were smart enough to be scientists or brave enough to be heroes. The rest weren't. Roughly 99.9% of blacks and Natives were apparently too stupid or scared to deserve depiction.

Aquaman the Aryan?

Another posting responds to the casting of Jason Momoa as Aquaman as well as Jordan as the Human Torch. It's excellent so read the whole thing, but here's a key excerpt:

Radioactive Blackness And Anglo-Saxon Aliens: Achieving Superhero Diversity Through Race-Changing

By Andrew Wheeler[T]he oceans are vast and interconnected, and Atlanteans are presumably well travelled and not bound to a single mainland culture. Making Atlanteans diverse is more interesting than making them homogeneous and white, and casting a mixed-race actor like Momoa makes the most sense. Casting a blond white actor would create the impression that Atlanteans are implausibly Eurocentric and strangely Aryan.

That’s a direction the filmmakers could explore, of course. Even without exploring it, a justification could be made for Aquaman’s blondness or whiteness. In most tellings, Aquaman is half-human, and half-American, and maybe even half-Floridian, so there’s nothing saying he can’t be white and blond. Some humans, some Americans, and some Floridians are white and blond. (Many are not, but some are.)

Come to think of it, an in-plot justification isn’t really needed. If the character is white and blond, audiences won’t actually question it.

The Way of All Flesh-Color

This is cultural bias in effect. General (generally white) audiences never question why characters are white and blond. If a character could be white, that’s usually justification enough. Whiteness as default becomes logical and comfortable. Only non-whiteness requires an explanation.

Indeed, if a character is not white, some people will cry out that their racial identity is the product of political agenda-driven tampering. If a character is white, the same people will comfortably assume that he or she came out of the box like that.

It should be noted that we’re not even talking about the broad US census category of “white,” which covers people whose families hail from Europe, North Africa or the Middle East—including many people with tan, olive or ruddy skin.

In comics, whiteness is predominantly represented by the pale pink complexions of Northern Europeans—the color once problematically referred to as “Flesh” on Crayola crayons, until Crayola changed it to “Peach” in 1962. Real world white comes in many shades, but in comics all white people seem to trend towards hex color #FFCFAB. (Individual colorists may of course bring more nuance to their work, but how many white superheroes can you name who are consistently portrayed with bronze or olive-toned skin?)

Superhero comics don’t actually favor whiteness; they favor a subset of whiteness that borders on Aryan idealism. We ought to regard that as uncomfortably fetishistic, because it’s an aesthetic that the industry has chosen.

All fiction is manufactured. Authors make their worlds and choose what goes in them. It is always possible to contrive a fictional justification for a character looking whichever way the author wants, up to and including finding a way to make a white person the hero in a story about, say, feudal Japan, or ancient Egypt, or Persia during the Islamic Golden Age. A white hero is not the most likely scenario, but it’s always a possible scenario, so in that way it always becomes justified.

The decision to cast Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch has been called out by message board posters as evidence of an agenda at work—but white heroes in these non-white settings are rarely called out as similar evidence of an agenda. It’s all artifice, it’s all contrived. Fiction exists in service to an author’s design. All fiction serves an agenda, whether it’s articulated or not.
Comment:  Wheeler's argument applies very well to Natives in movies, TV, and comics. Whites star in Native-oriented movies (e.g., Dances with Wolves), are cast as Native characters (e.g., Taylor Lautner, Brandon Routh, Johnny Depp), or replace Native characters with whitewashed versions (e.g., The Last Airbender).

Ironically, Momoa is something of an offender, taking Native roles in The Red Road and other projects despite his tiny amount of Native blood. Which shows how the prevailing narrative gets twisted. White characters are often blond and Aryan--a fact that's especially obvious on TV. But Native characters can be anyone with a tan.

For more on casting issues, see Natives Protest Tiger Lily Casting and Stand-Off Over Cry, Trojans!

June 29, 2014

Is "off the reservation" offensive?

Should Saying Someone Is ‘Off The Reservation’ Be Off-Limits?

By Kee MaleskyThe Original Meaning of the Term

In its literal and original sense, as you would expect, the term was used in the 19th century to describe the activities of Native Americans:

“The acting commissioner of Indian affairs to-day received a telegram from Agent Roorke of the Klamath (Oregon) agency, dated July 6, in which he says: ‘No Indians are off the reservation without authority. All my Indians are loyal and peaceable, and doing well.” (Baltimore Sun, July 11, 1878)

Many of the news articles that used the term in a literal sense in the past were also expressing undisguised contempt and hatred, or, at best, condescension for Native Americans—“shiftless, untameable…a rampant and intractable enemy to civilization” (New York Times, Oct. 27, 1886).

Native Reaction to the Term

Rob Capriccioso, citizen of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and Washington D.C. Bureau Chief for Indian Country Today writes:

“I bristle when I hear the phrase because many of the people who use it nonchalantly have likely never thought about its origin, nor have they probably ever visited a reservation.”

“It’s not about political correctness, either, it’s about helping the majority realize that there is a minority point-of-view that holds weight that the majority is giving too little credence. To me, there are indeed many more offensive words involving American Indians than this phrase—including the name of the Washington football team—but I believe it is the common use of phrases like ‘off the reservation’ that allows people to end up being comfortable going further—to the point of using a slur to name a football team that supposedly honors Indians, but not realizing that it is actually a slur.”
Comment:  Several Natives said they didn't like the phrase. But they focused on how it makes them feel, not why it's wrong.

It's wrong because it conveys a 19th-century impression of Natives. That they should stay on the reservation where we put them. That they're dangerous if they leave the reservation with their marauding, murderous ways. That the only way to turn them into peaceful Americans is to tame them like animals in cages.

Even if those using the phrase aren't referring to actual Natives, they're reinforcing an outdated image. Today, 70% of Natives live off the reservation, so leaving a rez isn't an issue. They're already well-integrated into society with no major problems. To imply they've done something wrong or are out of control is stereotypical.

To be sure, "off the reservation" is a minor wrong. It's akin to "too many chiefs" or "low man on the totem pole," which are also minor problems. Still, people should think about their choice of words. They should avoid phrases like this one.

For more on the subject, see Commissioner: Indians Should Get Off the Rez.

June 28, 2014

Native military names assuage guilt

A writer lays out the problem with using Native names for killer missiles and aircraft:

The U.S. military’s ongoing slur of Native Americans

By Simon WaxmanIn the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden.

Why do we name our battles and weapons after people we have vanquished? For the same reason the Washington team is the Redskins and my hometown Red Sox go to Cleveland to play the Indians and to Atlanta to play the Braves: because the myth of the worthy native adversary is more palatable than the reality—the conquered tribes of this land were not rivals but victims, cheated and impossibly outgunned.

The destruction of the Indians was asymmetric war, compounded by deviousness in the name of imperialist manifest destiny. White America shot, imprisoned, lied, swindled, preached, bought, built and voted its way to domination. Identifying our powerful weapons and victorious campaigns with those we subjugated serves to lighten the burden of our guilt. It confuses violation with a fair fight.

It is worse than denial; it is propaganda. The message carried by the word Apache emblazoned on one of history’s great fighting machines is that the Americans overcame an opponent so powerful and true that we are proud to adopt its name. They tested our mettle, and we proved stronger, so don’t mess with us. In whatever measure it is tribute to the dead, it is in greater measure a boost to our national sense of superiority. And this message of superiority is shared not just with U.S. citizens but with those of the 14 nations whose governments buy the Apache helicopters we sell. It is shared, too, with those who hear the whir of an Apache overhead or find its guns trained on them. Noam Chomsky has clarified the moral stakes in provocative, instructive terms: “We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes ‘Jew’ and ‘Gypsy.’”
Comment:  The long debate over Osama bin Laden's codename is the perfect example of Waxman's argument. We didn't code-name him "Geronimo" because we were honoring him. We did it because we considered Geronimo a ruthless savage, killer, and terrorist--like Bin Laden.

We're saying the same thing with Apache helicopters, Tomahawk missiles, and the other deadly weapons and aircraft. The're pure lethal force with no saving grace such as intelligence or compassion. They do nothing but kill.

For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

June 27, 2014

Religion on the way out

Religion may not survive the Internet

There's a reason churches are struggling to maintain membership, and it has nothing to do with Neil deGrasse Tyson

By Valerie Tarico
In all of the frenzy, few seem to give any recognition to the player that I see as the primary hero, or, if you prefer, culprit—and I’m not talking about science populizer and atheist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson. Then again, maybe I am talking about Tyson in a sense, because in his various viral guises—as a talk show host and tweeter and as the face on scores of smartass Facebook memes—Tyson is an incarnation of the biggest threat that organized religion has ever faced: the internet.

A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home school their kids from carefully screened text books. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling. Here are five kinds of web content that are like, well, like electrolysis on religion’s hairy toes.
Another article says religion has outlived its usefulness and the Internet is only one force hastening its decline:

The Internet isn’t killing religion—religion is

Instead of asking why people aren’t religiously affiliated anymore, we might ask why they ever were

By Elizabeth Drescher
What is missed, however, in the churning of this internet-killed-religion yarn is, first of all, that changes in complex phenomena—like being human or practicing religion in institutionalized membership-based groups—cannot be reduced to one factor or even a set of factors, no matter how diverse. Because I was a humanities major (I just had that one statistics class. Twice.), I turn to the novelist Margaret Drabble to explain what I’m getting at here:You can’t learn everything from the laboratory, that’s what he used to say. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, he told us. The whole behaves differently from the parts, and has different properties. That’s what he taught us, and he was right. It’s out of fashion to say these days, when we spend our time scrutinizing the interactions of eukaryotic microbes, but it’s true, nevertheless. It’s still true. (The Sea Lady)More significantly, the trouble with efforts that seek some root cause for what we have come to think of as an increasing decline in religious affiliation but which, when considered across a wider historical time span, turns out to be something of a normalization in affiliation patterns, is that it gets the question backwards.

That is, instead of asking why people aren’t religiously affiliated anymore, we might ask why they ever were. This question, which brings with it questions about what constitutes “religion” and “religious affiliation,” opens enquiry into the social and political construction of religious groups and the pressures borne upon ordinary people, often violently, to attend worship rather than, say, sitting in the park with family and friends enjoying the warmth of the sun, the smell of the grass, and perhaps the otherwise unlanguagable sigh of the human heart in certain moments of connection, contentedness, and wonder as a sweet piper’s tune sings into the air. It allows us, following Talal Asad’s critique of William Cantwell Smith’s conception of “faith,” to consider what elements of human experience are deliberately and incidentally left out of whatever it is we might understand as “religion” in its institutionalized forms, and why. Who is served by the various exclusions and inclusions of institutional religion? To what ends? And who is harmed?

What we might consider, then, with much more nuance and complexity than mere data manipulation can possibly tell us, is whether the idea of religion along with the institutional and ideological structures this idea has sponsored, has begun to run its course in Western culture. At the least, we might look at they ways in which other social platforms—coffee shops, cycling groups, drop-in yoga classes, and, yes, online social networking sites—have begun to reconfigure and redistribute benefits traditionally correlated with (but not necessarily caused by) religion and to mitigate its associated harms (even if also accruing harms of its own).
Yet another article addresses the claims in the first two articles:

Christianity’s faith-based freakout: Why atheism makes believers so uncomfortable

Rather than respecting the right of atheists to disbelieve, Christians are constantly forcing them to fake it

By Greta Christina
Religion relies on social consent to perpetuate itself. It’s a bad idea, and can’t stand up on its own. But it can, and does, perpetuate itself through social consent. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that asking questions about religion is sinful, and that trusting religion without evidence is virtuous. It perpetuates itself through dogma saying that joy and meaning and morality can only be found in religion, and that leaving religion will automatically result in a desperate, amoral, pointless life. It perpetuates itself through religious communities and support systems that make believing in religion—or pretending to believe in religion—a necessity to function and indeed survive. It perpetuates itself through parents and other authority figures teaching it to children, whose brains are hard-wired to believe what they’re told.

Religion relies on social consent to perpetuate itself. But the simple act of coming out as an atheist denies it this consent. Even if atheists never debate believers or try to persuade them out of their beliefs; even if all we ever do is say out loud, “Actually, I’m an atheist,” we’re still denying our consent. And that throws a monkey wrench into religion’s engine.

There’s a reason that rates of atheism have been going up as use of the Internet goes up. (According to the MIT Technology Review, the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use—and while correlation certainly doesn’t prove causation, this analysis factors out pretty much every other possible causation.) The Internet has created a massive worldwide forum for atheists to argue about religion, to give evidence against religion, to ask for evidence and arguments supporting religion and point out how ridiculously weak they are. But the Internet has also created a massive, worldwide forum for atheists to simply, you know, exist.

In my research for “Coming Out Atheist,” I read numerous stories of atheists who had stayed religious for years—simply because everyone around them was religious, and they never considered the possibility that someone could be non-religious. But this is becoming less and less common. It’s getting harder and harder to keep atheism a secret. If you’re a teenager in a tiny town in the Bible Belt, you can now find out about atheists. You can talk with atheists. You can argue with atheists. You can learn what atheists think and why they think it. And you can simply learn that atheists exist, and are basically good people who love life and find great meaning in it. And that, just by itself, just by denying consent to your religion, stands a good chance of putting a serious dent in it.
Comment:  These analyses apply to other irrational beliefs such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. These beliefs are also on their way out for similar reasons. The world is slowly becoming more liberal and multicultural, and there's nothing conservatives can do to stop it.

For more on the subject, see Conservative Christians in Panic Mode and Conservative Christian Persecution Fantasies.

June 26, 2014

Kansas City Chiefs next?

Woman behind fight against Washington’s NFL nickname says Chiefs should be on guard

By Sam MellingerFor now, the Chiefs are publicly silent on this. But they know the fight is likely coming, and they hope a few things work in their favor—most notably that it’s tough to compare their nickname with the one in Washington that is a dictionary-defined racial slur. Blackhorse’s group has also protested baseball’s Cleveland Indians, and that team has greatly scaled back its use of the cartoonish Chief Wahoo logo.

The Chiefs have similarly scaled back some of their more obvious plays on Indian stereotypes, and they hope they have some other advantages when the fight comes. The team is named after H. Roe Bartle, the mayor who was key in Kansas City landing the team from Dallas in 1962. Bartle’s nickname was “The Chief.”

The team stopped using a man dressed in traditional headgear as a mascot during pregame festivities many years ago. In the early 1990s, many of the Chiefs’ defensive players posed for a poster that today both looks absolutely ridiculous and would never be recreated.

The team does, however, play the tomahawk chop during games and welcomes fans in headgear and other stereotypes of Native American dress.

Those are some of the parts of the game day experience that Blackhorse calls “insane,” and why she expects a fight that’s gaining momentum and support nationally to come to Kansas City.
Redskins ... Indians ... Will Native Americans target the Chiefs next?

By Sean KeelerThe Chiefs were named, in part, for former Kansas City mayor H. Roe Bartle, who was nicknamed "The Chief" and helped to lure the franchise north from Dallas.

But the team has veered on both sides of the political correctness highway in the 50 years since. "Warpaint," a pinto horse who was a staple of Chiefs games, had been ridden bareback by a man in feather headdress until the tradition was phased out in 1989. When the horse returned to Arrowhead in 2009, it was ridden by a Chiefs cheerleader, and the Native American iconography was toned down.

However, the team still includes a ceremonial drum as part of its pregame ceremony--even inviting celebrities to take turns beating it--while fans have come to home games dressed in American Indian headgear and face paint.

"I know one of the things I think the majority of Native Americans aren't happy with is the guys painting their faces and acting the fool," Learned said. "And people compare that--I hear (our people) compare that to black face. That's a pretty strong argument."
Comment:  The racist fan behavior depicted below is exactly why teams need to change their names.

If teams could use a Native-oriented name with none of the associated stereotyping, the name might be okay. But that's never happened and never will happen. The stereotypical concept makes the stereotypical behavior almost certain.

June 25, 2014

Chief Wahoo faces trademark lawsuit

Native American Group Mounts $9B Lawsuit Against Cleveland Indians

By Dan KedmeyA Native American advocacy group called “People Not Mascots” is seeking $9 billion in damages against Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians.

‘We’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Robert Roche, the group’s leader, told CBS News’ Cleveland affiliate. Roche decided to press the issue after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stripped the Washington Redskins of its trademark last Wednesday, deeming the team name a “racial slur.”

The lawsuit will also target the team’s logo and mascot, Chief Wahoo. “It’s been offensive since day one,” said Roche. “We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”

The campaign to remove Native American caricatures from team names and logos has built up steam in recent weeks, with 50 Senators petitioning National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell to change the name of the Redskins. The Redskins vowed to appeal the USPTO ruling.
Washington Redskins' trademark revocation means Chief Wahoo is on borrowed time--Bill Livingston

By Bill LivingstonIn 1992, the Indians' last season at their Tucson training camp, I visited an Indian reservation near Hi Corbett Field, carrying a team schedule with Wahoo on it to see what they thought of him.

It was not much.

The March 15, 1992 column, written from the Yaqui reservation, is not available online, although it can be found in The Plain Dealer historical archives online.

"Yes, I feel resentment. Very much so," said Anselmo Valencia, the then 70-year-old chief of the tribe. "Do I look like that? Do my people? Some of the older people here, when they first heard of the Cleveland Indians, were very proud. They thought they were all real Indians. When I told them they are almost all white people and black people, they were very offended."

Valencia spoke of the rock singer Ritchie Valens, who was almost certainly part-Yaqui, and of the light heavyweight boxer, Yaqui Lopez. "Our young people do not worship our own heroes," he said. "They see Indians portrayed in a comical way by baseball teams and other sports."

The Cleveland Indians never meant Wahoo to be offensive, of course. But, on Indian land, speaking to a real chief, asking real Indians what they thought of him, I felt deeply embarrassed.

No such stereotype could possibly exist of African-Americans or Hispanic men. They have the votes at the ballot box. That makes Wahoo a case not only of racism, but of bullying.
Comment:  Among Indian team names and mascots, the biggest offenders include Chief Illiniwek, the Fighting Sioux, the Washington Redskins, and Chief Wahoo. That's two down, two to go.

June 24, 2014

FedEx targeted for sponsoring Redskins

Shareholders concerned about FedEx link to Redskins

By Erik BradyA consortium of investment firms filed a shareholder proposal with FedEx in April asking the company to respond to "reputational damage" from the company's association with the Washington NFL club.

The firms, which emphasize responsible investing, went public with their filing Thursday, one day after a federal trademark board canceled the team's six federal trademark registrations on disparagement grounds.

The filing represents a new battleground in the fight over the Washington club's controversial team name—sponsors. FedEx owns the naming rights at the suburban Maryland stadium where the Washington team plays.

Jonas D. Kron, senior vice president, director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, told USA TODAY Sports that the firms have been working on similar proposals since 2009. He said FedEx opposes having the proposal placed on the proxy for its annual meeting in September.
FedEx flagged for 'reputational damage' from sponsoring Redskins stadium (Video)

By Kent HooverThe Oneida tribe was joined in the shareholder filing by Mercy Investment Services, an asset management firm for the Sisters of Mercy, and Calvert Investments, an investment firm based in Bethesda, Maryland.

“There is growing consensus that there is no reason for the team to continue to use a logo with a symbol that is contemptuous and condescending toward Native Americans,” said Sister Valerie Heinonen of Mercy Investment Services.

“FedEx has a responsibility to do more and to respond to the ongoing reputational damage generated by this controversy, reminiscent of Aunt Jemima, black face and other racist uses of African American people and heritage. The issue isn’t going away—nor should it.”

"We strongly encourage FedEx to address and examine its role in perpetuating and supporting such stereotypes,” said Reed Montague, sustainability analyst at Calvert Investment.

“Each time a game is broadcast or the team name mentioned, the company is perceived as supporting disparaging and racist language,” said Jonas D. Kron, senior vice president and director of shareholder advocacy at Trillium Asset Management, which provided assistance for the shareholder proposal.
Most sponsors sit out controversy over Redskins name

By Josh PeterA day after the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled the Washington Redskins' nickname is disparaging to Native Americans, the team's corporate sponsors largely remained on the sidelines.

Only Harris Teeter, a grocery store chain with stores primarily in the South, took a stance—supporting team owner Daniel Snyder and his vow to keep the Redskins' nickname.

FedEx, the company whose name is most closely tied to the Redskins because it owns the stadium's naming rights—the team plays at FedEx Field—distanced themselves from the legal proceedings rather than the team's use of the nickname.

Bank of America, Sprint Nextel and Coca-Cola were among the major sponsors that did not respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY Sports.
A tweet in response to this:

#RacistFedEx, #RacistBofA, #RacistSprint, and #RacistCocaCola all support the #Redskins slur, which denigrates Native people. #ChangetheName


Native Americans Support Consumers Boycotting FedEx Corporation Over Sponsoring Racism in NFLEradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country started a pledge drive on change.org “Pledge to Stop Using FedEx While They Still Quietly Support the Washington ‘Redskins’ Shameful Mascot” for consumers or investors who wish to stop using FedEx products to feel support in their decision to boycott the corporation. Signers pledge to stop buying FedEx products, to the best of their ability, until FedEx drops sponsorship of the Washington NFL team using a cancelled trademark found to be disparaging against Native Americans by the US Patent and Trademark Office, over 200 civil rights organizations, and the majority of Native American Tribal Nations.

Sustainability Analyst at Calvert Investments Reed Montague said:

“As times change, so must our language. Given the historic and present connotations of the name, turning real people into caricatures and mascots or insulting a portion of our population with an offensive name is no longer acceptable in this day and age,” said Montague. “We strongly encourage FedEx to address and examine its role in perpetuating and supporting such stereotypes.”
Activist group targets FedEx over Washington NFL team name

By Erik BradyThe National Congress of American Indians sent a letter to FedEx CEO Frederick W. Smith on Tuesday asking for his help to change the Washington NFL team's name.

The two-page letter, set to arrive Wednesday, comes one week after a federal trademark court ruled "Redskins" is disparaging to American Indians. Smith, who owns part of the team, told CNBC last week that his company does not have a dog in the fight and that he prefers to keep his personal view to himself. A company statement Tuesday said FedEx has a longstanding contractual commitment to naming rights at FedEx Field and that questions about the team name should be directed to the team.

"At FedEx Field, your company is allowing its iconic brand to be used as a platform to promote the R-word—a racist epithet that was screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands," says the letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports. It is signed by NCAI executive director Jacqueline Pata, Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter and United Church of Christ ministers John Deckenback and Graylan Hagler.

The letter notes that a section of FedEx Field is named for George Preston Marshall, the team's original owner, who was last in the NFL to integrate and only under pressure from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Attached to that the letter is a one-page document listing Marshall's racist history.
As someone noted, the NCAI is a pan-tribal governance group, not an "activist" group. As with the US Congress, it isn't "activism" if this congress works for policy change.

The article also offers a reply from FedEx's CEO:"Well, first of all, let me answer that question from the standpoint of FedEx, which sponsors FedEx Field," Smith said. "We have a long-standing contract with Washington Football, Inc. The Redskins play at FedEx Field, but there are many, many other events there—the Rolling Stones, Notre Dame, Army and Navy football, Kenny Chesney. So that's our sponsorship, and we really don't have any dog in this issue from a standpoint of FedEx.A tweet in response to this:

@FedEx "doesn't have a dog" in the #Redskins battle--other than profiting from its support of the racist status quo.

Decision could cost millions

Meanwhile, pundits talk about the reality of a racist brand:

The question is not whether the football team will change its name, but when and how

By Mike WiseBeyond a very symbolic legal victory for this country’s most underrepresented and marginalized ethnic minority—no small win considering its rights have been trampled in the courts and the halls of Congress for centuries—it’s important because it could eventually hit Snyder in the wallet.

After legal appeals are exhausted, this effectively could enable you, me and Robert Griffin III to go into business together on a super store across from FedEx Field, where we would undercut exorbitant NFL prices and make a mint. Worse for the team, patent lawyers say, if sponsors aren’t scared off by the mounting glut of negative publicity against the name, they can get shafted by banks, grocery stores and auto dealerships that aren’t official sponsors of the team yet will be legally allowed to put posters and banners in their windows.

This could take as little as two years and as long as a decade. But sure as training camp starts in July, if Snyder wants to play this out to its ugly end, his bullheaded defiance in the face of growing, sustained opposition eventually is going to cost himself and everyone in the NFL who shares in merchandising profits—including players—millions.

Social pressure has begat economic pressure. Yikes.
Rodney K. Smith: The Washington Redskins must deal with the reality of a racist brand

By Rodney SmithThe battle over public opinion is being lost. Snyder and the owners of the Washington Redskins are increasingly being associated with a racist name they choose, through pride or perhaps principle, to maintain. They will soon be branded as racist.

Snyder should learn from the cautionary tale of Donald Sterling and the NBA. For Sterling, the costs of persisting in a battle of this sort are exceedingly high. Sterling will be viewed in history as a racist. The personal and economic costs are similarly significant for Snyder.

Other owners of the Redskins and their sponsors will soon find themselves backtracking rather than running the risk of being branded as part of a franchise that perpetuates a trademark that is perceived to be racist. As reputational costs mount, negative revenue implications will increase.

The Redskins depend on sponsorships and public support. Revenue from those groups will shrink as they assess the risk of being labeled racist. For example, Fred Smith, a co-owner, and Fed-Ex will be under increasing pressure to terminate their sponsorship, which is a major asset in the Redskin portfolio. Other sponsors and owners will follow.

The NFL is equally concerned with implications for its brand. The NFL and sponsors will pressure Snyder to relent. There are surely clauses in the NFL’s contracts and the contracts of sponsors with the Redskins that will permit them, if necessary, to take steps against Snyder, much as the NBA acted against Donald Sterling.

Myth: Government censored "Redskins"

Conservatives are flat-out lying, as they so often do, when they say the US government censored or banned the "Redskins" name. The truth is closer to the opposite: that the government has removed itself from the "Redskins" case altogether.

The myth of Big Government in the Redskins trademark case This is government inaction, not government action

This is government inaction, not government action

By Matt Bruenig
First, let's clearly describe the Patent Office's actions in this case. The Patent Office did not fine the Redskins. It did not arrest or jail anyone associated with the Redskins. It didn't even tell the team that the name must be changed.

Instead, the Patent Office declared its future intention to literally do nothing. It decided that, because there are racially derogatory slurs involved in this trademark claim, the government is going to sit on its hands and stay out of the matter altogether. In short, the Patent Office has abdicated its role in regulating use of this name, instead opting for a small-government, hands-off, libertarian stance on the question of who can use "Redskins."

Now, anyone may use the word however they'd like, including the Washington Redskins organization. The football team can still do whatever it wants with the word, as always. Nothing changes for them. It's just that now everyone else can do whatever they want with it as well. The team's liberty with respect to the word is unchanged. Everyone else's liberty with respect to the word is expanded.

The problem for the team, of course, is that it makes a lot of money off of the government restricting everyone else from using the word. When the government gives the Redskins organization a monopoly over the use of that word—which is what a trademark is—the team can leverage that monopoly to get other people to pay them money to use it. Vendors who want to use the word to sell shirts and hats know that the government will go after them unless they pay for the team's permission. Vendors are thus forced to strike a deal and pay the Redskins organization to keep the police at bay.

By revoking the trademark, the Patent Office has not intervened in the economy with the heavy hand of big government. Quite the contrary: It has withdrawn itself from the economy in this particular area. Previously, it helped the football team by giving them a monopoly on the word and promising to go after others who violated that monopoly. It won't any longer.
"Devil's advocate" is bedeviled

Here's a soft version of the argument that the trademark has no business playing favorites or deciding what's offensive:

Op-Ed: Devil's advocate — Keeping the Redskins name

By Mike RossiI don’t have a problem with private organizations (like the NCAI) and persons (like John Oliver) petitioning to have the name changed. If the cause carries that much importance in their eyes, they can go right ahead as far as I’m concerned. It’s their time and money.

That being said, I don’t approve of our elected officials in Washington—looking at you Harry Reid—getting involved. Sending letters to the NFL, petitioning the Trademark Office to institute changes and generally working to gather support on Capitol Hill to change the name of a private business—a football team at that—is not the responsibility of politicians.
And:Daniel Snyder owns the football team.

He has the right to name the team whatever he wants: Redskins, Whiteskins or Blackskins, it’s his call.

This is still America. The First Amendment and all of its associated blah, blah, blah, still carries weight in our society.

If that’s what he wants to call the team, so be it.

People may not like the name, but it’s not their business to control, so stop hounding the guy.
The same answers in Conservatives Boo Redskins Trademark Decision apply here. Natives have been battling the nickname for decades. The PTO first decided the case in 1999. Reid's "pressure" had no effect on the patent judges, who ruled against "Redskins" based on the evidence. For the second time.

But since this posting had a Facebook comments section, I helpfully replied:

So you'd be okay with the government's upholding trademarks for N*gger Cola, K*ke Savings and Loan, or C*nt Perfume? Then why not say so explicitly?

Your "Devil's advocacy" is more like a naughty child's advocacy. If you were serious about challenging people on this issue, you'd put it in the headline in bold letters:

I Support N*gger Cola and You Should Too

Let us know how Digital Journal and your readers would respond to that. Because that's what you're advocating, whether you realize it or not: an unlimited right to have racial and sexual hate speech protected by our legal system.

I'm guessing it wouldn't go so well for you. You'd probably be reprimanded or fired--I'm not sure which.

In fact, no critic of the "Redskins" trademark decision has followed his or her "thinking" to its logical conclusion. Here's your chance to be the first. Go ahead and list the racial and sexual slurs you'd support. Until you do, you're a hypocrite on the subject.

June 23, 2014

Conservatives boo Redskins trademark decision

While Natives and liberals cheered the Redskins trademark decision, conservatives denounced it. More to the point, they blamed it on the black man in the White House. They proved once again what I've said many times: that conservatives are racists.

Conservatives: Redskins Ruling Another Day In 'Obama's America'

By Tom KludtThe White House said the decision to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark registrations was made by an independent tribunal, but that hasn't stopped many on the right to link the ruling to the tyrannical arm of Barack Obama they've warned about for years.

A mere hour after the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced the cancellation of six of the team's trademark registrations because "they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," RedState.com editor Erick Erickson already knew who was really behind the decision.

Erickson pinned the blame on "a bunch of overeducated white guys who cry during 'Love Actually'" and "a class of men who pee sitting down"—two effete, easily aggrieved constituencies who apparently have some clout with Obama in charge.

"The lesson here is that guilty feeling white liberals are a threat to freedom and, in Barack Obama’s America, the key to survive is to not appear on the radar of in Washington, D.C," Erickson wrote. "Once Washington’s elite know of your existence and you do not behave like them, they will turn the power of government in your direction."

Conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh also said that Obama's fingerprints are all over the decision. Limbaugh faulted political reporters for failing to acknowledge the President's complicity in the "tyranny."

"This is not the Patent and Trademark Office. This is Barack Obama," Limbaugh said Wednesday. "One of the things in reporting out of Washington that has happened during this administration—this is the Executive Branch. All this stuff is coming out of the Executive Branch. All of this, well, tyranny, it's all coming from the Executive Branch. And Obama owns the Executive Branch. He is the Executive Branch. But yet, it's never reported that way."
Limbaugh gets schooled on mascots:

Rush Limbaugh: Redskins Losing Their Trademark Is Obama’s Fault! (Audio)

By Rika ChristensenLimbaugh is either closed in a more opaque bubble than we originally thought, or he’s willfully ignorant, because outrage over team names and mascots have been going on for a long time.

One has to wonder just how Limbaugh could possibly be unaware of all of that. He thinks the Redskins controversy is new, is one of the first (if not the first) of its kind, and that it’s Obama’s fault.

Something else Limbaugh is apparently unaware of is the fact that this is actually the second time the Patent and Trademark office has cancelled the Redskins’ trademark. The first time was in 1999, but an appeals court overturned that decision in 2003. President Obama said that, if he owned the team, he’d change the name, and 50 members of Congress sent a letter to the NFL asking them to force a name change, but neither of these actions can actually do anything. They just express sentiments.

So this is nothing new, and has nothing to do with Obama, whatever Limbaugh wants to say. He’s clearly not paying any attention; the Patent and Trademark Office’s decision was in response to a case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc. The case itself was symbolic because cancelling a trademark doesn’t force a name and logo change. This wasn’t done on a whim. It wasn’t an order from Obama. It’s not something that happened suddenly, with no warning. But Limbaugh, in his ongoing witch hunt against liberals, will never see that.
As does Erickson for blaming the decision on effeminate men:

Man’s man Erick Erickson—and his sad, terrifying existence

Why is it that alpha male Erickson keeps losing to the emo feminists and men who cry?

By Simon Maloy
I’d like to respond to this, but before I do, I feel I should establish my manly bona fides so that I can’t be dismissed as an effete, womanly pantywaist. I’ve never seen “Love Actually” and I don’t care for Hugh Grant. I played rugby and ice hockey as a younger man, though was forced to give them up after too many shoulder separations and concussions. There’s a lot of Hemingway on my bookshelf and I ate a steak last night. I own a power drill and have more than 100 screwdriver bits. My dog weighs more than 70 pounds. I just did 15 push-ups.


There. With my shallowly defined masculinity established, we can continue.

The first thing to point out is that while Erickson puts the blame on white men, the chief plaintiff in the case against the Washington football team is a Navajo woman, Amanda Blackhorse. She’s been leading the effort to get the team’s name changed for eight years. Other people who recognize the name is offensive and are not snivelly professorial liberal caricatures include: Hall of Fame players, NFL executives, former coaches, former Redskins and John McCain.

But let’s assume that Erickson is right and white liberals whose bathroom habits he’s curiously interested in are an existential threat to his worldview–what does that say about Erick Erickson? I mean, Erickson clearly views himself as a superior manly specimen, constantly belittling those who disagree with him as “beta males.” And yet, the beta males and weenie girly men keep getting the better of him.

Faux News

Meanwhile, on Fox News:

Glenn Beck Suggests Harry Reid Is Brain Damaged For Advocating Washington Redskins Name Change

By EllenOn the same Kelly File show in which Glenn Beck preached the need for America to “come together,” he later repeatedly smeared those who want the Washington Redskins team to change its name. Beck didn’t just argue against the name change, he suggested those who feel differently are anti-American and–in a page from Karl Rove’s Hillary Clinton playbook–suggested Sen. Harry Reid is suffering from brain damage for advocating the change. Beck concluded this display of “unity” by suggesting the team rename itself the Washington Benghazis.

“I feel sorry for Harry Reid and I mean this sincerely.” Beck said–right before suggesting Reid is brain damagned. “Harry is, I’m sure, a nice guy… but I really think that there’s something wrong with him. I think he slipped or something. I don’t understand it.”

There was no pushback from Kelly over such an outrageous and baseless claim.
Like all the other racist conservatives, Beck is apparently unaware that Native activists have led this fight for decades. It literally has nothing to do with Senator Reid or President Obama.

Brian Kilmeade Mocks 'Redskin' Protest While Elisabeth Hasselbeck Giggles

By PriscillaAs the mouthpiece for those who yearn for the good old days when minorities knew their place, it isn't surprising that "political correctness" is an ongoing subject of derision on Fox & Friends which sees "PC" as an infringement on free speech rather than a way to show sensitivity to race and gender issues. The curvy couch cretins actually agreed that things were so much better when people laughed at racial slurs. During the same segment, Brian "all terrorists are Muslims" Kilmeade lamented that women no longer appreciate being called "sweet broads." So it isn't surprising that Kilmeade, in keeping with Fox friend Tucker Carlson who says that the Redskins controversy is silly "PC," doesn't understand what the big deal is. In discussing this issue, on yesterday's Fox & Friends, Kilmeade, once again, demonstrated his cluelessness!

June 22, 2014

Bloody Jackson, Family Guy, and Archie Bunker

A long but must-read column addresses many of the points I've raised here over the years. Check it out.

Commentary: 'Fashionable Bigotry' Creeps into Twin Cities Theatre Scene

By Rob CallahanI went to see "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre, not because I wanted to give the show any ink, or because I thought I'd have anything more to add, but because the controversy surrounding its treatment of Native people was relevant to a topic I've been tracking. In short, this was a show that pitted an emo version of America's seventh president against a bunch of white people playing Indians. They were resplendent in fringed blankets, buckskin and other such Native equivalents to the trappings of blackface. The show also had performers chanting for the death of Indians, and there was a big song and dance number celebrating genocide.

So, yeah. Pretty racist, but the company and their communication team adamantly denied that allegation and the local critics were divided on the issue, so I had to see for myself. Was this all in harmless fun, was it completely racist, or was it what the kids these days refer to as "fashionable bigotry?" That raised even more questions, not the least of which was ...

Can racism be done ironically?

Fashionable bigotry (also called "hipster racism" or "ironic racism") is this strange, newish phenomenon that's been popping up all over the arts and entertainment industry. You've got the Flaming Lips, Macklemore, Fallin, Ullman and Silverman to name a few. Count Tarantino in, too, as he's basically the modern godfather of the stuff. You pretty much see it all over.

Here in the Twin Cities, we like to think our enlightened arts scene is immune to this sort of thing, but it looks like we're wrong. We dealt with Tomahawk Tassels and 'Miss Saigon' last year, there was that one uncomfortable portrayal in "A Very Die Hard Christmas" back in December, and now we've had "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." For all I know, there may be others. This is just the stuff I've seen in my time as an arts writer, so my list may not be comprehensive. I've seen a lot of shows, but I don't see them all and I haven't been in the game that long.

As for what constitutes hipster racism, there are a couple of telltale signs. Sometimes it's just the intentional evocation of racism, but in a way that's supposed to come off as edgy and self-aware. It's a brand of racism that's meant solely to get attention, to get people talking about it and bring them out to see it. In this context, it's the performing arts equivalent of clickbait. The perpetrator probably doesn't actually believe in it, but if we think they do and we can't stop talking about them, then it's served its purpose.

When it gets worse is when it's employed another way, when ironic racism gets conjured up under the premise that genuine racism simply isn't real. The perpetrator believes it's no longer taken seriously, or it's simply obsolete in our modern post-racial society. In essence, the argument is that this can't be real racism, because racism like this doesn't happen anymore. By this reasoning, the perpetrator may excuse the meanest, most offensive racist nonsense imaginable while arguing that it doesn't matter because, obviously, no one's actually offended. By extension, anyone who does claim to be offended must be wrong, or perhaps they just don't get the joke. In essence, if someone's ironic racism offends you, it's because you're not smart enough.

That's one of a few de rigueur responses you'll see trotted out whenever people raise concerns over this type of material. Another is the tried and true tactic of crying wolf (or, in this case, crying censorship,) in which the perpetrator misrepresents his critics, and yet another is one in which the perpetrator misrepresents himself or his work.

It's a kind of deflection technique, arguing that a person can get away with it because someone else did, this one time, a while back in a completely different context. Seth MacFarlane, for example, is known for defending "Family Guy" on the basis that "All in the Family" was offensive, too. To him, the clueless bigotry of Peter Griffin is analogous to the clueless bigotry of Archie Bunker. If one was just fine, so must be the other.

Does the Archie Bunker defense work?

In the case of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," MMT artistic director Steven Meerdink took a page from MacFarlane's book and called the show "kind of a 'Family Guy' viewpoint of history." He constructed a sort of Aunt Sally defense for his interpretation of the character on the merits of someone else's entirely dissimilar character. Meerdink cites Peter Griffin as this rebooted Andrew Jackson's source material, and MacFarlane defaults to Archie Bunker. The inferred argument, that Jackson is based on a perfectly acceptable different bigot who, in turn, is based on another perfectly acceptable even more different bigot, is a bit of a stretch. It only works if you stick to the most superficial similarities.

That's because there's a reason why pop culture historians laud Archie Bunker: He was a pioneering character who turned the popular American sitcom into a mainstream venue for the discussion of some serious, heavy topics. This show wanted its audience to have hard conversations, and it used humor to soften the impact and keep those conversations going. Yes, Archie Bunker was a bigot, but he was also the butt of the joke. He was awful, but his awfulness always had consequences. That was the show's moral. In every way, he was a mirror in which mainstream America could gaze upon its own reflection, comfortably acknowledge the blemishes and hopefully deal with them.
Callahan goes on to address the white privilege behind the play and the "talk-back" session the theater held:Two Hennepin Theatre Trust employees were in the audience. They cut her off two other times, alleging that she was threatening to somehow ban or censor their production, and a group of white men directly behind me displayed exactly zero qualms about interrupting her once more after that. To be clear, she wasn't raising her voice. She wasn't making accusations. I never once heard her so much as allude to bans or censorship. Each time she was interrupted, she was calmly responding to a direct question. (Or trying to, anyway.)

If you've followed the follow up chatter out there, you've seen a lot of talk about the effects of privilege on that talk-back session: the privilege of ignorance of consequences, the privilege to silence your detractors, to cloak that silence under the guise of an open forum, and so on. Regardless of where you fell in the debate, you couldn't deny that privilege fueled it.

That's the thing about privilege. It shows itself in many ways. This time, it just happened to pop up as a group of authoritative white people publicly tag-teaming a lone woman of color, and being so oblivious to the prevailing power dynamic that it never occurred to them that this was a problem, or that the reporter in the room might notice.

How Are We Privileged?

The fact that "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"'s first act couldn't make it five minutes (literally, I timed it) without a racial slur is troubling. That the critics in town can't agree over whether or not the show was racist? That's more than troubling. It's also ignorant and, as much as I hate to say it, cowardly.

Pay attention, fellow critics, because this is what people mean when they call us privileged: We have the privilege of watching ninety uninterrupted minutes of dictionary definition racism, then going back to the public and telling them we didn't see anything wrong. We ought to try and shake that privilege off. Now is as good a time as any to shed the subjectivity and pomp of the values dissonance that muddles our work.
Comment:  For more on white privilege, see Whites Are Blind to Their Privilege and Conservatives Champion White Privilege.

June 21, 2014

Khloe Kardashian in a headdress, again

Khloe Kardashian slammed for posing in feathered American Indian headdress at North West's first birthday partyMany a celebrity has attempted to imitate Native American culture. And unfortunately it rarely ends well... and usually results in a public apology.

But it seems that Khloe Kardashian hasn't learned anything from those who preceded her as she was seen on Saturday posing in a grand Indian Chief feathered headdress.

And although it was all in the name of fun for niece North West's first birthday party--the social media comments made it clear, not everyone could see the funny side of the elaborate costume.

Kidchella was the name given to the festivities and the Kardashian clan along with friends were spoiled rotten with a Coachella-like festival including their very own Ferris wheel and music stage.

Khloe Kardashian Is Getting Heat For This Native American Headdress Photo

Khloe's both scolded and defended in comments

By Althea LegaspiIt looks like Khloe Kardashian didn’t see our “Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Native American Headdress” story, because if she did, she might not be getting heat on Instagram for posting a photo of herself wearing one.

The photo, which she captioned “Ray Of Clouds. Chirping of birds. Gurgling of water. Granted desire. One with water. #kidchella my first Coachella!!!,” has inspired some scolding comments on Instagram.

ei8hty2z wrote, “Appalled & feel so disrespected and I CAN say this because I’m a full blooded Native American! You’re only making yourself look like a fool! Smh……delete your photo. Everything we do and have and live as people has SO MUCH more meaning to it than what it may seem.”

fern_monster had a one-word response to the photo: “Problematic.”

Khloe Kardashian Disrespects Native Culture For North West's B'day PartyKhloe's photo met with criticism from some Instagrammers who found it disrespectful. They were of course slammed by Kardashian fans who feel they should lighten up. It's fair to debate this, but here's something to consider: Khloe's picture has 369,000 likes (and counting); Kylie's has 623,000 likes and counting. Love 'em, hate 'em, or don't care, the fact remains that any little thing the Kardashians do reaches a massive audience. More people consume a Kardashian or Jenner Instagram picture than consume all of the Internet's Native news sources combined. Debate is fair, but hundreds of thousands of Kardashian devotees gleefully shouting down a few Native voices isn't much of a debate.

As celebrities these people have the choice--and one wishes they'd feel some responsibility--not to spread ignorance to followers who will defend them and seek to emulate them. We can't say how many Kardashian fans now think Native Americans meditate in the lotus position, but we'd bet it's more than a few.

Yesterday, Khloe posted the below image to Instagram. Although she did not specifically reference her party costume, it may have been a comment on the controversy--regardless it's a comment on the persecution complex that rich and unthinking celebrities so often feel.

Comment:  None of these articles reported it, but Kardashian family members have stereotyped Indians several times:

Kourtney Kardashian in a headdress
Kardashian's mom hates an "Indian giver"
Khloe Kardashian in a headdress

Clearly the Kardashians and their mother are stupid stereotypers with a racist view of Indians. Indeed, they seem to be proud of their ignorance. So noted.

Obama's #PrezRezVisit

Trending in Indian Country: "PrezRezVisit" Gained National Attention

By Vincent SchillingOn June 13, As President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama made their way to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota and meet with Tribal leaders, ICTMN and Indian country took the #PrezRezVisit hashtag Twitter Ball–and ran with it.

Within hours of first introducing the hashtag on Thursday, via a tweet by this correspondent @VinceSchilling, Thousands and thousands tweeted about the excitement, cautious optimism and speculation about President Obama and the First Lady’s visit.

Shortly before President Obama was to land in North Dakota, the #PrezRezVisit hashtag had gained such steam and recognition, The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip reported on the “cautious hope” Native Americans were expressing.

“[O]nline, Native Americans have been determined to keep the conversation alive. More than 5,000 tweets with the #PrezRezVisit hashtag have been sent out so far, after the trend was started Thursday by Indian Country Today correspondent Vincent Schilling,” Phillips wrote in The Washington Post.

Immediately after posting of the tweet, Indian country and supporters jumped into action on #PrezRezVisit which only gained traction as the time for the President’s and First Lady’s arrival loomed closer. Within hours, the hashtag was trending in such places as Chicago, Philadelphia and Canada.

In addition to attention from The Washington Post, MSNBC’s Ed Show also dedicated a segment to Obama’s visit and the popularity of the #PrezRezVisit Hashtag.
Comment:  Rather than cover this visit in Newspaper Rock, I tweeted and retweeted about it using the #PrezRezVisit hashtag.

The event didn't generate a lot of hard news. Most of the news value was in the announcer's poking fun at the Obamas and their interacting with the Lakota, especially the children. Twitter was a great tool for that.

June 20, 2014

Natives cheer Redskins trademark decision

Indian Country Celebrates Redskins Trademark Revocation; Snyder Resists Name Change

By Rob CapricciosoIndian country could not be happier.

“The U.S. Patent Office has now restated the obvious truth that Native Americans, civil rights leaders, athletes, religious groups, state legislative bodies, members of Congress and the president have all echoed: taxpayer resources cannot be used to help private companies profit off the promotion of dictionary defined racial slurs,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Director Jackie Pata in a joint statement. “If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today’s patent ruling will, if only because it imperils the ability of the team’s billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans.

“On behalf of the Oneida Indian Nation, the Change the Mascot campaign and NCAI, we would like to sincerely thank Suzan Shown Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse for their tireless efforts that helped lead to today’s historic milestone,” Halbritter and Pata added.

“It’s a good day for Indian country as we applaud the USPTO decision that the Redskins name is disparaging for our people, and the name Redskins used by Washington pro-football team must be cancelled,” said Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes. “We appreciate effort of the 50 senators and everyone in America who sees this as wrong as well.”

Hall was referring to a letter recently sent by half of the Senate to Snyder urging him to change the name. President Barack Obama and congressional members from both sides of the aisle have made similar arguments.
Native Americans Celebrate USPTO’s Cancellation of Trademark for Redskins, a Derogatory SlurEradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country celebrate today the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s cancellation of six trademarks for the Washington NFL franchise of the name “Redskins.” We fully support and thank them for recognizing the word as a derogatory slur and “disparaging to Native Americans.” We look forward to the team’s selection of a new mascot and name that unites, instead of divides the American people and proudly represents, in our nation’s capital, the respect we as American people strive to show to all American people of all ethnic backgrounds.

EONM would also like to recognize the work of Suzan Shown Harjo (Muscogee Creek), a long-time activist with the Morningstar Foundation, on this issue since the original filing of the first trademark case she brought against the Washington Redsk*ns in 1992. She persevered after her first successful suit was overturned on a procedural issue, and helped to organize a second suit filed by Amanda Blackhorse. After two decades, the USPTO has sided with the Native plaintiffs again, and we hope that the decision is upheld on appeal.

We would also like to recognize the plaintiffs in the lawsuit both past and present. Thank you for standing up for our people and bringing about the end of a racial slur being used to market a professional, national sports team.

We also call upon Nike, Adidas and other sports apparel manufacturers to stop selling products with the Redsk*ns logo on them and to reconsider their position on sales of other offensive Native mascots like the equally derogatory and grotesque caricature of Chief Wahoo used to market the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team.

We also call upon Fed Ex Field and sports announcers to stop using the name “Redsk*ns Field” for the stadium in light of the USPTO’s ruling.
Tribes rejoice

Saginaw Chippewa Tribe on Washington Redskins trademark ruling: 'A small, but measurable step'

By Andrew DodsonOfficials from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe say a recent ruling that stripped the Washington Redskins of six federal trademarks of the team name is a small, but measurable step in a very long argument.

This week, the Patent Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board wrote in a 2-1 decision that "these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered."

"It's sad that in 2014, the commentary in the United States is dealing with something such as this," said Frank Cloutier, spokesman for the tribe. "It's simply inappropriate, it's racist and it's vulgar.

"I would hope in my lifetime that we see a name change."
Native American Chief blasts “Redskins” name

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief George Tiger says recent ruling isn’t enough

By Brittany Harlow
The chief of the one of the largest tribes in the United States sat down with KRMG Friday morning to discuss his belief that Native American mascots need to be removed from all non-Native American teams.

“I’ve gone out publicly saying that I am for changing the NFL football team’s name,” Chief Tiger said. “And I stand behind that. I feel very adamant about that. I think there’s no difference in what our African American communities consider racial when the “N” word is used.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office made headlines Wednesday when it ruled the Washington's Redskins should be stripped of trademark protection because the name is "disparaging of Native Americans."

Chief Tiger believes he is in agreement with tribal leaders across the country when he says it’s a very racist situation. Particularly troubling, Chief Tiger said, because it involves a national football team making money off of the term.
Non-Natives chime in

The trademark decision encouraged some new calls to change the name:

Redskins Stripped Of Trademarks

Jesse Ventura says it's time to change the name!Jesse Ventura has been vocal about the need to change the Washington Redskins name. Today, it turns out that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agrees. The office stripped the NFL team of six federal trademarks because the name is disparaging to Native Americas.

NFL Hall of Famer and Fox NFL host Terry Bradshaw recently said on Larry King Now that the time has come to change the name. Larry King, who is a friend of Dan Snyder, agreed with Bradshaw:

"I’ve given it some thought, and if it’s offending people, if it’s really offending folks, absolutely. Did you see the article in the paper where the defensive back said, you know, it’s like the n-word?" said Bradshaw. "So Redskins, if it’s offensive, they can be Washington something else. It’s not gonna change a thing."
Howard Stern tells Dan Snyder to ‘have a heart’

By Dan SteinbergIt is now the openest of open seasons on the Redskins. Among those to weigh in Wednesday: Howard Stern.

“Well I’ve got to tell you: I don’t know who the owner of the Redskins is; I don’t follow it that closely,” Stern began, via Jimmy Traina. “But [expletive], this guy has dug his heels into the sand. The guy’s name is Dan Snyder? You know, it’s so foolish. It obviously is an offensive name.

“Why would he be so dead-set against change?” Stern went on. “I mean, the team is still going to be there. Even if it was like the Washington Reds, or something, I don’t know. I mean, what would it mean to him? It’s just like, give these American Indians a break. Their entire history has been obliterated. Their entire ancestry is gone. If it really bothers them that much that there’s a team, the Washington Redskins, [bleeping] change it. Have a heart.”

What's next for Redskins trademark?

7 questions everyone’s asking about the Redskins trademark

By Brian FungHow big a deal is this? What happens next? Can you start printing your own Redskins T-shirts now? Read on for everything you need to know about this long-running intellectual property battle.

Will the Redskins have to change their name?

No. Nothing in the USPTO's ruling forces the Redskins to abandon their name. By revoking the registration, the government has effectively downgraded the strength of Dan Snyder's intellectual property protections. But as we'll get into shortly, the team still enjoys substantial protections in other forms.

What happens next for the Redskins?

Chances are, they'll appeal, though of course the team always could choose not to. And this is where it gets really interesting. There are two ways an appeal could happen. One is for the Redskins to appeal to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The other option is to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Each comes with risks and rewards.
The Redskins just lost some legal protection of their name. Here's what it means

By Joseph StrombergToday's decision is an important victory for Blackhorse and the plaintiffs, but it doesn't guarantee that the team will actually lose the trademark registrations.

For one, the team will almost certainly appeal the decision in federal court. This younger group of plaintiffs is hopeful that their suit won't be subject to the same legal technicalities that doomed the previous one, but it's not certain they'll be successful. In the meantime, the team will keep full protection of its name.

But even if the team loses its appeal, they'll only lose the registrations — not the actual trademarks. A person (or organization) gets a trademark by using it in commerce, and registration is simply an extra step that confers extra protections. "The Lanham Act gives the senior user of a mark the right to prevent others from using a mark that is likely to cause confusion, regardless of whether the mark is registered," says Jeremy Sheff, an intellectual property law professor at St. John's.

This protection falls under the category of common law trademark rights, and it means that even if the Redskins' trademark registrations are cancelled, they'll still be able to go after other people using the marks on merchandise on the grounds that they're confusing customers. They may not, however, be able to collect monetary damages from infringers (as they currently can), and it would be difficult to enforce these rights in response to people making products overseas.
Dueling opinions on whether the trademark decision will stand:

Redskins Ruling Could Stick This Time, Say Trademark Experts

SHAPIRO: Experts say Redskins can win case in U.S. District Court

And more about the economic impact:

Trademark decision puts economic, political pressure on Redskins

June 19, 2014

Redskins react to trademark decision

Bruce Allen claims “we’re fine” after Redskins lose trademark case

By Michael David SmithWashington Redskins President Bruce Allen is claiming that all is well after the team lost its trademark in a ruling handed down today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Asked whether the Redskins can continue to use their name, Allen told Mark Maske of the Washington Post, “We’re fine. We’re fine.”

As a legal matter, Allen is correct: The trademark issue does not compel the Redskins to change their name or logo. It just says they no longer have the right to federal trademark protection on their name and logo.

But as a practical matter, this could turn out to be the tipping point on this issue: If the Redskins lose their appeal of this ruling and therefore lose their trademark for good, anyone can sell cheap “Redskins” gear without paying to license the products. That would mean all those Redskins shirts and hats and other officially licensed gear would no longer need to be officially licensed. It could be sold anywhere, by anyone. And losing the exclusive right to sell Redskins shirts and hats and other gear would be costly.
Redskins Lawyer Claims There Is 'No Momentum' for Name ChangeIt's not about reviewing the facts--it's about selling their version of the facts, a tactic demonstrated in a comment of Raskopf's that surfaced in an AP story titled "Ruling adds momentum for Redskins name change":

"There's no momentum in the place that momentum matters," Raskopf said. "And that's in Native America."

No momentum?

This is an attempt to sell two false narratives. One is that American Indians don't care about the issue. And the other, implied, false narrative is that the opinions of American Indians matter, at all, to the Redskins organization. ("We would change something, but we've looked around and nobody seems to be upset. Just kidding, we didn't really look. And also just kidding, we wouldn't change anything anyway.")

Really... no momentum?

Evidently he's not getting his news from this website, where we've reported that "67 Percent of Native Americans Say Redskins Is Offensive". Raskopf may also have missed the story about the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation buying a TV ad during the NBA Finals. He may have missed the National Congress of the American Indians' statements (there have been a few) condemning the name, as well as the activism of Native American Olympian Billy Mills (both Mills and NCAI Chairman Brian Cladoosby praised yesterday's ruling.) He may have missed ICTMN columnist Gyasi Ross--who not long ago professed not to care about the issue--joining Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter on ESPN's Outside the Lines.
Crying fans, cowardly players

Meanwhile, Redskins fanatics offered no new facts or evidence to justify their mascot love. All they had was more juvenile bluster and name-calling:

Some Washington Football Team Fans Are Pretty Upset About The Trademark Ruling

As I tweeted to them:

You lost, @Redskins crybabies. Get over it. Suck it up like you expect Indians to do. Quit whining about your feelings and #ChangetheName.

RG3: Now’s not the time for me to speak on Redskins name

A few days later, the team's biggest star bravely refused to take a stand:

By Michael David SmithSports stars rarely wade into divisive issues, and so it’s no surprise that Robert Griffin III wants to steer clear of the controversy surrounding his team’s name.

Griffin said on 106.7 The Fan that he’d rather not talk about his own feelings about the Redskins name controversy.

“When it comes to those conversations, it’s just not the time,” Griffin said. “And I understand, trust me, I’m African American, I’ve grown up being African American my entire life and I understand oppression and all the things that come with it. But for us, like I said, as players, we have to focus on what we can control right now, and right now that’s the football season.”

That’s not a surprising answer. Athletes usually calculate that if they speak out, they’re more likely to lose fans, lose endorsements and distract from their primary jobs than to effect social change.
Griffin didn't say anything during the last off-season. When exactly will it be "time" to speak? When people with more integrity decide the issue for him?

Or as I tweeted:

"RG3: Now's not the time for me to speak on #Redskins name." Translation: I'm a moral coward who puts paydays first.

June 18, 2014

Why Redskins lost trademark decision

Board rules for dictionary over Redskins’ feeble attempts to defend team name

By Robert McCartneyBy a 2 to 1 ruling, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board provided a thoughtful, detailed, authoritative repudiation of all the main arguments that Snyder and the NFL have used to defend the name.

It did so after hearing the NFL’s high-priced lawyers make their best case in a public hearing. It studied the issue for 15 months. It wrote a 99-page opinion (plus 78 pages of appendixes) carefully weighing the pros and cons.

After “due caution” and “a most careful study of all the facts,” as required by law, the panel delivered a resounding rebuff.

Snyder: We don’t mean to insult American Indians. Our intent is to honor them.

Judges: Your “alleged honorable intent” is irrelevant. What matters is what Native Americans think about the word.

Snyder: The word has a separate and independent meaning, which isn’t offensive, when it’s used to describe the football team.

Judges: “There is no case in our review where a term found to be a racial slur in general was found not to be disparaging when used in the context of specific services.”
7 Things That Convinced The U.S. Patent Office To Cancel The Redskins Trademark

By Judd LegumThe landmark decision by the U.S. Patent Office, first reported by ThinkProgress, canceled the trademark “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise. Ultimately, the decision hinged on whether the term Redskins “disparages Native American persons.” The law prohibits trademarks on disparaging terms. So the Native Americans challenging the trademark needed to convince the office: 1. The term was still referring to Native Americans, and 2. It was disparaging toward Native Americans. Here are seven things that persuaded the Patent Office:

1. This picture of cheerleaders
2. This picture of the marching band
3. This press guide
4. Its similarity to other racial slurs
5. The dictionary definition of Redskins
6. The opposition by the National Congress of American Indians
7. Letters of protest from Native Americans
60 Years Of Shocking Redskins Headlines

A sampling of violent wordplay.

A typical example from the NY Times, 1955:

These headlines don't prove that people considered "Redskins" a slur. But they do show the stereotype-filled environment in which the Washington team operated. There's a strong implication that people thought "redskins" were violent savages who went on the warpath and scalped people.

No one uses "Redskin"

A broader, less legalistic view of why the Redskins lost:

Washington Redskins apologists are on every wrong side of history–and a slur

It's not a matter of whether the Washington football team's name will get changed, but when. Fans need to stop making excuses

By Dave Rappoccio
It's not a matter of whether the Washington football team's name will get changed, but when.

Because language, it turns out, is not immutable. Society changes, people mature, and what a word might mean today changes tomorrow. Whatever it might have once meant–and there are plenty of good arguments that it was never any sort of honor–"Redskins" is now a slur, regardless of interpretations back in the '30s, which wasn't exactly the most racially accepting period in American history.

Think about it: who uses the term "Redskins" to refer to anything or anyone but the football team? Do you hang out with people who walk around talking about the "Redskin reservations" or "Redskin casinos"? No one uses this term in conversation casually about anything other than the Washington football team, because it’s viewed as racist to many people. So why is it okay to make it the name of a major sports team?

All those in favor of the word only see the name as that of a football team. In that tunnel vision, the word is fine. But the word has real meaning outside of football. Hurtful meaning. Most people, they aren't thinking about the bad connotations. They are only thinking football, so to many loyal fans, this is tradition that deserves to be preserved. But context matters. And the context here, whether you like it or not, is that this word is offensive.

Patent Office cancels Redskins trademarks

In Landmark Decision, U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark For Redskins Football Team

By Travis WaldronThe United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language.

The U.S. PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a ruling in the case, brought against the team by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, Wednesday morning.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion, which is here. A brief explanation of how the Board reached its decision is here.

“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence—including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups—to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”

“I am extremely happy that the [Board] ruled in our favor,” Blackhorse said in a statement. “It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans. We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since. I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed. The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again—if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?”
Redskins stripped of trademarks

By Jonathan Topaz and Lucy McCalmontThe trademark attorney for the Redskins, Bob Raskopf, downplayed the ruling and vowed the team will win an ensuing appeal.

“We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo,” he said in a statement, citing rulings in 1999 and 2003. “We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s divided ruling will be overturned on appeal.”

Reid lauded the trademark decision on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying it reinforces the push for the Redskins to change the name.

Reid called the name a “sad reminder” of the bigotry Native Americans have faced and said the issue “is extremely important to Native Americans all across the country.”

“Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it’s just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing and change the name,” he said.

“The writing is on the wall,” Reid added. “It’s on the wall in giant, blinking, neon lights.”
Is This the Beginning of the End of the Redskins’ Team Name?

By Neil Irwin[I]t’s hard to view the new ruling as anything other than the beginning of the end of the name. It has now been assailed not just by Native American groups but by the president of the United States and half the Senate, which ultimately controls the various tax and legal advantages the N.F.L. enjoys. Players in football and many other sports are now routinely asked their view of the name, and their evident discomfort with it is rising.

Mr. Snyder has been either resolute or stubborn, depending on your view. (“We will never change the name,” he told USA Today last year. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”)

But what’s interesting about the new trademark ruling is how it undermines Mr. Snyder’s stated case for not making a change. He and his newly hired lobbyists and public relations gurus have tried to argue that “Redskins” is meant to honor and celebrate Native Americans, not belittle them.

Whatever Mr. Snyder and his allies believe now, the legal question is whether the trademark disparaged Native Americans when the first trademark at issue, from 1967, was granted. It doesn’t matter, for trademark law purposes, how much Mr. Snyder says the name celebrates Native Americans now, or how much money he gives to tribes.
Big Win for Indian Country: Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademark