May 21, 2015

"Redskins" bad but helicopters okay?

On Facebook I shared a posting about the Washington Redskins and the US military. Although no longer available, it said something like:

Why do Natives protest the Redskins name rather than the US military for naming items--Tomahawk missiles; Apache, Lakota, and Blackhawk helicopters; codename Geronimo--after them?

This led to a discussion of the subject:The military industrial complex is run by the same people that support the foul R-word, the same people that exploit others for their own wealth generation!

This is Apple/Oranges. The r-word is racist and it invokes racist behaviour.

Hold it, everyone. Here’s a white guy who offers an explanation about why we should feel honored by these names for military equipment. *Phew.* I feel much better after having him whitesplain it to me.

Everyone Relax—The Army’s Native American Helicopter Names Are Not Racist
Let the debate begin

Curiously, someone else posted the same article but put a different spin on it:You know a Native career soldier I know wrote this and posted this (not my position as I'm not a pro military type but wanted to share a perspective):

"No where is there a finer example of honoring a legacy than the moniker attached to the US Army's rotary wing fleet. Not only does the Army ask if the names can be used but they respectively utilize the proper names. They do not use slang or stereotypes. The first time I laid eyes on these aircraft I was instilled with pride and a sense of belonging. I thought to myself 'These guys get it. They respect me and my people's contribution to this enterprise.' I am honored by the lineage of these nomenclatures and honored to have been a small part of this warrior tradition. The US Army has had an intimate experience (for better or worse) with the history of my people and it is my pleasure to reciprocate the gesture. Sappers forward!"
My response: "Warrior tradition" = one-dimensional stereotype.

I "like" how this article basically confirms my point. Namely, that helicopters were named for a one-dimensional view of Natives:According to Bob Mitchell, the museum curator, Howze “envisioned the helicopter as a fast, mobile, stealthy machine on the field of battle using terrain and vegetation to an advantage similar to the Warrior Tribes.”"Warrior tribes" is redundant here since the Army seems to think all Indians are warriors.

Yet the same person continued to challenge me:It is undoubtedly something that is very important in Indian Country as they bring it up quite a lot. Hard for me to grasp due to oppressive nature of use of US Military abroad but it is what it is. 3 times the average rate of service.Yes, and many Indians take pride in being called "Redskins," too. That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Many Indians also challenge the one-dimensional warrior image and call for a fuller understanding of Native cultures. I'm with them.Yes the R word is an offensive term whereas using tribal names is not. Also they choose to use correct names like Lakota for example not Sioux.

I am not saying I agree or disagree with any of this but know the thoughts of many folks in Indian Country over this and sharing that perspective.
Okay. I'm saying I disagree with it because it's stereotypical. I also disagree with the stereotypical choices made by filmmakers such as Johnny Depp and Adam Sandler.

Only names of tribes?The image you shared for one shows proper names from Indian Country being held in an equivalent manner to a racist term which is obviously not really comparable. Yes there is another debate good or bad to have about the context of the use of the other names. But if a helicopter was called Nigeria would that be as offensive as the N word?"Tomahawk" is a stereotypical weapon. "Blackhawk" and "Geronimo" are personal names. So this posting isn't just about using the names of tribes.

I think we can all agree that "Redskins" is the worst offense in this category, although I'd say calling a terrorist "Geronimo" is comparable. So? We can and do address lesser offenses all the time here.

If you really want to honor the widespread tendency of Natives to serve in the military, let's name helicopters after the Hopi, Creek, Tlingit, San Manuel, and Penobscot tribes. Why not, since their members have served at the same rates as every other tribe's?

Oh, but those tribes aren't known as fierce, deadly warriors. They aren't stereotypical enough. We want our hardware named only for ruthless killer Indians. Because we want to be as savage as they were.

In short, if this nomenclature is some sort of pan-Indian tribute, choose from the names of the 566 recognized tribes at random. By choosing only the tribes known for their savagery, the military is proving my point.Tomahawk is a form of battle axe and indeed there is another missile type called the Battleaxe missile. I would never imagine Kiowa and Blackhawk as being stereotypically savage and the others historically embodied strength. Apart from anything they are great sounding names. But yes as I said a lot of room for debate over the use of these names but the comparison in the image you shared to me seems rather manipulative.The Plains tribes in general, including the Kiowa, represent the stereotypical savage to most Americans.

The Comanche and Iroquois helicopters further demonstrate that the Army is honoring tribes known for aggression or violence, not just "strength" or "courage."

Strength, in particular, has nothing to do with fighting ability. Buddha, Jesus, and Martin Luther King were strong. Mothers who raise children in the face of adversity are strong. Let's name helicopters after them if we want to honor strength.

Other views

A few others chimed in:Gag. These are the same excuses used to justify the usage of Indians, and Redskins. Not okay for cars or helicopters or missiles or team names. #PeopleNotMascots

I completely agree, let them name some other people helicopters, missiles...etc.
We are not decals, toys and icons.
We are people and it is about time we are treated as such!
For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

Below:  Six copters named after tribes and one named after a snake.

No comments: