Despite consistently negative media attention on the topic (and negative reaction to that negative media attention), apparently two-thirds of Americans still believe that the name “Washington Redskins” isn’t disrespectful toward Native Americans. This stance, most fervently defended by people who own warehouses full of “Washington Redskins” T-shirts, comes under fire in the season 18 premiere of South Park.
There’s a couple things I love about this. One, the dismay over the Myrrhkin people’s refusal (for once) to be swayed by news coverage like the good, docile little automatons we’d like them to be, at least when it’s convenient for our purposes, and two, the fact that, confronted by the resounding failure of enlightened progressives to make an impression on society’s collective consciousness about this issue, the entirely predictable reaction is to sneer about society’s collective intelligence and character, or the lack thereof, to be more precise. Maybe a little less time circle-jerking with the other A.V. Clubbers over which song you hate this week and a little more time spent trying to patiently convince people who don’t already agree with you might tip the balance more in your favor, champ. I know, I know, that just might entail having to go talk to people who actually listen to Nickelback unironically, people who watch network comedies instead of gritty HBO series, or people who still go to brick-and-mortar stores to buy CDs like animals or something, but nobody said it would be easy. Or maybe being Correct On The Internet is all the consolation prize you need.
As for this tempestuous teacup itself, I happened to be talking about it with Arthur via email a couple weeks ago, so I’ll just reprise that here:
You know, I of course have no problem with the idea that society may have evolved to a point where blunt references to people’s skin or race just become too distasteful for use as sports mascots. But to be frank, I don’t give a noisy wet shit about the hand-wringing self-regard of middle-class white progressives, and you can’t help but notice that what this is really about is the ability of said progressives to enjoy their Sunday entertainment without a guilty conscience (at least until they start to feel more guilty about subsidizing an industry in which young men with few other career prospects enter their mid-thirties with crippling injuries and brains resembling tenderized meat). I feel it’s safe to say that none of them are sparing much of a thought, let alone a lifted finger, for actual, living American Indians, some of whose lives on reservations more closely resemble life in sub-Saharan Africa than the Yoo Ess of Ay. They get terribly exercised about an abstract symbol, though, one that tarnishes their enjoyment with an allusion to bigotry. What matters most to them is sanitizing an aspect of their lives as opposed to bettering someone else’s, allowing them to pride themselves on their personal distance from any unclean thoughts or words. Of course, I don’t insist that anyone is obligated by some divine calling to devote their time and energy to charity work or activism, but I can’t stand the sanctimony of people who act like these superficial crusades are morally significant.