In My Opinion

Let’s hear it for the Washington Slurs

 
Kurt Strazdins / MCT

lpitts@MiamiHerald.com

Twenty-four dollars.

That, supposedly, was the price Gov. Peter Minuit paid American Indians for the island of Manhattan in 1625. It’s a tale historians find suspect.

In the first place, whatever Minuit paid was in goods valued at 60 17th-century Dutch guilders; the calculation that this equaled 24 U.S. dollars was made two centuries later — on what basis, evidently, no one can say.

In the second place, the Indians with whom he traded had no understanding of the European idea that land could be sold, no conception of it as a thing one could own.

But whatever the details of the transaction, the moral of the story has remained beacon clear for four centuries: The Indians got taken.

It was hardly the last time they would be snookered in their dealings with the newcomers from across the water.

So it is gratifying to watch the response of at least some Native Americans as the professional football team that plays for the city of Washington unveils a new bit of flimflam in response to ever-growing demands that it find something else to call itself. You likely know the team’s official name, but if not, you won’t read it here.

Call them the Washington Racial Slurs, a name fully descriptive of the anti-Indian insult under which they play.

The Oneida Indian Nation has been pushing the Slurs to change their name.

A number of sports reporters and media outlets have vowed to refrain from using the ugly word and even conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently came out against it.

Slurs owner Dan Snyder has tried several stratagems to blunt this campaign.

He has tried bluster (“We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”).

He has tried the appearance of reason (“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name.”)

Last month, he tried money.

Apparently having just discovered the appalling conditions — high rates of poverty, sickness, suicide — in which too many American Indians live, Snyder created something called the Original Americans Foundation “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.”

The response from at least two American Indian groups has been unambiguous: Thanks, but no thanks.

The National Indian Gaming Association and the Notah Begay III Foundation both pulled out of a charity golf tournament last weekend that was to provide scholarships for Native American students, after learning OAF was the title sponsor of the event.

“I find it underhanded and despicable that the Washington football team would co-opt this event,” Crystal Echo Hawk, the executive director of Notah Begay, told USA Today.

Ouch. Washington is not usually embarrassed that badly till after the season starts.

Perhaps Snyder’s refusal is rooted in pure sentiment — as a child, he was a Slurs fan — perhaps in business concerns, perhaps in both.

Either way he misses the point by a wide margin if he truly believes his glorified publicity stunt will fix — or even address — the problem. It won’t. It can’t.

Native Americans were not just cheated. They were removed and they were killed down to a tattered remnant shoved off to the margins of American life.

So what Snyder seeks to buy is not just the right to use an execrable name in peace but also the self respect of a people already long brutalized.

And while scholarships are important, it is also important to be able to look at oneself in a mirror.

Nearly 400 years ago, Peter Minuit took Manhattan from people who had no concept of land as a thing that could be bought or sold.

Turns out some of them feel that way about dignity, too.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
SHARPLESS

    DETAINED IMMIGRANTS

    Dade, Broward lead the way

    Miami-Dade and Broward county jails have stopped detaining immigrants for the federal government at taxpayers’ expense. Florida’s other jails and prisons should do the same.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">GANG WARFARE</span>: The end of a truce between street gangs in El Salvador has led to a steep rise in homicides this year, adding impetus to the migration of youths and children to the United States.

    MIGRANT CRISIS

    The real failure in Central America

    The failure to manage the crisis of Central American child refugees at the Mexican border is not only about the inability to enact a comprehensive immigration policy reform. The real problem is the failure to build transparent and competent criminal justice institutions in Central America, especially after millions of American dollars have been provided to reform and strengthen security institutions there.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">EXULTING:</span> Vladimir Putin is still refusing to accept complicity in the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner as Western leaders fail to agree on sanctions.

    WESTERN LEADERS

    Historians will recall our leaders’ inaction

    When historians look back on 2014, they will note not just how flagrantly Vladimir Putin disregarded international law or how stubbornly Gaza and Israel kept firing missiles at each other. They will also be puzzled at how poorly the United States handled its economy.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category