Back in George Norwell High School, the various sports teams were all called ‘the Redmen’. Look, I’m not saying the coaches and players and fans were a pack of racists. I know perfectly well they weren’t a pack of racists. I’m not saying that the people who, at whatever point in the past, chose the …
" /> Jason Holborn | Cybercarnet/Weblog - George Norwell's The REDMEN, and Identity

George Norwell’s The REDMEN, and Identity

Back in George Norwell High School, the various sports teams were all called ‘the Redmen’.

Look, I’m not saying the coaches and players and fans were a pack of racists. I know perfectly well they weren’t a pack of racists.

I’m not saying that the people who, at whatever point in the past, chose the name ‘the Redmen’ were vile racists. I’m sure they very much admired aboriginal culture(s) in some form, and felt sincerely that they were honoring a noble and able people in emblazoning ‘the Redmen’ (plus an accompanying Indian Profile) over the rear shoulders of athletes.

I am saying that it’s 2015 and I just saw on-line that the teams are STILL called the Redmen.

In high school, there was once a movement to change the name of the sports teams.

Interestingly, what was a complete and total no-brainer grew, inevitably, into a ‘debate’, and the nature of the ‘debate’ was whether to stick to the past because it was tradition, or enter into a new future.

I know, you’ve never seen that form of debate before. George Norwell was in a very original town.

Bryan Woods – who had never played a sport or donned a uniform – spoke for the Redmen, with frustration in his throat: “Is it not a name intended to honor indigenous persons?”

I agree: at the time, there may well indeed have originally been an absolute, real aim of honoring intended in selecting the name.

Did it work? Did that intention play out, as hoped? Do other teams look upon the name and accompanying logo and think it honors human beings? Would you stand up in a parliament or council and congratulate someone on being the first redman Mayor or Prime Minister? Would you feel you were honoring Shania Twain or Johnny Depp in publicly heralding their redman heritage? (Also, can we name a single notable redman besides Shania Twain and Johnny Depp (or Elizabeth Warren)?)

George Norwell is situated in a zone of agriculture and tertiary business. The accountants and lawyers and truck stops and grocery marts pretty much all cater to farmers. I have never in my life once heard of any kind of past aboriginal settlement or civilization in the area. There are metric zero names of towns or rivers or even of streets which bear any kind of aboriginal name. Wouldn’t the George Norwell Canola or the George Norwell Fall Harvest or the George Norwell Plowshares or the George Norwell Scythes be more fitting, and also bear the virtue of originality?

Okay, you don’t like those ideas — no one wants to sound like a bunch of hick hayseed farmers.

I get it. It’s only the noblest profession on the planet, and the oldest as well, and you think, somehow, that “Redmen” sounds less “hick hayseed” than “Planters” or “Reapers”. Okay, I’m listening! (By the way, the “The Redmen” team name is definitely *not* going to give that impression!)

Wouldn’t the George Norwell Iroquois Federation be better? Wouldn’t the George Norwell Riel be more interesting and even more controversial (if geographically off-target)? Wouldn’t the George Norwell Mahkêsîskâw or Ôcênâs or Okistikaniw be more fun? Those mean, respectively, the George Norwell Many Foxes (There are many foxes) or Town/Village or He Has A Wheat Field. And they’re all gleaned from just a very quick scan thru a free-online Cree dictionary — I didn’t even look up “town” or “wheat field”, these were just sitting there waiting to be scanned over. A $50 consultation could net us a precise grammar and meaning, which I’m sure I missed (i.e., the George Norwell “There are many foxes” may not strike people as right, although I insist that “Mahkêsîskâw” is a far better name than “Redmen”. Duh.)

“Washington Redskins,” say people, referencing the most controversially named NFL franchise in the world today. Do people even realize how many professional sports writers and commentators won’t even touch that name, and instead substitute a simple, “the Washington team”?

Yes, the capital city of America, history’s most color-blind and equal institution ever, calls its team the Redskins. (Surprise!)

And people think that’s justification for calling their team the Redmen.

Okay! If that’s what you want to identify with.

But so what?

The team names aren’t the point for me today.

Would changing the sports teams names in an out-of-the-way conglomeration of towns you’ve never heard of make the world kinder and gentler? The only aboriginal I ever knew who ever lived there moved away.

Would changing the Washington Redskins into the Washington Sparrows make the world a better place?

It would change the surface decoration, and nothing more. Surface decor is meaningless. Beneath the 60’s decor and the 80’s decor, it’s all the exact same USS Enterprise.

What interests most is the *ATTACHMENT* we have to these names.

Think of Bryan Woods, he who has never donned a sports jersey and never, ever would, with frustration mounting in his throat, defending the “Redmen” name.

Honestly, who cares??

Why is it such a big deal that the Redskins remain named the Redskins?

I enjoy Starbucks.

If they changed their name tomorrow to Tom’s Coffee, would that bother anyone? It wouldn’t me.

Sure, people would post their disappointment online. Post old photos of them with friends, photos which feature a now-gone old-time ‘Starbucks’ sign in the background. Then they’d pick up a Tom’s frappucino.

End of story.

If the Toronto Blue Jays or the Baltimore Orioles announced tomorrow that they were going to change their names to the Toronto Trees Standing In Water and the Baltimore Mahkêsîskâw, would people flood talk radio and the internet and coffee shops with indignation? Some, yes, certainly.

Would it be as big of a flipping deal as the Redskins or the Redmen changing their name?

I don’t believe it would be.

In the South, it was common and normal, from the 1700’s right up to the 1970’s to see people defend slavery, or, at minimum, Jim Crow laws. Heck, you can still find the same sight today, even, if you look enough. People went bananas over defending slavery. I’ve remarked before on the incredible sight of white sheriffs going haywire over a peaceful protest harming no one.

What is going on here?

Call me an amateur armchair psych-osopher, but I believe they KNOW what’s happening is wrong, BUT – it’s a part of their identity, and they KNOW that you and everyone else KNOWS that this essential component of their identity is FLAT-OUT WRONG. They must claim and demonstrate that it’s RIGHT, to at least display to all that they’re really deep-down not bad. “We honestly THINK this is right!” Translation: we view them as misguided and convicted and naive, but not evil.

(Ironically, however, we mainly see them as “evil”.)

No one ever thought slavery was okay. That’s why they hated the slaves so much — their very existence reminded their owners just how wrong and messed up it all was.

That’s why Thomas Jefferson hated the Negro so much: “Damn it all, tarnation! If you people had just escaped all our cursed ancestors from owning you in the first place, I wouldn’t be stuck in this horrible position I’m not human or humane or big enough to step free from! This is all YOUR fault!”

That’s why that Sheriff hated them Negroes so profoundly: “If you all had just sailed back to Africka or rowed out to Haity, everyone’d be out of this stupid situation now — and these goddamned CAMERAS wouldn’t be filming me right now as I TOTALLY lose my senses and go crazy on your hide!!!!!”

If we want America/white America to declare loudly that the whole system was wrong from the very beginning, all we need to do is remove every single black or partly black person from the whole entire area. Beam them all up to the Enterprise, and – Presto! Everyone would agree, “Yeah, those were dark days, the Past. We really were wrong back then, wow, huh?”

The attachment to brand ideas is narcissism, I’ve learned/ ________________________________ become convinced.

I’m already always saying, “There’s no difference between Coke/Pepsi, DC/Marvel, left/right, Lord of the Rings/Star Wars, dogs/cats. It’s crazy to think or imagine that there’s any difference between what is obviously, clearly the same. All secret spandex identities in spandex fighting laser beams are the same. The idea that a domesticated mammal tamed from nature as a (farming) tool who is now a mere object of attention and affection is any different from another domesticated mammal tamed from nature as a (farming) tool who is now a mere object of attention and affection is crazy, a hallucination. We’re lucky that They aren’t building as many mental hospitals as They are prisons, or we’d all be locked away, ranting and raving that you just don’t SEE the difference in salt/sugar levels in the salted sugared beverages called Coke/Pepsi. You know why? Because that’s mentally insane.

I used to go BANANAS with frustration when people would go on and on about, “how dogs are better,” or, “I’m more of a cat person”. Hey, I like pets, too! What people go on and on about is meaningless.

It doesn’t bother me half as much anymore, thanks to The Last Psychiatrist’s essays on defining narcissism: filling up a blank personality with external factors. That tiny bit of exposure to education & experience has helped me cope with people’s hogwash. I’m cooler now.

When you tell a cat person that cats and dogs are both nice, they go crazy. Same as telling a “DC Comics person” that you really love Spider-Man and Black Panther and Professor X.

I think that when you tell a Redskins or Redmen person that you’d prefer Mahkêsîskâw or Sparrows or Phantoms, they go crazy — but there’s a moral element to it all that prompts an even bigger reaction.

Instead of a miffed sense of, “But cats are awesome!,” or a slighted sense of, “But DC Comics is the original!”, you’re now in a moral territory, i.e., “I play on the Redmen, I know people on the Redmen, I used to be a Redman/I’ve always been a Redskins fan, my grandfather and dad are both Redskins fans, we have Redskins COFFEE MUGS for Jesus’s sake!!! And now you’re calling me a racist!”

The important part is next: “I would never IN A MILLION YEARS kill or steal from a native Indian person and I wish the world was a better place and I’m sorry that history happened like this!, but I just like the fucking SPORT, okay?!, and I wanna enjoy it, and if you make us change the fucking name, then that means I WAS CHEERING FOR A RACIST TEAM!!!!, and I’m NOT A FREAKING RACIST!!!,” and I think that that’s mainly overall true. They don’t feel that they are a racist (unlike the above example of Thomas Jefferson, who if I’m not mistaken is still actually alive, and heading up the KKK) and now, just because they enjoy this particular sports team in their local vicinity, we’re now going to unload centuries of horrible behavior onto them.

I hear that and sympathize with it.

Bryan Woods doesn’t want to be branded a racist (and he isn’t) just because he’s buds with a few Redmen players and roots for them.

I get that.

I’m not saying it’s racist to have called these teams these “red names” in the past.

I am saying that looking towards the future, not changing them may make us look like we may have been a little bit racist.

Hint: if you don’t want people to look on your children like a bunch of redneck rural hayseeds, stop sending them out in jerseys that say REDMEN. What is this, rocket science?

(P.S. They spend more energy on football and hockey at George Norwell, just like at your school, than they do talking about rocket science. I’m just saying.)

Honestly, you think this year’s Grade 8 class is going to care if they have to suit up in a PLANTERS uniform next fall instead? Hint: they won’t.

George Norwell denizens and school board, tear down this name.