It’s Columbus Day, a perfect day to consider changing the name of the Washington Redskins.
During halftime of last night’s Washington Redskins – Dallas Cowboys football game, NBC Sports Commentator Bob Costas, one of the most respected sports commentators in America, gave his take on the growing controversy over the “Washington Redskins” team name.
Costas started off by discussing the differences between the term “Redskins” and other typically Native American-inspired terms like “Warriors” or “Chiefs.”
He said that, “Objections to names like “Braves,” “Chiefs,” “Warriors,” and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean.”
Costas went on to say, “But think for a moment about the term “Redskins,” and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.”
Costas comments came just days after President Obama weighed in on the issue in an interview with the AP.
President Obama told the AP that, “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”
He also said that he would “think about changing” the name, considering that it offends “a sizable group of people.”
The fact is Native Americans have never once referred to themselves as “Redskins.”
That derogatory and racist term dates back to the early years of the discovery of the Americas.
In 1492, Columbus was on a manic hunt for gold when he set sail, and eventually landed on an island known as Hispaniola, which today is the home of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
While Columbus didn’t find much gold on Hispaniola, he did find something as good as it: people.
And, it was these indigenous people or “redskins” that Columbus thought would make great slaves.
When Columbus discovered the Taino indigenous peoples of Hispaniola, he wrote to the Spanish monarchs about them, saying that, “They are well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. Here there are so many of these slaves…although they are living things they are as good as gold…”
Columbus’ real actions in the Americas have been replaced over time by a warm-and-fuzzy story of a bold explorer who set out to change the planet.
In reality though, as we learned from writings of Christopher Columbus’ own men, the “bold explorer” raped, pillaged, enslaved, and slaughtered people just to get rich.
One of Columbus’ crewmen, Miguel Cuneo, described the scene when Columbus arrived in Hispaniola for a second time, and thousands of Tainos, or what were referred to as Indians, came out to greet his ships.
Cuneo wrote, “When our caravels…were to leave for Spain, we gathered…one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians…For those who remained, we let it be known [to the Spaniards] in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done.”
Cuneo went on to write that he took his own sex slave, a beautiful teenage girl, who in his own words, “resisted with all her strength,” leaving him with no choice but to, “thrash her mercilessly and rape her.”
Columbus eventually started up a global child-sex-slave trade, exporting Indians all around the world.
As he bragged to a friend in a letter written in 1500, “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.”
Eventually under Columbus’ rule, life for the Taino people on Hispaniola became so bad that they resorted to mass suicide.
Twenty-five years after Columbus had arrived in Hispaniola, the Spanish missionary Pedro Cordoba noted that, “As a result of the suffering and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth. Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”
Eventually, Columbus simply resorted to wiping out the Taino altogether. Prior to Columbus’ arrival, some scholars place the population of Haiti/Hispaniola (now at 16
million) at around 1.5 to 3 million people.
By 1496, it was down to 1.1 million, according to a census done by Bartholomew Columbus – Columbus’ brother.
By 1516, the indigenous population was 12,000, and by 1542 fewer than 200 natives were alive.
By 1555, every single one was dead
Knowing what we know now about Columbus’ real intentions and actions, it’s appalling that we would continue to use a derogatory term to refer to the people that he raped, pillaged, slaughtered and enslaved.
As Costas pointed out, we don’t call sports teams’ mascots the “N-words” so why is it OK to call them the “redskins”?
It’s time once and for all to put the shameful history of Columbus and his genocide of Native Americans behind us.
Let’s start right here in Washington, D.C. with the name of our NFL team.