Virginia’s “Redskins Caucus” takes pride in a slur

Washington Redskins NFL team owner Dan Snyder has new allies in his fight to keep his team’s embattled name. Three members of the Virginia General Assembly are rallying for the cause of racism with a “Redskins Pride Caucus.” Virginia never was very quick to abandon bigotry.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City; Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas; and Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudon announced their caucus on Monday. It is proof that sports can transcend politics. The D.C. suburbs that they represent are generally the more progressive part of the purple state. Confederate flags fluttering on front porches and emblazoned on pickup trucks whose horns blare Dixie are the stuff of rural Virginia.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins because it rarely ends well. The LGBTQ community’s annual Pride Week is perhaps the only notable modern exception. Most often when people invoke pride, it is because they cannot otherwise defend their despicable beliefs.

Washington-REdskinsConfederate flag wavers insist they are not racists or traitors in their longing for Southern freedom from Northern tyranny. No, they are just taking pride in their heritage and ancestry. They fool no one but themselves.

Americans cling to historical bigotries longer than they should, but we eventually get it right as a nation.

The tide against “Redskins” has been turning for a while. Late night television mocks Snyder’s insistence that a racial epithet is immutable. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked protection of the “disparaging” name and logo. Fifty U.S. Senators signed a letter urging a new name.

Pressure will grow. It cannot be long until the other NFL owners turn on Snyder. The league rarely tolerates this sort of distraction, especially if it starts to cut into profits.

Redskins defenders call the attack on their beloved team name political correctness run amuck. Rather, it is political correctness exactly where it should be. In a civilized, multicultural society, we should not tolerate a racial slur serving as the mascot for a sports team whether in the NFL or the local high school division.

One can have a reasonable discussion about names like “Indians,” “Seminoles” and even “Braves.” They are not the same sort of slur. “Redskins” is a term whose sole purpose is to belittle a people.

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Humans are particularly adept at inventing slurs that reduce people to nothing more than a single physical, religious or ethnic characteristic. It’s so much easier to see only hebes, wops, wetbacks and yellow Chinamen. When a person is just a slur, he or she is no longer worthy of consideration. Unique personalities, hopes and dreams cease to matter.

Del. Ramadan is the most surprising member of Virginia’s Racist Pride Caucus. He moved to the United States from Lebanon as a child and graduated from a high school in Beirut. I wonder if he’d feel the same way about the Washington Hajji or Towel Heads with suitably racist logos.

Slurs like “Redskins” are acceptable in neither polite society nor professional sports. The holdouts embarrass the rest of us. In most of the country, Washington football apologists are the racist uncles that we try to keep from talking too much in mixed company because we know it’s only a matter of time before they drop the n-word.

In Virginia, they are lawmakers with a podium and too much time on their hands.

Update (June 25, 9:10 a.m.): The Redskins Caucus is growing. It now has 17 Republicans and five Democrats as members, including Sen. Minority Leader Dick Saslaw. Only in Virginia.

Christian Trejbal is a freelance editorial writer, editor and political consultant based in Portland, Ore. He wrote exclusively for The (Bend) Bulletin and The Roanoke Times before founding Opinion in a Pinch. He serves on the board of directors of the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation and is open government chairman. Follow him on Twitter @ctrejbal and facebook.

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