My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

The R-Word

20 Comments

I’ve been thinking about this since Tuesday night when the commercial first aired in 6 major markets, and I have concluded it is time to weigh in and to tell my story.

I’m a bit unsure when talking about all things Native American. Although it represents one quarter of my ethnic makeup, I spent the first third of my life completely ignorant of that fact.

I was adopted in 1965.  In the sixties, adoption agencies were in the habit of passing children off as all white as long as they looked the part.  My adoptive parents, who are all the family I’ve ever needed, by the way, were told I was French and Scottish. I was matched with them because my dark hair and eyes were like my adoptive father’s. A few years later, we were given a blue-eyed, red-headed baby, my beloved baby bro, because my mother had red hair and blue eyes. Fashion wasn’t the only thing that was matchy-matchy in 1965.

It wasn’t until I was a young adult looking for information about my first parents that I heard my birth mother* was half Native American. It was so strange to discover that I wasn’t the race I grew up believing I was.  Honestly, I was thrilled, but I also felt cheated and very confused. After much thought, I decided never to tell my perma-parents because I was afraid it would be too disorienting for them. I knew they loved me and I loved them and that was enough.
(*I’m aware that term has fallen out of fashion, but she’s been that to me my entire life, and I consider it a title of honor.)

Maybe because I didn’t tell my parents or perhaps because I found out so late, I’ve always felt shy and hesitant and maybe a little defensive about that part of my ethnic heritage, like I don’t have any right to get upset or personally offended when Native Americans are being discriminated against. So it’s taken me a bit longer than it should have to be ready to stand up and be counted.

©ChangeTheMascot.org

©ChangeTheMascot.org

Before posting an opinion, I wanted to be better informed, so I read up on the origins of the term “redskin.”  Did you know that when it was coined, the term referred not to the color of the native people’s skin when they were alive but instead to the fact that after they were murdered, their bloody skins were delivered as proof of death to collect a bounty? Me neither.  Yike.  Even after the murder-for-profit practice was discontinued, the term was and is still used as a racial slur. This doesn’t seem like a term our society should be keeping alive, much less celebrating on banners and sweatshirts and team paraphernalia.  It’s an embarrassment to the whole country.

“Because this team is using a racial slur attached to our nation’s capitol, it makes it quite clear that we are not a post-racial society.” – Barbara Munson, Wisconsin Indian Education Association

The National Congress of American Indians has done a really lovely job with this commercial. If you want more information about the issue, I recommend you read the National Congress of American Indians’ letter to the NFL players, signed by 79 tribes and organizations.  If you agree that the “R-Word” should be banned from professional sports and want to be heard, the website below lists a few ways you can get involved.

http://www.changethemascot.org/take-action/

EPILOGUE: I got my DNA report from 23 and Me, and my portion of Native American is so tiny it’s not worth mentioning. I didn’t see that coming!

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

20 thoughts on “The R-Word

  1. Well said, Donna.

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  2. Excellent information to have…I did not know half of this – sadly.

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    • Me neither until I started digging. At least blogging has proven to be a somewhat educational experience for me. It’s not a waste of time if you learn something, right?

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  3. Gee, I’m adopted. I didn’t know birth mother has fallen out of favor? Perma-parents? I guess I’m not very hip!! 🙂

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  4. This was very educational for me as well. My daughter is part of the Cherokee tribe, from her mom’s side of the family, and this particular issue never came up while we were still together. Even still, that team name is one of those things that I am amazed not only still exists, but is still actively defended by some people! Thanks for sharing!

    Also, is it “biological mother” that people say now? I think that’s an odd one, since of course one’s mother is biological. What else would she be? Sort of like “organic food.” Is there such a thing as inorganic food? (Well, Hot Pockets are questionable, I suppose….) Anyway…

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    • Regarding the politically-correct adoption language, I can’t keep up. Periodically, I am corrected by an adoptive parent. I tell them that they may use whatever terminology makes them comfortable when talking with their child, but they should not presume to tell me how I should be identifying myself and my mother. Then I slap them and run away. (Okay, I don’t do that last bit, but I have thought about it.)

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  5. Thank you for writing such an informative story. Never knew about the real meaning of the word and find it so awful. Like they say, you learn something new every day.

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  6. Pingback: The R-Word Update: the U.S. Government Makes a Move! | My OBT

  7. Thank you for sharing with us… I watch football, and I gotta say i’ve always been disgusted with the teams name. It’s insulting to the Native American people and an embarrassment to this country! I can’t believe the teams owner has taken such a strong stance against changing the name! I’m loving your blog…it’s a great read.

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  8. great post and so informative. I am smarter for reading it!

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