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WHAT'S IN A NAME? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

By Jim Jordal

The NFL’s Washington Redskins are in the news again. Not for what they’re doing on the football field, but for the implications of their name: Redskins. The drums of war sound again over their alleged racist, disrespectful, derogatory, discriminatory name. Never mind what owner Daniel Snyder says about the choice of name being a "badge of honor" laden with respect and power. Thus far, Snyder has refused to budge, but forces are marshaling against him.

But nobody asks the obvious question: What will Native American groups gain from forcing a football team to change its name? Will rampant poverty among them lessen? Will more living wage jobs be available? Will educational opportunities and medical care improve? Will their integration into mainstream society improve? I seriously doubt that any of these desired events will follow. So what it really amounts to is that we give them a politically correct sop to soothe their wounded egos, but not the economic and political justice they so sorely need.

If you look at past performance of the dominating culture in passing on the good things associated with freedom and democracy to minority groups you’ll have to accept that probably nothing will change except that Washington’s football team will have a new name. But that’s really what it’s all about---creating cosmetic change to subvert and sidetrack movement toward real change. It doesn’t cost the dominators anything to change a few names, but it would cost them much of their power and wealth if they were to loosen their death grip on the levers of economic and political power.

It works like this. Native Americans led by the Oneida Indian Nation have legitimate grounds for demanding redress of promises broken again and again by the dominant culture. They rightfully complain that they have been shunted aside in the race for inclusion, prosperity, and respect. Their unfortunate situation results from a host of social, political and economic injustices that acting together reduces them to an inferior position within society.

Now enter the plutocratic, pitiless planners and operators of the existing domination system. "We’ve got to do something before the public gets too angry," they think, "so let’s offer them something that looks good, but won’t change the real system and above all won’t harm us and our position atop the domination system."

This has happened many times before. One example occurred a generation or so ago in South Africa as minority outcries arose against the white-controlled domination system known as Apartheid. Led by Nelson Mandela, newly released after 27 years in prison, and his African National Party (ANC), supported by rising world opinion against the gross injustices inflicted against blacks and other minority groups, the new movement threatened to topple the white domination system. Realizing that they were about to lose their political grip, the dominators decided to offer several racial minorities their political freedom in order to divert attention from continuing economic domination. Jubilant over their newfound political power, ANC leaders almost gleefully surrendered economic power, not perceiving the truth that political power is worthless without an equal economic power. They didn’t then understand that in a struggle economic power usually wins by subverting the political process, as we are now discovering in the U.S. as we struggle against increasing corporate control of the political process.

In South Africa today formerly powerless groups now vote, run for office, and elect their members to office. But South Africa still has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth among developed nations. Poverty still afflicts vast numbers of supposedly free people in the still-existing native townships. As the newly-freed minorities celebrated their political victory the financially powerful Old Guard cemented their economic power for years to come in almost impossible to change structures and rules guaranteeing their hold upon natural resource development (read: gold and diamonds), a central bank insulated from political control, free trade relationships, and working conditions and wages for the politically free but economically dominated people.

That’s the way it works folks! And don’t think it can’t happen here, because it already has.