I’m writing again, humble. Mostly because I’m an idiot, and I’m always happy to admit that. For all of the words that you’ve read on this blog, those of you who have just found me and those of you who have been here fora while, you must understand that they come from a person who isn’t as bright as she may seem.
Case in point: I was a complete idiot yesterday.
I wasn’t really supposed to be on my computer on yesterday–there were many things that needed to get done in preparation for family coming up from the south over the weekend. All week, I’d been trying to get as much of my blogging and other outside writing done as possible–getting up early or forsaking TV/reading in order to get posts schedule so that I wouldn’t have to think of them. Indeed, by Thursday all of my posts were done and scheduled, and I was feeling like an accomplished person. My computer was off for most of the day while I got things done.
In a moment of exhaustion during nap time, I decided to open up my computer and peak into my reader. There are specific blogs that I really do try to keep up with, and I had been doing a lot of writing without a lot of reading for the past few weeks, so I thought I’d pop by a few places. On of my regular favorites, No More Race, popped up first and it was on a subject that I really care about:
I’m a huge Washington Redskins fan. If you’re born in the DC area, you are most likely born a Redskins fan. My father had the games on (loud) every Sunday and it wasn’t long until I understood the game and understood that the Redskins were my team. I’ve been a fan through the feast and the famine, and as anyone who watches football knows, true Redskins fans endured quite a long famine. In the past few seasons, we’ve seen a real glimmer of hope thanks to Coach Shanahan and the amazing Robert Griffin the Third. Suddenly, we are a team revived and a fanbase energized. People are getting on the bandwagon, but for those of us who have been there through the thick and thin, this past season was just was the doctor ordered.
The controversy about the Redskins name and logo is absolutely not new. It has picked up a bit of steam thanks to recent seminars at the Smithsonian, Congressional hearings, high level talks with the commissioner of the NFL and even recent comments by the Mayor of Washington D.C., who has said that he wouldn’t want to welcome the team back into the city without considerable discussion about the name of the team.
When I was a child and didn’t know anything about the world, the word “Redskin” didn’t mean anything more to me than football. That thing that makes Father yell and scream at the TV on Sundays. As I got older, learned some history, read some books, talked with people, I learned what the word really meant and how powerful it is. It is often compared to the word Nigger for its derogatory history, and because Nigger is such a powerful word in my life, culture and history, it became problematic that this word represents my team, a team that I love.
And yet, despite all of my knowledge, all of my feelings, all of my convictions about race, class, gender, history and privilege, I couldn’t shake this thing. I love the Washington Redskins. I go through great lengths to be able to watch their games while I live here in Massachusetts. I got a sweet RGIII throwback jersey for Christmas and I wear it for every game. I bought my boys little jerseys, too. For me, the Redskins are about home, pride and legacy. I see it as a huge contradiction in my life to love the team despite the insult and injury that the name of the team does to a marginalized group of society. As I wrote in my reblog, I’m feeling just a little squeamish about wearing my jersey out in public here in Massachusetts, because I know that there is a large Native American population here and I don’t want to offend them. This isn’t a “I’m a Yankee fan and I live in Red Sox territory” kind of feeling. This is a “my jersey and fandom may very well offend someone at the grocery store” kind of feeling.
Which brings me to my personal idiocy. Yesterday afternoon, I reblogged a post by No More Race about a recent decision by the NFL Commissioner not to open up further discussion about changing the Redskin’s name and left a bit of commentary about it before getting back to the things I needed to do. I got a thank you from Earnest, the owner of that awesome blog, and I replied. In the chaos of the end of my day, gearing up for a lot of work I needed to do while also trying to tie up other tasks that I’d left undone until the end of the day, I saw a post from my bloggy friend Amber, who has a wonderful blog called Normal is the New Boring, which you should totally be reading. She wrote that the name didn’t bother her and that she didn’t find it to be derogatory. And without thinking about it, I wrote back.
Without thinking for forty seconds before I put fingers to keyboard, without recalling an interesting earlier conversation that she and I had about another post that I’d written about race a few months ago, I wrote a careless reply. It was flippant and rude, and careless. In a story where I was trying to give credence to a marginalized population, I became the privileged person, and I made all of the mistakes that a privileged person makes when I wrote my reply. Without so much as looking back, I pressed submit.
I’m not a paragon. I do, though, try my best not to be a fool. On Thursday, I was a great fool. As Amber reminded me, she’s of Native American ancestry, and though she may look white in her photos, she has a deep Native American heritage that I knew about and failed to recognize. Not withstanding, even if she wasn’t Native American, my answer to her was still rude, because I wasn’t even thinking about it. During conversations like the ones I try to present on this blog and in my day-to-day conversations, carelessness is the number one destroyer of understanding, compromise and progress. I remembered, as I wrote in my reply, just why I don’t immediately get angry when people mistake me for a nanny instead of a mother: Because we’re all human, because we’ve been conditioned to perceive people in our society within boxes long ingrained in our heads, and because people learn more from the quiet moments of dissent and subsequent reflection than they do from loud confrontation.
I’m humbled by Amber’s dissent and my immediate and subsequent reflection. I try my best not to be a great fool, but on Thursday, I was.
So I’m writing because I’m humbled. As I write this blog, I recognize that I will make mistakes. I’m writing this as a reminder post so that I may never make such a careless mistake again. I want my embarrassment at this moment to echo and come up again as I learn and grow with this blog. I’m writing this because I want you, my old and new readers, to see me as a person who is absolutely not the authority on how to be perfect when it comes to discussions about race/class/gender/privilege. And I write in hope that you will trust me to recognize and apologize for the mistakes that I make.