My, my, my. Phil Mushnick has embroiled himself in a little bit of a mess now, hasn’t he? I guess this week we’ll see how the New York Post decides to respond to his renegade commentary and what fate will befall him after his failed attempt at tongue-in-cheek wit. He suggested that the Brooklyn Nets should be called the New York Niggers because of co-owner Jay-Z’s liberal use of the word in his lyrics and also because, let’s be honest, Hova is Black and he couldn’t resist a subliminal N-word jab. Maybe Mushnick will get suspended, maybe he’ll get canned, maybe he’ll get ex-communicated by all of the other sports journalists and blacklisted from all of the really cool parties.
Whatever happens, this situation seems to be a recurring issue. Again and again with the racially insensitive name-calling. So let me do my part in a preventative public service announcement. Attention all White people: it seems like you’re just not getting the message. You cannot use the N-word in any capacity. You cannot use it as a joke. You cannot use it in a quote. You cannot use it on a train. You cannot use it on a plane. You cannot use it here or there. You cannot use it anywhere.
That being said, it’s interesting to see so many Black folks up in arms about the hypothetical team name he created when there are real team names that are just as offensive—but not to us. I have long said that if there was an NFL franchise called the Philadelphia Sambos or an NBA team indeed named the New York Niggers, we would be all kinds of put out (obviously). The NAACP couldn’t throw together a picket fest fast enough and Al Sharpton would be marching and sound biting himself into a little tizzy. But we feel absolutely no cultural or political alignment with Native Americans, who are collectively slapped in the face with racist team names and mascots without so much as a murmur of support from us. I guess so long as it’s not the dreaded N-word or any derivative thereof, it’s not our fight to square off over.
I moved here to the lovely District of Columbia about six years ago and have built a happy little life here as a transient who, dare I say, has developed a pretty darn strong sense of ownership and allegiance to Chocolate City. One thing I had to learn pretty quick, though, is that you can talk trash about the Nationals, you can say what you want about the Caps, you can pop, lock and drop it all over the Wizards, but what you won’t do is even offload a whiff of disapproval about them doggone Redskins. It is not unusual to see a truck or a car painted a very specific, very intentional shade known as Redskin red, outfitted with all kinds of banners and flags and tacky seat covers. These fans do. not. play. They leave no question that they are rooting for the home team one hunnert and fifty percent (unless, of course, they’re Cowboys fans).
It’s the strangest of contradictions to see one group of disenfranchised people so passionately cheerlead a team that directly insults another. Native Americans have annually descended on DC to protest the Redskins name and the names of other pro and college teams and mascots that are still in play all over the country. Their leadership has lobbied for the team’s trademark to be revoked because of its cultural offensiveness and for more than 20 years, activists have fought to override the inconsideration of pop culture mania over sports teams for the legacy and posterity of ravaged Native American tribes. Nothin’ doing. Seems we like our sports unfettered by social consciousness and political correctness, even us Black folks, who suffer from the same stupid insensitivities imposed by White America’s trademark suck-it-up-and-deal-with-it attitude.
It’s so very simple to remedy: if a group says a name, a remark, a word, a phrase, a show, a statement, a characterization, is offensive to them, it’s not up to the rest of us to tell them why they shouldn’t be insulted or, even worse, dismiss their reaction because we don’t feel motivated or obligated to change whatever it is that’s insulting to them. Especially us. There are so few Native Americans left, their community so decimated by the same calculating mainstream machine that has bulldozed our own, that we should align. Black folks always wanting to claim some kind of Native American in our families anyway, so here’s the chance to put up. Our dismissiveness in their struggles makes us no better than what White folks do to us. It’s not particularly surprising, especially considering how many Black folks have absolutely no problem at all with being called or referring to others as niggas. So another day, another cultural faux pas, I guess. The circle of American life.