How far have we come?

gonzalez_redskinsAlthough racist actions and beliefs can manifest themselves in explicitly obvious ways, we tend to overlook racism that exists on a more subtle level. We tend to overlook racist tolerance.

Tolerance? But in the year 2014, where we have come so far in terms of equality, how is there still racism? In this day and age, does race even matter?

Yes and no. Race still does matter, and while I would never want to downplay the significance of the Civil Rights movement or the election of Barack Obama, I feel that as a society we tend to take three steps forward and four steps back in regards to how we treat this issue of “race.”

Yes, this is 2014, and yes, this shouldn’t be a thing, but that doesn’t change the fact that racism is very much still alive today — especially in the face of our first Americans.

Let us consider the irony in the NFL considering the institution of a 15-yard penalty for players caught using racial slurs (namely the ‘N-Word’). Although I don’t object to this, as such language is inappropriate and has no place on the field, a recent opinion post appearing on CNN provoked another question. What about the “R-word”?

“Noble gesture? Sure,” wrote Simon Moya-Smith, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation. “Clueless? Absolutely.”

The Washington Redskins continue to defend their team name in the face of vocal groups who want it changed. If we return to the idea that this is 2014 and that this is a time where race shouldn’t matter, shouldn’t this be high time to consider a name change? Where is the logic in perpetuating a racially derogatory slur in such a high profile way? Does this not promote racist tolerance?

Although some retaliate with the claim that individuals are “just being too sensitive”, I’m inclined to believe that this is a matter transcending “sensitivity” and becoming an issue of respect.

The history of American Indians is one that is rich, in spite of the fact that it is simultaneously plagued with injustice and oppression. We unfortunately aren’t widely taught about this. Today, where racism runs rampant in our portrayal of American Indians both in the media and in our schooling systems, 2014 is the time that we put an end to the social acceptability of this. We need to heed to the “stone concept.”

What is this? Although there are very few things that I remember about my time in middle school, I do recall being taught that if you watch a stone be thrown and do nothing about it, then that’s just as bad as throwing the stone yourself.

This “stone concept” is one we should all consciously think about. After all, doesn’t this allude to the familiarity of the golden rule?

Perhaps we should especially heed to the idea behind this when we look at how American Indians are portrayed in every aspect of our mainstream culture.

Tolerance for racism and the omission of mindfulness for these people, nearly entirely, from mainstream conversation seems unacceptable in a day and age where we boast how far we have come from racist beginnings. We should engage in an open conversation about where we, as a society, really are in regards to racial equality. Are we still promoting a society of racial insensitivity?

I believe that a name change for the Washington Redskins is a needed moral step out of sheer respect for fellow members in our community.

“What a privilege,” Moya-Smith noted, “to… not have to see someone wearing a hat with the stereotypical likeness of your people on it and a racist pejorative to accompany the image.”

Reach the columnist at Alexis.Gonzalez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @0Moscwow