"Redskins": The price of a slur

The pity that Mr. Snyder seems to feel for Indians and our plight is intimately connected with age-old ideas and images — strength, bravery, a warrior spirit, noble savagery — all of which are conjured by the cartoonish use of Indian names and mascots. We are pitied and feared as Macbeth and Caesar and Achilles are pitied and feared: great but for a fatal flaw (a heel, an ego, ambition). Our tragic flaw, however, is having been subjected to hundreds of years of warfare, colonialism, racism and exclusion.

To pay tribute only to brave warriors and pitiful reservations is to engage in a fantasy that erases the lives of real Indians for whom the racial slur “redskins” is intolerable.

The name will change. Either the N.F.L. will make Mr. Snyder change the name, or we will. But in trying to buy off that inevitable end, Mr. Snyder has made a terrible mistake in confusing charity with donations. Charity, or caritas, can be defined as an act of generous love. Donations, on the other hand, are material objects for which the owner has no real need and can part with easily and painlessly. What Mr. Snyder has created is not a charity. It is a donation depot.

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