In his Aug. 26 column “ Rename Redskins after N.C. Lumbee,” Bloomberg’s Stephen L. Carter suggested the NFL and its Washington franchise could solve a growing image problem by swapping their current ugly, hateful mascot for the name of my tribe, the Lumbee – a real, proud and accomplished Native American people.
Carter quotes my book at length to justify why the Lumbees are deserving of this “honor.” But he misses the point. Switching one generic American Indian mascot for a more specific one only perpetuates racism. In Carter’s cynical formula, there is no justice and no honor.
American Indians are not honored when corporations appropriate our images and trivialize our histories. And personally, I don’t feel honored when I imagine opposing fans shouting “I hate the Lumbees!” at their televisions instead of “I hate the Redskins!”
Carter does address one way to truly honor the Lumbee people: federal recognition. Yet becoming the D.C. team’s mascot will distort that quest away from its true meaning. According to the law, federal recognition is not a race-based hand-out; it is back pay for land and resources that European settlers stole from our ancestors.
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Federal recognition is not a benefit, it is our right. No one should make a thriving, proud people the source of someone else’s profit and then ask us to accept that humiliation in exchange for our fundamental right to federal recognition. My ancestors who fought racism wouldn’t accept that trade-off, and I wouldn’t, either.
Malinda Maynor Lowery
Associate professor of history, UNC-Chapel Hill Center for the Study of the American South