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Opinion
Tim Giago: R-word just as insulting as the N-word


Oftentimes we are reminded by the racial slurs of comedians, actors/producers, sports announcers, esteemed members of the cast of 60 Minutes and by politicians, that racism has not vanished from the landscape of this country we call America.

As Nurse Nellie said in the Broadway play South Pacific in order to justify her own prejudice toward the half-Tonkonese children of the French plantation owner she loved �We are born with it.� Lt. Cable debunked this comment singing that we are not born with it but �It has to be drummed in your dear little ear.�

And so last week there was added to the growing list of celebrities exposed for their use of the �N� word the name of Michael Richards, late of the Seinfeld Show. He joined Mel Gibson who in a drunken stupor accused the Jews for all of the troubles of the world, Jimmy �The Greek� Snyder for saying that blacks were bred to be strong and athletic in the days of the plantations, Trent Lott for overlooking the racial foibles of Strom Thurmond when he acknowledged that Thurmond would have made a great president and the recent comments of George Allen when in his senate race in Virginia he castigated a young man of East Indian descent by calling him a �macaca� a monkey often used as a racial slur.

But aside from Gibson�s racial hemorrhage against Jews, all of the other celebrity troglodytes� comments were aimed at African Americans. Gibson�s racial comments drew a lot of publicity because the media has a strong cadre of Jewish television producers and editors and the Black Community has the power of a Jesse Jackson and an Al Sharpton. Mexicans (Hispanics), Indians and Asians do not have a powerful lobby to defend them against racist comments.

And it seems that the mainstream media is extremely timid in defending the rights of the minorities. The media immediately chastises any public figure stupid enough to use the �N� word. But the �R� word, a word that is an insult to Native Americans, is used openly and regularly without comment from the media (except from the Indian owned media). Look up the word �redskin� in your personal dictionary and you will see that it is taken by all Indians to be an insult. Then why does the �R� word grace the lips of sports announcers and their fans and why is it printed without fear of reprisal in nearly every newspaper and magazine in America?

Why was the public allowed to watch a pig painted red and wearing an Indian ceremonial bonnet run around at the halftime of a Washington Redskin�s football game without comment from the fans or press? If the pig had been painted black in order to honor the many black fans of the Washington football team, and an Afro wig had been attached to its head, would there have been a reaction by the media and the fans?

The �R� word is as insulting to Native Americans as the �N� word is to African Americans and yet most Americans never question its repeated use. And if some badly misguided Native Americans think it's alright to be used as mascots for America�s fun and games do not for one second believe that if it's alright with them then it is alright for all Indians because it certainly is not. Most Indians, including the powerful National Congress of American Indians and the equally powerful National Indian Education Association abhor the use of Indians as mascots and have spoken out loudly and clearly against it.

If the Spokane Indian people choose to assist a local team named the Spokane Indians by designing their logo and if they do not mind that their high school uses a mascot called the �Redskins� most Native Americans can only cringe at their ignorance. But keep in mind that the struggle to end this covert form of racism against Native Americans started about 25 years ago and battles have been won and battles have been lost, but if Indians have to fight their own people in order to bring some sanity to these racist insults, then the battle will be ongoing.

It is not an honor to be mimicked by fans with painted faces and turkey feathers at sporting events nor is it an honor to have our race; our self-esteem and our dignity trampled every week for America�s fun and games. If a small number of Indians believe this is all right then the problem is theirs.

The student body of Pekin High School in Illinois used to parade in costume and makeup to honor their mascot, The Pekin High School �Chinks.� Fortunately some Pekin residents of intelligence decided this practice was racist and brought it to an end. Now why would they believe that using �Chinks� as a mascot was different than using a phony Indian named Chief Illiniwek at their university is not racist?

Finally, the esteemed member of the CBS Show 60 Minutes was Andy Rooney. For the most part I love Andy but I deplored the comments he made about American Indians. He said that Indians had no culture, no music and no art. None of this was true, and yet Andy was allowed to skate by with these racist comments as if no one at CBS knew better.

Well, considering all of the ignorance about Indians that I have encountered in my more than 30 years of working in the media, perhaps no one at CBS did know differently.

Rooney�s remarks, unlike those of Richards, Gibson, Snyder, Lott and Allen were allowed to stand without repercussion. I guess, to the media, Indians, Mexicans and Asians don�t count as much as Blacks or Jews.

McClatchy News Service in Washington, DC distributes Tim Giago�s weekly column. He can be reached at P.O. Box 9244, Rapid City, SD 57709 or at najournalists@rushmore.com. Giago was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. Clear Light Books of Santa Fe, NM (harmon@clearlightbooks.com) published his latest book, �Children Left Behind."

More Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Mainstream media lacking in accuracy (11/27)
Tim Giago: Thanksgiving - A holiday of the imagination (11/22)
Tim Giago: State stifling growth on reservations (11/20)
Tim Giago: Taking stock of Election Day 2006 (11/13)
Tim Giago: Few roles for Indians in Hollywood (11/6)
Tim Giago: Freedom of the press has a chance (10/31)
Tim Giago: Important election day for South Dakota (10/24)
Tim Giago: White media ignores Indian contributions (10/17)
Tim Giago: Termination a dirty word in Indian Country (10/10)
Giago: Domestic violence from a male perspective (10/3)
Tim Giago: Culturecide started with innocent children (09/19)
Tim Giago: Indian people mark 500 years of terrorism (9/11)
Tim Giago: Lawsuit challenges church on abuse (9/6)
Tim Giago: Day of reckoning for Oglala Sioux Tribe (8/29)
Tim Giago: Tribes giving up their sovereignty (08/08)
Giago retires as editor and publisher of magazine (8/4)
Tim Giago: States looking for ways to take from tribes (8/1)
Tim Giago: Religion invaded Native America (7/25)
Tim Giago: Daily screw ups in tribal governance (7/18)
Tim Giago: Happy Birthday to Van Cliburn and me (7/11)
Tim Giago: South Dakota tilting further to the right (7/3)
Tim Giago: Americans still the invaders in Iraq (6/27)
Tim Giago: Tribal colleges in Bill Gates' backyard (6/21)
Tim Giago: Gaming brings new wealth, new problems (6/13)
Tim Giago: 'Oz' author called for genocide of the Lakota (6/6)
Tim Giago: Too much uncertainty in gaming (5/30)
Tim Giago: Deny gaming to newly recognized tribes (5/23)
Tim Giago: Congratulations to the class of '06 (5/16)
Tim Giago: Rich tribes should help poorer tribes (5/9)
Tim Giago: Fighting substance abuse at Pine Ridge (5/2)
Tim Giago: Censorship in the mainstream media (4/25)
Tim Giago: Brainwashing on Pine Ridge Reservation (4/18)
Tim Giago: The growing pains of tribal sovereignty (4/11)
Tim Giago: Indians most affected by immigration (4/4)
Tim Giago: Little attention for Native American Day (3/28)
Giago: Oglala Sioux president on state abortion law (3/21)
Tim Giago: The road to true tribal sovereignty (3/14)
Tim Giago: The basketball miracle of 1936 (3/7)
Giago: Real problem in South Dakota is race relations (2/21)
Tim Giago: Yes, Virginia, Indians do pay taxes (2/14)
Tim Giago: Gas-guzzlers, Indian cars and the Big Three (2/7)
Tim Giago: Lions, Tiger, Bears and Indian mascots (1/31)
Tim Giago: Christians and Muslims still at war (1/24)
Tim Giago: Bush started Iraqi war over 'dark lie' (1/17)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder out of limbo after 66 days (1/10)
Tim Giago: The Olympics of Indian basketball (12/20)
Tim Giago: BIA schools turned abused into abusers (12/13)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder shakes up establishment (12/6)
Tim Giago: Della Warrior steps down from IAIA (11/29)
Tim Giago: Deloria gave Indian people a voice (11/22)
Tim Giago: Indians never forced religion on others (11/15)
Tim Giago: Exposing false medicine men (11/8)
Tim Giago: Government ignores Indian health problems (11/1)
Tim Giago: Indian newspapers revise history (10/25)
Tim Giago: Two friends make journey to spirit world (10/18)
Tim Giago: Politicians need to know Indian law (10/11)
Tim Giago: Doors opening to Indians in South Dakota (10/4)
Tim Giago: 'Indian' myths and misconceptions (9/27)
Tim Giago: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina (9/20)
Tim Giago: NCAA loses its spine on mascot policy (9/13)
Tim Giago: The Indian 'scandal sheet' phenomenon (08/30)
Tim Giago: Indians became refugees in own land (8/23)
Tim Giago: Censor tribes for supporting mascots (8/17)
Tim Giago: New addiction takes over in Indian Country (08/02)
Tim Giago: Tribes trade sovereignty for dollars (7/26)
Giago: Seminole Tribe wrong on Indian mascots (7/19)
Giago: Underground Railroad to escape boarding school (7/12)
Giago: Skeletons hidden in Rapid City's closet (07/07)
Tim Giago: Air Force base not a blessing to Lakotas (6/30)
Tim Giago: Tribes to claim downsized military bases (06/07)
Tim Giago: First revolutionary was a Native man (5/31)
Tim Giago: Many 'wannabe' tribes seek recognition (05/17)
Tim Giago: South Dakota press censors Indian writers (05/10)
Tim Giago: White lawyers growing fat off tribes (04/26)
Tim Giago: Gay marriage debate killed Democrats (4/19)
Tim Giago: It's time for wealthy tribes to think Indian (04/05)
Tim Giago: Wealthy tribes don't need federal funds (03/31)
Tim Giago: Gaming leads to addiction, crime (03/22)
Tim Giago: Discrimination in the media and advertising (03/08)
Tim Giago: Black Hills land theft a dishonest deal (03/01)
Tim Giago: Committing slow suicide with foods (02/15)
Tim Giago: Bush probably still against Indian gaming (01/25)
Tim Giago: Calvary re-enactors should know better (01/18)
Tim Giago: Racism continues in South Dakota (11/30)
Tim Giago: Should we listen to Osama bin Laden? (11/23)
Tim Giago: GOP moral values will hurt Indian Country (11/09)
Tim Giago: Indian reformists stamped out tribes (11/02)
Tim Giago: I'm not a racist and I haven't seen NMAI yet (09/29)
Tim Giago: Eastern tribes are African-American (09/15)
Tim Giago: Indians have cause to fear Republicans (07/21)
Tim Giago: Casinos create culture of 'us' and 'them' (06/30)
Tim Giago: Boarding schools cause of many ills (06/14)
Tim Giago: 'Real' Indians don't fight over money (04/05)
Tim Giago now plans to run for Senate as independent (03/31)
Tim Giago: Indians pay no taxes, and other myths (01/26)
Giago: Indian gaming erodes tribal sovereignty (01/07)
Giago: Gays were highly respected by Sioux Nation (09/22)
Tim Giago: I'm a fully recovered Catholic (09/11)
Giago: State should refund tax money first (08/06)
Giago: Oprah show changed minds on Indian mascots (07/31)