I listened in dismay today as a news commentator, in conversation with a Native American community representative discussed a sports team’s refusal to change their name – a name that is offensive to our Native American sisters and brothers. Reportedly, the particular franchise owner declared that the team’s name would “never be changed.” Through out our Country’s history, names have been used to oppress, mischaracterize, marginalize, disenfranchise and humiliate people and segments of communities. Names can also encourage, empower, lift and support.
It never ceases to amaze me that people, even after they have been told that an individual would rather be referred to as “thus and so,” continue to disrespect the request and use their designated name for the person. The one who names has been given or asserts power and authority over the one who is named. If the “named” person stands up for themselves and states their prerogative regarding how they would like to be addressed, that person is somehow deemed overly sensitive, intolerant and maybe even arrogant!
Native Americans have a right to demand respect. We have a moral obligation to give them respect. They have a right to be offended when sports franchises, who make literally billions of dollars (with little if any benefiting the people for which their teams are named) continue to use names for their teams that hurt and humiliate a people. The aforementioned news commentator asked the Native American community representative if he thought their complaints would ever make a difference, seeing the sports team owners appear resolute in their refusal to rename their teams. I was impressed with his response. He declared (and I paraphrase),
“Our country is littered with peoples and systems that refused to change, whether it was regarding slavery, immigration, women’s rights, etc. However, the great thing about this Country is that when enough people speak up and stand up, change eventually happens.”What a powerful statement! May we stand with our Native American sisters and brothers and reject names that hurt and offend anyone. May we have the strength to continue to “speak up and stand up,” so that change eventually can happen. May we resist the urge to “name” others when they clearly have a name they’ve chosen for themselves. And may we have the strength to continue to embrace and boldly declare the names that God has given us, even when others refuse to speak them. God knows your name.
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,