I was watching the news earlier this week and I saw a great story about how the Cleveland baseball team changed its name to The Cleveland Guardians. They are to be commended for this action. Living in Washington, DC and seeing the name of The Washington Football Team change its name to whatever it is going to be, many of us are celebrating these changes that so many have fought for decades to change. Unfortunately, everyone is not celebrating.
There are many who disagree with the name change because they feel like it is too politically correct. Some are calling it of course “cancel culture” and “woke culture”, which are two terms that I am not a fan of in the slightest. I’ve seen people in my social media feed say things like “Who cares about Cleveland changing the name of its baseball team. We have bigger issues to worry about.” Another person who professed to be “left” and “progressive” stated that the name change is an overreaction to today’s racial climate. My response to them was simple: if you have a problem with the name change, you are not that progressive. I have encountered many people who claim to represent the “left” but are ignorant, racist, and do not want black people and non-white people in general to attain and maintain power. The life of Fredrick Douglas comes to mind and his conflicts with white abolitionist “colleagues” who disparaged him and would not allow him to speak at events they had for several reasons including the idea that if people heard him speak, they would never believe he was enslaved.
Another commenter mentioned that if it took 106 years for Cleveland to change its name, it must not have been a big deal. My response again was simple. The reason the name did not change is because ignorance and hate sells. Afterall, this is a country where the United States Postal Service allowed postcards to be sold with real life pictures of black people who were lynched and burned alive at the stake in front of hundreds of people with their white children in attendance. Images of black people in the most stereotyped ways sold for years in this country as memorabilia and collector’s items. This is also the reason why mascots of stereotyped Native Americans sell. This is indeed a “big deal.”
If you do not know what it is like to have your culture introduced to the world only through stereotypes, you cannot understand why this name change is significant, demonstrated by one commenter who asked if I would be as bothered if Cleveland changed its name to “The White Caucasians.” These types of comments minimize the experiences of marginalized groups. For those who ask why now, I remind them that it was Dr. King who stated that the time is always right to do right. I believe, as Les brown said, that we should work to create communities where everybody feels celebrated and not tolerated. We need to do more to ensure that Native Americans and their culture are respectfully visible in this society beyond stereotypes and Pocahontas Halloween costumes. Our Native American family are the most marginalized cultural group in America. We cannot forget them at best or degrade them at worst. I hope other teams continue to do more from the elementary schools to college level as well as in professional sports.