It's hard for most of us to imagine that any governmental or private group in this country would promote an image such as Memin Pinguin, the Sambo-like cartoon character that appears on new stamps issued by Mexico ["Mexican Stamps Racist, Civil Rights Leaders Say," front page, June 30].
The Mexicans say the image is beloved and that it portrays Afro-Mexicans in a positive, good-natured light. Perhaps this is true in Mexico, but in the United States that would be insufficient justification for perpetuating a racial stereotype that is hurtful to many people. Why, then, is it so hard for us to acknowledge the same problem with the name of our football team, the Redskins?
Many American Indians are as offended by the Redskins logo as the NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH, La Raza and the National Urban League are by Memin Pinguin.
I'm neither a Native American activist nor a politically correct scold; I'm just a mom raising three kids, trying to teach them basic values. I grew up rooting for the team, oblivious to the possibility that the Redskins name might offend anyone. I needed an American Indian friend to help me understand that many Native Americans see "Redskin" as a derogatory word, once used pejoratively by white settlers who believed that American Indians were savages.
Some people honestly believe that the name Redskins is a positive image for this minority group, but if a significant number of the people supposedly being honored by the label don't feel that way, shouldn't we reconsider?
I know that Daniel Snyder paid a huge sum to acquire the Redskins team, and he may assume that the name has too much economic value to change. But a franchise name can have negative value as well.
I won't let my kids wear Redskins paraphernalia for the same reasons I didn't put Little Black Sambo on their bookshelves. I see it as a simple matter of educating well-intentioned people about the issue. The more of us who understand that to wear clothing with the Redskins logo is to promote a hurtful racial slur, the more of us will become embarrassed by it. And when the artifacts of a team are an embarrassment, then change will come.
Rather than preach to Snyder for not seeing the issue the way I do, I encourage fellow Washingtonians who find racial slurs offensive to:
* Avoid team products that bear the name "Redskins." Choose instead things burgundy and gold that say "Washington" and display a football rather than an Indian in headdress.
* Not use the word Redskins when talking about our football team. At least one popular area newscaster already refers to the team as the "Washington football team."
* Encourage your children's sports league to prohibit the use of the name Redskins or other Indian names for teams and to avoid cheers or mascots that are caricatures of American Indians. Several years ago, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Baseball became a leader in the region in adopting such a policy. Others should follow suit.
* Make sure that performances or presentations at your child's school do not include use of the word Redskins or involve a costume with the word Redskins on it.
* If a Washington football player is attending a function at your school, company or organization, request that he not wear clothing that has the word Redskins on it and ask him not to give out paraphernalia that contains the word Redskins.
In a diverse community such as the nation's capital, we are all challenged to understand different cultures and what others might find offensive. Those of us willing to listen should lead the effort to erase the word Redskins from everyday vocabulary. It doesn't require Snyder's endorsement or consent. It only requires that thoughtful people take thoughtful action.
-- Kay B. Stevens