Teabaggers, Redskins, what's in a name? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Teabaggers, Redskins, what’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Well, your name is important to you and your family and maybe a few close friends, but people do change their names for a variety of reasons. Most people wouldn’t much care if someone they knew changed their name, although sometimes you wonder.

If you up and changed your name to Gladys someone might wonder long and vociferously, especially if your name was Bob, short for Robert. Unless you have a really good explanation.

  • “Hey Bob! Why’d you change your name to Gladys? That’s seems pretty stupid!”
  • “Well Ed, it’s to honor my Aunt Gladys in England.”
  • “Why’s that Bob … err … Gladys?”
  • “She died and left me two million pounds, Ed!”
  • “Well all right Gladys! Glad to know ya!”
Chuck Connors and son Jeffrey on the set of “The Rifleman” in 1959. (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

Chuck Connors and son Jeffrey on the set of “The Rifleman” in 1959.
(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

My name is Tim, but growing up I wanted the name “Chuck.” You know, like Chuck Connors, from “The Rifleman.” Didn’t want to be Johnny — no, he was just a kid. I wanted to be Chuck, short for Charles. By the time I was 12 I grew out of it. “Tim” is a pretty fine name and I’m proud to wear it.

Remember the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”?

  • “My daddy left home when I was three
  • And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
  • Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
  • Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
  • But the meanest thing that he ever did
  • Was before he left, he went and named me ‘Sue.’”

That has nothing to do with this post, but I still like the song.

At any rate, there can be a lot in a name. Take for instance “Teabagger.” We had a little dust-up last week over that word, that name. My last blog was all about them Tea … folks, but I used the world “Teabagger” quite a bit because, well, it’s funny.

Apparently though, it offended people, so much so the Baltimore Post-Examiner management went and edited the thing, replacing “Teabagger” with “Tea Party” or some derivation. Some people thought it was the same as using a racial slur.

“Teabagger” is nothing like a racial slur, not even close. Many of us who do use it when writing or talking about Tea Party folks do so in a mocking fashion, but it is in no way the same as a racial slur.

A sign at an anti-Obama rally. (Courtesy of Word Press)

A sign at an anti-Obama rally.
(Courtesy of Word Press)

Let’s go back four-plus years, to those sunny days right after that evil man in the White House forced the American populace to vote for him and make him president.

All of a sudden there were people falling out of the woodwork, crying, “We want our country back!” Back from where? Or whom?

And before the new president could get any of his ideas passed into law there were these knuckleheads parading around Washington, D.C. in tri-corner hats, protesting President Obama’s tax policies, none of which had even been proposed as legislation, let alone passed by Congress and signed into law.

Then these very same knuckleheads started parading around Washington in their tri-corner hats festooned with teabags, calling themselves “Teabaggers,” as in they were just like those guys who dressed up as “redskins” and dumped all the British tea in Boston Harbor, in December 1773.

But, as anyone with a sixth grade understanding of American history knows, the modern day “Tea Party” bears no resemblance to the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

The people of yester-century were demonstrating over being taxed by the Crown without any representation and that the only tea they were allowed to purchase was from the East India Company. Through a charter from the Crown, the East India Company had a monopoly on trade in the colonies.

The plaque in Boston commemorating the Boston Tea Party that took place nearly 240 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

The plaque in Boston commemorating the Boston Tea Party that took place nearly 240 years ago.
(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons)

The modern day “Tea Party” began protesting because a Black man — a Democrat dontcha know — was forced upon America as president, through that sinister institution called an election.

The Teabaggers don’t say that of course. It would be too blatantly racist, but they would use racial code, or as one California Republican did: he sent out an email in March 2009 depicting the White House lawn turned into a watermelon patch, with the inscription, “No Easter Egg Hunt This Year.”

When confronted about the email. Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose claimed he didn’t know about the racial stereotype that Blacks like watermelon. Umm, yeah, sure and I didn’t know that originally “Teabaggers” described guys who flopped their nude scrotums on the noses and faces of unsuspecting companions who might be asleep.

The “Watermelon Patch” email sent out by Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose. (Photo courtesy of Word Press)

The “Watermelon Patch” email sent out by Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose.
(Photo courtesy of Word Press)

That wasn’t the end of it of course. There was plenty of racism on display whenever these Teabaggers got together in Washington to protest one thing or another having to do with that Black guy in the White House.

And then that old canard of a question popped up again: “If Black people can drop an “N” bomb, why can’t I?”

Well, here’s why, in case you’re interested. “Nigger” was a word first used by slave merchants to describe their cargo, their “product”: Africans kidnapped from their homes (in Africa) and then sold into slavery across the various European empires.

From it’s very beginning, the “N” word has been a pejorative used to denigrate, intimidate and subjugate people of African descent, whether those Africans were slaves or not. It didn’t die as a slur with the end of the Civil War. It actually gained new life as racist organizations like Ku Klux Klan sprung into existence to try and continue the Civil War and oppress the former slaves and Black people in general.

African-Americans use it as an acknowledgement of being a part of the culture, like calling someone “homie.” Usually.

A racist anti-Obama meme that made the rounds on Facebook last year.

A racist anti-Obama meme that made the rounds on Facebook last year.

There is a debate in the African-American community about the use of the word and it’s derivations; comedian Chris Rock very publicly deciding to stop using it. But, many still use it and it seems to be a staple in the hip-hop/rap culture.

When I was a kid we grew up using terms like “Injun” and “Redskin” as part of the common lexicon. These were words we heard on TV during our favorite TV programs. Heck, one of the teams my Green Bay Packers have been playing for the past 81 years is the Washington Redskins.

It wasn’t until much later that we learned such terms were racial, at least, if not downright racist. So, we had to step back and examine our use of those terms and try to put some perspective on it. And then we learned Native Americans view Columbus Day as a day of mourning. But Columbus discovered the New World and opened it up to European imperialism! Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that!

Besides the people who had been here at least 10,000 years before Columbus arrived; the people who, once Columbus arrived (followed by the French, Portuguese, English and Spanish), were subjected to slavery, new and fatal diseases and genocide.

That’s all in the past now and by golly, isn’t it time we all came together as one nation … with a few class and racial distinctions. Let’s remember who’s in charge and it ain’t Charles. Why would those people have resentment over what happened hundreds of years ago? C’mon, get over it! You have casinos now!

The Redskins flag being waved at a home game. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins Facebook page)

The Redskins flag being waved at a home game.
(Photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins Facebook page)

Let’s forgive and forget the over 400-plus treaties the U.S. government had with the various Native American nations — that our government eventually broke in order to let the White people tear up their lands for the natural resources that made the White people very rich.

It’s like some fat slob walks into your house, announces he now lives there and then proceeds to take a shit on that beautiful rug that’s been in your family for the past four generations.

So, now I understand why terms like “Injun” and “Redskin” are offensive to Native Americans. It’s why several universities changed their school mascots from Native American themes to other things, like Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.  When I was growing up we loved watching the Marquette Warriors win the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in college basketball. Now they are the Marquette Golden Eagles.

But when it comes to the high profile Washington Redskins, that name doesn’t look like it will be changing any time soon. In 2003 majority owner Dan Snyder said, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Kentucky State Senate President David Williams in his tri-corner teabagger hat. (Photo courtesy of Word Press blog)

Kentucky State Senate President David Williams in his tri-corner teabagger hat.
(Photo courtesy of Word Press blog)

He’s since lightened up on his rhetoric, employing a lefty lawyer for his public relations on the issue (Lanny Davis), but he is adamantly opposed to a name change. He understands it offends some people, but he also reads the polls: most Native Americans are not offended by the name.

Some people, like Snyder, consider it homage to Native Americans because no one chooses a term with overtly negative connotations as a name for a sports team. They choose cool names like Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Packers, or tough-sounding, manly names, lime Steelers, Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Giants … or Redskins.

Even Native American leaders have said it doesn’t offend them or the people they represent.

But none of that changes the fact that “Redskins” was a derogatory term used to classify this continent’s first inhabitants as sub-human to their European oppressors. For that reason alone it would be a great idea to change the name.

The Tea Party Teabaggers are not known for their literacy or attention to detail. (Photo courtesy of Facebook}

The Tea Party Teabaggers are not known for their literacy or attention to detail.
(Photo courtesy of Facebook}

If it even suggests inequality or racist views, even inadvertently, whatever the intentions, Dan Snyder should strongly consider changing the name. If he hasn’t done so yet, he should explore the possibility of doing so, either publicly or privately.

But the word “Teabaggers” is not in any way the same as the word “Redskins.” The former identify themselves by that term; they chose “Teabaggers,” it wasn’t thrust upon them by an oppressive regime.

The Teabaggers are mostly White, by a huge margin, and they haven’t experienced a day, or even a minute, of oppression in their lives. They just had to live through a couple of election outcomes they didn’t like, calling it “oppression.”

Now they are throwing temper tantrums, like the one led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee that shut down the federal government for two weeks.

You White folks aren’t the oppressed here in the U.S. of A. Not by a long shot, regardless of what you might hear from Hannity and O’Reilly. White males in particular have been in such a privileged position in society it only seems like oppression as equality begins to diminish the White male supremacy that was once institutional in our society.

A Teabagger protest sign, complete with the Statue of Liberty (which is in New York) and an airliner depicted as being used as a bomb. (Photo courtesy of Word Press)

A Teabagger protest sign, complete with the Statue of Liberty (which is in New York) and an airliner depicted as being used as a bomb.
(Photo courtesy of Word Press)

When White men find women and minorities getting the same treatment as them the first reaction from the reactionaries is “oppression.” Some Black woman gets into a university medical school and some White male doesn’t — oppression, by way of affirmative action.

Please. The statistics prove that even today, Whites and White men in particular, are still a privileged class above minorities — especially in college admissions. Which seems baffling when you consider the people who started this “Tea Party movement” weren’t bright enough to find out what the sexual connotation to the term “Teabaggers” was, before choosing to call themselves “Teabaggers.”

As long as they continue their efforts to dumb down and harm America with ridiculous stunts like shutting down the government, I will continue to use the name they gave themselves four years ago: Teabaggers.

Besides, the Oxford American Dictionary (Oxford University Press) says it’s okay to use “Teabagger” when describing people affiliated with the Tea Party because, “Having deliberated carefully over the word-usage evidence, Oxford’s lexicographers are confident in their judgment that ‘teabagger’ the political term stands distinctly apart from ‘teabagger’ the vulgar term.”

There you have it. I and my like-minded colleagues are on firm lexicographic ground when we refer to Tea Party disciples as “Teabaggers.” Even if we have slightly vulgar thoughts.

If you Teabaggers are wondering why you are losing support with the American public, take a look in the mirror, when you’re wearing the tri-corner hat with teabags hanging down to your nose.

One last thing: a shoutout to Carl Woodward for his defense of the word “Teabagger.” Click Here to read his post. He got the cool “Countdown” video first. I’m jealous.

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About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.
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