Every time some college students dress in blackface for Halloween or someone reignites the call for the name change of the DC football team or any other sports team named after a group of people, people get so quick to draw on both sides that we lose an opportunity to understand the history and why it hurts, to learn how to be respectful instead of simply trying to be inoffensive. I’m not sure what’s a good way to go about that, but I am certain that we’re generally missing the mark.
And so it was refreshing to read about the way in which the Seminole tribe works together with Florida State to celebrate its history, to keep it alive. The “hey, don’t assume we’ll be offended or not. Don’t speak on our behalf. We will speak for ourselves. We can work together so that you don’t misrepresent us.” The exact approach won’t work for every instance, but what makes the difference here is that the Seminole tribe plays an active role in how the name is used and how the story is told.
So often it is not about who uses what words or or names tells whose stories so much as doing it without the history, without the context, without understanding or even attempting to understand. Because we also lose when we let some stories be untold out of fear. Because a censored history can be just as bad as an incorrect one.