Humans can be pretty oblivious to social issues around them, as long as they don’t affect their lives. As a race, we can be the epitome of the adage “head in the sand” when it comes to topics that make us uncomfortable.
I had always heard that women in the US earn seventy cents to the dollar compared to men. And that Afro-American and LatinX women earn even less. Yet, just because I had been fortunate enough to escape that injustice during my time in the industry, I never believed it.
The past few years have opened my eyes and made me more socially aware of the injustices happening around us every day. And that has completely changed my entire outlook on life. As a woman of color, I realized I had been viewing the world through the lens of privilege I didn’t even know I possessed.
And it started when the Washington Football Team, previously called the Washington Redskins, were called out for their appropriation of Native American culture and heritage.
The Washington Redskins Fiasco – A History
The team had been facing controversy since the 1960s. Native American rights groups had been up in arms against the team to change its name and symbol. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the movement started to gain some steam, and people actually started to get aware of the issue.
However, while many people are somewhat aware of issues such as racism and sexism, cultural appropriation is an issue that hardly gets the attention it deserves. And although this problem was more of a racial issue, the case was misconstrued as cultural hijacking. That lessened the impact it had on our populace, and the movement lost its momentum.
However, the rising number of protests against racial profiling in recent years made many people realize how wrong we were to ignore that issue. For me, it was life-changing.
Researching the topic, I realized that this entire fiasco was akin to some of history’s greatest and most blatant racial profiling stories. Similar to the Jim Crow era and the racial caricatures of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime, the use of Native American paraphernalia by the franchise was highly despicable.
Understanding this connection was a humbling moment. How could I, a female POC, have been so blind to an issue about systemic racism?
The Turning Point for the Native Americans
In July 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked a new wave of anti-racism demonstrations. Movements like Black Lives Matter were working hard to make the wider populace realize the systemic racism people of color face every day.
Following these widespread campaigns for better social and racial awareness, many sizable sponsors for the team and the League threatened to pull their funding if the franchises failed to change such questionable names and NFL logos.
Giving in, the team called a review meeting, which came to the consensus that they needed to retire their name and symbol in favor of something more socially acceptable. They announced that the franchise’s new name would be announced in 2022. In the meantime, they adopted a simple name and logo, electing to call themselves the “Washington Football Team.”
How This Entire Event Changed My Outlook on Social Awareness?
Looking back, I can now see how much I had been blessed not to feel the brunt of this systemic racism in the workplace or around me in general. So busy I was counting my blessings that I chose to ignore the social issues around me. And what it took for me to open my eyes to it.
It wasn’t like I had been unaware of racism around me. As a person of color, I had both seen and experienced blatant racism in my life. And despite knowing that racist tendencies were all around us and easy to hide, I still failed to identify them.
Since becoming aware, I now see myself analyzing everything someone claims as being racist quite thoroughly. That is because I now believe that just like me, there might be many such people of color out there who might be unaware of such events or choose to ignore them in the first place.
The Native Americans saw themselves and their culture being made a mockery of by the Washington Football Team. Many of us failed to support them because they didn’t believe the issue to be so dire. Even for me, it took the death of an innocent man of color and the demonstrations that followed to understand the plight of another marginalized community.
Today, I believe that social awareness is one of the most potent forces fighting against systemic oppression worldwide. From racism and sexism to religious bigotry, it is proving a strong supporter for the oppressed. And I wish that those of us who have faced this struggle need to be at the forefront of such movements and help people understand the truth hidden to them.