The People and the Name: Indians

Why is the name Indians racist? 

It was given to an entire continent of people by a man believing in the superiority of his race and his religion. It also happens that he was lost, seriously lost. 

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The origin of the name Indians for the indigenous populations of the Americas tracks back to Christopher Columbus. When he arrived in the Caribbean he believed he had found islands off the coast of China in what was then known as the Indies. Columbus named the people he found Indians. He died  believing he had found the route to China from Europe. When Columbus arrived his mission was to convert the native people to Christianity, to send some back to Europe study and be studied, and to exploit their natural resources.

Before his first voyage of Columbus had obtained a contract with the king and queen of Spain to receive 10% of all profits from his voyage or voyages. On his second voyage Columbus sent a group of natives back to Europe to be enslaved. Many died from diseases they contracted in Europe for which they had no immunity.

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During the time Columbus was on his third voyage in the Americas his inability to adequately govern was recognized in Spain. Queen Isabella refused to accept the natives as slaves, returning many to their homes on future voyages. Additionally a new governor,  Francisco de Bobadilla, was sent to the Americas to replace Columbus and his brothers in 1500. The new governor, with 500 armed men under his command,  had more authority than Columbus. To remove a combative Columbus and his brothers he placed Columbus in chains aboard one of Columbus’ own vessles for the return of the 3rd voyage to Sapin.

In 1602 Columbus began his fourth and final voyage. before he would again see Spain hewould be shipwrecked on a Carribean island for over a year, endure mutiny on the island, be unwelcome in the colony of Hispianola which he had originally founded, encounter trading myans but neglect to expore their lands or culture  and find upon his delayed return to Spain that his single major benefactor, Queen Isabella, was dying. Columbus himself died less than two years later. At his death he was still insisting he had found the route to China and the Indies and believed that with the weath in gold and silver soon to be found Spain would convert the entire world to Christianity which would then soon bring the end of the world. 

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This is the real Columbus, the man who named an entire continent’s people the name of the wrong continent. He did shape history. He did bring change. It is time to bring change again. Perpetuating his racist wrong essentially because this history is not widely known is itself wrong. 

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Opening Day 2014

Today this letter has been submitted to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It is another opening day is a racist sport in a city with a racist team. WE can do better.

April 4, 2014

Dear Cleveland Plain Dealer Editors,

Today we are asking the fans and the owners, Larry Dolan and the Dolan family, the players and the team management and the full leadership of MLB to step up to the plate and do the right thing: Change the Cleveland MLB team name and logo. Using the identity of a proud race of people for profit is wrong. Exploiting a racist identity is wrong. Keeping a relic of our shared racist past in front of children today perpetuates that violently horrible type of thinking and is wrong.

Here in Cleveland many have debated, discussed and argued over this team name and mascot, for decades. We have been involved in those discussions, those demonstrations and the formal legal filings. Yet this issue is not really one in need of court decisions—it belongs in the hearts of the fans throughout MLB and the good people of Greater Cleveland.

The team has had other names in the past, many MLB teams have. Today, with Opening Day arrived at our doorstep for the 2014 MLB Cleveland Season it is time to move forward, retire the name, create a new logo and give the team, the players and all of those who love America’s pastime something to be proud of, the courage shown by doing the right thing.

We ask everyone to come together, with good will, decency and integrity and create a new team name and a new logo. We can move beyond yesterday, make today a good day and build a better tomorrow.

 

Sherrie Noble                    Robert Roche