They’re not racist, they’re just oblivious! The Daily Show confronted the fanatical advocates of a racist slur with Indian activists…and didn’t change anyone’s minds. I still think they’re freakin’ racists.
You want more nuance? Read the behind-the-scenes account by one of the activists.
The next morning, football Sunday, the three of us went to FedEx Field as part of the show. “The Daily Show” taped us wandering around the “Redskins Nation” tailgate, though that never made it on air. I, rather naively, thought maybe we’d be able use our presence at the tailgate as a way to showcase our humanity, and let the Washington Team know that there are Native Americans out there who are among them—real people not relegated to the eternal myth of history. Maybe we’d change a mind or two. Or, at least, maybe some ignorant hilarity could be caught on camera. It was worth a try, so with a camera crew following us, one little, two little and a third big Indian struck out into FedEx Field’s Redskin Nation tailgate.
That did not go as I’d hoped.
There were points during that hour-long experience where I actually was afraid for my life. I have never been so blatantly threatened, mocked or jeered. It was so intense, so full of vitriol that none of the footage ended up being used in the segment. I’m a big dude—6’1”, and a lotta meat on the bones. But a blonde little wisp of a girl completely freaked me out as I waited in line for the bathroom. “Is that shirt supposed to be funny?” she asked motioning to my satirical “Caucasians” T-shirt. And then she said, “I’ll fucking cut you.” Actually, she didn’t scare me so much as the wannabe linebackers standing behind her who looked like they wanted to make good on her threat.
On one level, I get it. I’m walking around with an ironic T-shirt on, being a Native in the middle of FedEx Field with a camera crew from “The Daily Show” nearby. But amid the jeers, mocking and threats, did I cry, and accuse them of ambush? No, because I knew what I was getting myself into. It’s “The Daily Show.” I know the format. More than that though, I didn’t back down or break down because I knew in my heart and conscience I was doing the right thing, as silly as the method may have been.
I think back to the tailgate: the man blowing cigar smoke in my face, the man who mockingly yelled, “Thanks for letting us use your name!”, the group who yelled at us to “go the fuck home,” the little waif who threatened to cut me, the dude who blew the train horn on his truck as I walked by the hood. I think of all of that, and I think back to O’Dell crying and trying desperately to get out of the room full of calm Natives. I thought she was crying because she was caught unawares and was afraid. But I realized that was her defense mechanism, and that by overly dramatizing her experience, she continued to trivialize ours. It was privilege in action. And as I realized these things, something else became incredibly clear: She knew she was wrong.