A question for those who won’t say #BlackLivesMatter

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Two years ago, the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to ISIS. Christians living there became targets of persecution. ISIS would mark their homes and businesses with the Arabic letter ن (N, for “Nazarene”) and give them four options: leave, convert, pay a “protection” tax, or die.

The world responded—Christians and Muslims together—by saying #WeAreN. People wrote the Arabic letter ن on their hands. They changed their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter. They stood up in solidarity with this one persecuted group in one corner of the world.

So tell me: did you object to saying #WeAreN two years ago, the way you object to saying #BlackLivesMatter today? 

Did you respond, “All lives matter!” then as you do now?

Did you argue that it’s unfair to single out one group for concern, as if saying #WeAreN somehow minimizes the value of other groups—some of whom, in the case of Iraq, arguably suffered more at the hands of ISIS than Christians? (Pro tip: google the term “Yazidi.”)

What meaningful difference is there between saying #WeAreN in solidarity with those in Iraq and saying #BlackLivesMatter in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers in America?

If none of you took #WeAreN to mean and no one else matters, why do you take #BlackLivesMatter in this way? Why do you assume it means what it categorically does not mean, and ignore all evidence to the contrary? Did you listen to those who started the movement before you drew your conclusions about it?

Is there, perhaps, another, deeper reason you don’t want to say #BlackLivesMatter?

Are you afraid of what these words will force you to acknowledge—that racism is still very much alive in this country?

That you really don’t want to give up your power and privilege? (I know I’d rather not give up mine, if I’m being honest.)

That you don’t really want to “value others above yourselves,” as the apostle Paul once put it?

That you’re not prepared to face the implications of living as if black lives truly matter to us?

If you were one of the millions who said #WeAreN two years ago, but cannot abide saying #BlackLivesMatter, how is that not the very definition of hypocrisy?

Photo: Gerry Lauzon on FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

The racism that killed Tamir Rice is more than just a “police problem”

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“You can get away with murder. You can shoot a child in an open park. You can lie about the incident. You can refuse to cooperate with investigators. You can, if a Cuyahoga County prosecutor and grand jury are to be believed, escape indictment even when the entire episode is captured on videotape.”

— Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast

  —//—

Police shot Tamir Rice within two seconds of arriving on the scene. 

Two seconds.

It wasn’t enough time to meaningfully apprehend the situation. It wasn’t enough time for officers to apprehend the true nature of the (nonexistent) threat. It wasn’t enough time for a 12 year-old child to apprehend whatever commands police allegedly shouted just before a bullet tore his flesh.

As Charles Blow writes in the New York Times:

Take a moment and time yourself giving three commands, imagining a response from Tamir and making the decision to shoot. Maybe it can be done in less than two seconds. But to my mind, it strains credulity.

The police shot a child in an open park and lied about the circumstances.

This alone should have sent the case to trial.

Police showed utter disregard for Tamir as his life ebbed away. 

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Tamir lay on the ground bleeding for four minutes.

The officer who shot him did nothing to render aid.

When Tamir’s 14-year-old sister came running to him, she was pushed to the ground, handcuffed, and thrown in the back of a police car.

Again, Charles Blow:

She could not reach him. Her arms could not cradle his body and plead for him to hang on. Her hands could not stroke his cheek, and she could not whisper hopefully, “It’s going to be O.K.” Her eyes could not gaze into his and say what sisters are able to say without saying anything: “I love you.”

Police murdered Tamir Rice, watched his life ebb away, and treated his justifiably disconsolate sister like a criminal.

And they got away with all of it.

That’s because the racism that killed Tamir is more than just a “police problem.”  

Officer Loehmann said he believed Tamir was a real threat. He said he thought Tamir was a 20 year-old male, not a 12 year-old boy.

Loehmann may have genuinely believed all of this—but that doesn’t excuse his actions. It only proves they were tainted by racial bias.

In a 2014 study, police officers were shown photographs of children, told that each was suspected of a felony or a misdemeanor, and asked to guess their age. According to the Washington Post:

The officers overestimated the age of black felony-suspected children by close to five years, but they actually underestimated the age of white felony-suspected children.

Another study, also reported by the Washington Post, found that officers were quicker to shoot black subjects, armed or unarmed.

Officer Loehmann saw a threat where there was none. He saw an adult male where there was a child. He took all of two seconds to decide to end that child’s life.

The reason? Skin color.

We live in a country where mostly white open-carry demonstrators can flaunt their military-grade assault weapons in public—without fearing the police. Yet a black child gets shot for carrying a toy gun (in a state where it’s legal to carry real weapons in public).

There is only one rational explanation: racism.

Police are more likely to view someone as a threat—even a child—if they are black. They value that person’s life considerably less if they are black. (It says something about our country that Dylann Roof is alive today and Tamir Rice is not.)

It would be tempting to think of racial bias purely as a “police problem.” But it’s not. The same study that uncovered bias in police officers found just as much bias in ordinary white people. People like me.

We’re just as likely to overestimate the age of black male youths.

We’re just as likely to prejudge blacks.

We might like to think we would have responded differently if we were in Officer Loehmann’s shoes. But the terrifying truth is… many of us would not have.

“Implicit racial bias” is far too soft a term for what we’re describing here. Racism is a form of violence. Violence is blasphemy against the image of God in another human being.

It’s time for us to confess our racism, to confess how it has tainted our perspectives and behaviors, to renounce the violence and blasphemy we have wrought. It’s time to say #BlackLivesMatter and mean it. It’s time for us to begin the long, slow process of learning to see the world differently.

And then it’s time for us to get out of the way.

Because we cannot dictate the solution to a problem of our own making. 

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It’s not easy for me to hear words like these. But I need to hear them anyway. Far too often, people like me have tried to dictate how others should respond to the injustices they have borne.

I’m not Timothy Loehmann, but I am tainted by the same racial bias as he is. I benefit from the same system of white privilege that allowed him to walk away without answering for his crime. I am part of the problem.

I’d like to be part of the solution, too. But it’s not up to me to decide what that solution looks like. To paraphrase James Cone, a system that enslaves does not get to decide when and how slavery is abolished. A system that shoots 12-year-old black children doesn’t get to decide how to reform itself. The oppressor does not get to decide how to right injustice.

The true test of our willingness to combat racism is our willingness to relinquish power, to give up control—to submit ourselves to those we have oppressed, to let them lead the way and decide the answer. I suspect we may not all like the results. Oppressors—and those who benefit from unearned privilege—do not part easily with their monopoly on power.

Until we do, however, more Tamir Rice’s will die. And more police officers will get away with cold-blooded murder.

Photo: Millions March NYC on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

I don’t forgive Dylann Roof

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The world witnessed an astonishing display of forgiveness in Charleston last week.

Relatives of those gunned down by Dylann Roof got a chance to confront the terrorist who ripped a gaping hole in their lives. According to the Washington Post:

One by one, those who chose to speak at a bond hearing did not turn to anger. Instead, while [Roof] remained impassive, they offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for his soul, even as they described the pain of their losses.

It was a powerful, breathtaking sight. I affirm their right to forgive. I am, quite simply, awestruck by it. Someday I’d like to ask them if they could teach me how to be a Christian, because they clearly understand the way of Jesus much better than I do.

But let’s not all pile on the “forgive Dylann Roof” bandwagon yet. Some of us—most of us—have no place there. Specifically, if you are white like me.

It’s not my place to forgive Dylann Roof, for one exceedingly obvious reason: I am not one of his victims.

It’s not my place to tell others—least of all members of the black community—they should forgive Roof either. I haven’t experienced anything remotely like what they’ve experienced.

I have no idea what it’s like to live in fear because of the color of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be profiled, targeted, stereotyped, harassed, and threatened on a daily basis. Me and my ancestors have not had to spend our entire history “literally dying to be human,” as Carvell Wallace put it.

The choice to forgive an oppressor is the victim’s alone.

Forgiveness is central to the Christian experience—our salvation would not be possible without it. But it is not for the oppressor to dictate terms of forgiveness to the oppressed.

And let’s be honest: on the continuum from “oppressor” to “victim,” I am much closer to the former than the latter. I may not be Dylann Roof. I may despise racism. I may sign a petition to take down the Confederate flag. But every day I benefit from a system that privileges whiteness.

Perhaps the real reason it’s so tempting to join what Broderick Greer called the “white Christian rush to forgiveness” is because it lets me off the hook a little too easily. After all, if Dylann Roof can be forgiven for what he did—and he’s not even sorry!—then maybe I don’t have to feel so bad about my white privilege, my racial bias, and my failure to fully confront them. The rush to forgive Dylann Roof blinds me to the lesions of white supremacy that scar my own soul.

Finally, it’s not my place to forgive Dylann Roof (or tell others to) because by doing so, I risk misappropriating the very notion of forgiveness.

That’s what I learned from this eye-opening conversation between Mallory Ortberg and Carvell Wallace. (Warning: there’s strong language in the full piece, but frankly, if that’s what troubles you, then we need to have a chat about priorities.)

Many of us see forgiveness as closure, as the end of a story. Once forgiveness is offered, we can all go back to our lives. To quote Ortberg:

In the broad Christian context I grew up in, saying “I forgive you” was generally understood to be a complete act. You forgave someone when you were DONE wrestling through what they had done to you. And it meant that you were, if not over it completely, at a certain amount of peace, and that things were, generally speaking, “okay.”

That’s a problem, because forgiving Dylann Roof does nothing to address the systemic racism that poisoned his soul—and to some degree poisons mine as well. It does nothing to dismantle the structures designed to keep black people “in their place.”

Forgiveness may be followed by a renewed effort to combat racism. But forgiveness does NOT make the fight against racism unnecessary.

To quote Carvell Wallace:

A lot of people forget that forgiveness of racists among black people is something that WE DO IN ORDER TO KEEP OUR SOULS INTACT… We have to forgive the sinner because the accumulated resentment could destroy us, but that will never mean that we don’t fight tooth and nail against the sin.

It’s nothing to do with the offender and it’s not about granting a pass to anyone. It’s more about clearing your heart of hate SPECIFICALLY SO YOU CAN CONTINUE TO FIGHT.

America has a long history of raping, robbing, enslaving and killing people and then urging those same people to find and express forgiveness and peace. So when I hear “pray for peace” from a white person in the hours after Charleston, it lands very, very wrong.

I do not forgive Dylann Roof. Nor will I ask anyone else to. Rather, my responsibility is to find and name the unseen prejudice lurking in my own heart—to repent and seek forgiveness for the ways I have contributed, intentionally or otherwise, to an oppressive system.

Image: #StandWithCharleston by All-Nite Images on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Stop praying for peace in Baltimore

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Last year I wrote a blog post asking privileged, white Christians like myself to resist shallow, self-serving prayers for peace in the wake of Ferguson. The problem isn’t that we long for peace; it’s what kind of peace we long for. Peace without justice. Peace without facing up to the malignant curse of racism. Peace without confessing how astonishingly short of justice we have fallen.

Five months on, little has changed. What was said about Ferguson can be said about Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Walter Scott. And now Freddie Gray.

This is what I wrote about Ferguson at the time, updated to reflect the current situation in Baltimore. What’s sad is how little I had to edit—an indication of how little has changed since Ferguson…how little we’ve learned. 

Five months on, we’re still praying for peace. And we are still missing the point.

(Changes to the original post are indicated in red.)

—//—

I’m done praying for peace in Ferguson Baltimore. I can’t bring myself to do it.

Not when the word “peace,” uttered by those of us who still cling to our unearned privilege, means peace for us and our kind.

Not when peace means black citizens are told they must respond to yet another mockery of justice in ways the powerful and privileged deem “socially acceptable,” yet it’s somehow OK for law enforcement to come at them with tear gas and tanks and military-grade assault weapons.

Not when peace means a return to the status quo, a resumption of normalcy—that is, privilege for us and discrimination for them.

Not if what peace really means is that I don’t have to face the implications of my privilege or the pervasive reality of systemic racism. Peace, as many have noted, requires so much more than the absence of conflict.

You want “peace” in Ferguson Baltimore—by which you mean you don’t want to see any more cop cars burning on TV—but you don’t want to do anything to fix a system where people have no other way to make themselves heard?

Then what you want isn’t peace. What you want is for your privilege to remain untouched.

When the privileged pray for peace—if it’s not accompanied by a commitment to justice, a willingness to lay down our privilege—then what we’re really saying is we’re OK living in a world where white mass murderers are apprehended alive, yet a young black man—whose only crime that day was fleeing an unlawful arrest—has his spine almost completely severed in the back of a police van.

What we’re saying is we’re OK living in a world where black male teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white teenagers.

We’re saying it’s OK to have a 20-year life expectancy gap between neighborhoods just six miles apart. 

We’re saying it’s OK for blacks in Ferguson Baltimore to be routinely beaten by police—including a 15 year-old boy riding his bike and an 87 year-old grandmother. 

This is not peace.

As one pastor observed, it’s like trying to have the benefits of resurrection without crucifixion. Peace without justice. Reconciliation without owning up to the sin of oppression. Harmony without relinquishing any of our privilege.

It cannot be done.

Peace does not come cheap. As you watch the scene unfold in Ferguson Baltimore, as you mourn with those who mourn, do not pray for peace. Not until you’re ready to come to grips with what is necessary for peace.

Photo: Phil Roeder on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Russell Moore is right: racial injustice IS a gospel issue

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I worry a bit when we start labeling ever divisive matter a “gospel issue.” Surely not everything rises to this threshold. Surely if you play the “gospel” card too many times—if you argue that “the gospel is at stake” in practically every debate—pretty soon the word loses all meaning. It becomes little more than a rhetorical club for stifling debate, for insinuating that anyone who disagrees with you hates the baby Jesus.

Yet sometimes the gospel IS at stake. The other day, Russell Moore when he called racial injustice a “gospel issue.” And I think he was right.

That was the day we learned that Eric Garner’s killer would not face charges. One of the first responses I saw in my Twitter feed came from Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was a transcript of a radio show he recorded moments after the news broke.

His comments are well worth reading:

A government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice.

What we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. I have gotten responses [to this]… that are right out of the White Citizen’s Council material from 1964 in my home state of Mississippi… people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation. Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament [than] that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another.

If [this] is not a gospel issue, then I don’t know what is.

Russell Moore spoke not just for his tribe, but for the whole church. He spoke with prophetic urgency as he rightly declared that racial injustice is indeed a gospel issue.

It’s a gospel issue because the gospel Christ proclaimed is about more than just our personal relationship with God. It’s about our relationship with each other—and with all of creation, for that matter.

It’s the renewal of all things, the reconciliation of all things. The gospel destroys the dividing wall of hostility between people. It creates a new humanity; it knits together a new family where divisions based on ethnicity, caste, or gender are rendered not just obsolete but sinful.

This is what it means to be “in Christ.” You cannot embrace Christ without embracing his mission to remake the world, to destroy all the old barriers of sin and oppression and division.

Some theologians use the term “human flourishing” to describe this mission. Which to me is just another way of saying a world where everyone can breathe.

That’s what Christ’s mission is about. That’s why racial injustice is indeed a gospel issue. To swear allegiance to Christ is to commit yourself to this mission, period. To tolerate injustice, oppression, or exclusion—to turn a deaf ear on the cries emanating from marginalized communities—is to embrace an anti-gospel.

You cannot hate your neighbor and love God, as Dr. Moore eloquently reminded listeners in the wake of the Eric Garner non-indictment. And in case you’re thinking, I don’t hate my neighbor, remember this: the Bible equates apathy with hatred.

—//—

Yet if this is true when Eric Garner has the life choked from his body by a prejudiced and unaccountable police force, it is also be true when a gay teenager is bullied into suicide, whatever our understanding of sexual ethics might be. It is also true when women are relegated to second-class status in our homes and churches. What was it Martin Luther King, Jr. said?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In other words, we don’t get to choose which marginalized communities we embrace and which we leave out in the cold. We don’t get to choose which “dividing walls of hostility” to tear down and which ones to leave standing.

Either it’s the reconciliation of all things or not.

Russell Moore is right Racial injustice is a gospel issue. But it’s not the only one we should be concerned about.

Photo by Geraint Rowland on Flickr (text added to original) / CC BY-NC 2.0

Tamir Rice and the rationalization of systemic racism

He should’ve just gotten on the sidewalk.

He shouldn’t have resisted.

He shouldn’t have been playing with a fake gun.

These are the excuses we use to rationalize the murder of unarmed black males by those sworn to protect. They’re the excuses we use to deny the systemic racism that pervades our society—a society where black teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, a society where blacks receive longer prison sentences than whites for the SAME CRIMES (HT Qasim Rashid), a society where you can’t even get a grand jury indictment in a death the medical examiner ruled a homicide.

The double standard is breathtaking.

Like Tamir Rice, gunned down by police for playing with a fake gun. The police cruiser that came careening up to him (honestly, how would you have reacted?) barely came to a stop when Officer Timothy Loehmann opened fire, killing the 12 year-old boy.

As I watched the footage of Tamir’s murder (let’s call it what it is, shall we?), all I could think was, I played with fake guns as a kid. And I never had to fear for my life.

Of course I didn’t.

No police vehicles ever came charging at me, cops barreling out the door with guns blazing.

None of my neighbors ever entertained the possibility that the toy gun in my hands was anything but a toy.

None of them mistook me for a grown man, either. The police officer who killed Tamir Rice reported that he was 20 years old. (He was 12.) It’s a well-established fact that police officers routinely mistake black boys as older than they really are (HT Kristen Howerton). Because that’s what happens in a society that tolerates pervasive bias against blacks, mostly by pretending it doesn’t exist.

I never had to worry about someone mistaking my toy gun for a real one because I was a white kid living in a white neighborhood. White privilege meant my friends and I could brandish our toy guns (some of which looked real enough) in public without fear of being shot dead.

White privilege also means white gun lovers can brandish their weapons on streets and in restaurants, they can harass anyone who questions their right to do so, they can even plan marches through predominantly black neighborhoods—all without so much as a raised eyebrow from police. Some even laud these open carry zealots as heroes.

If you’re a black kid playing with a fake gun, it’s a capital offense. If you’re a white guy brandishing a loaded semiautomatic in public, it’s your constitutional right.

Do you still want to argue that systemic racism is a thing of the past?

It’s time we see the double standard for what it is. It’s time we acknowledge that racism doesn’t always wear a hood. Sometimes it comes dressed in a suit, to paraphrase Duke University sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. It’s time that those of us who are white realize that we benefit from an unjust system—one in which police can kill unarmed black males with impunity. And so long as we say and do nothing about it, we’re guilty of perpetuating that system.

Photos: Cleveland.com, Mother Jones

Stop praying for peace in Ferguson

I’m done praying for peace in Ferguson. I can’t bring myself to do it.

Not when the word “peace,” uttered by those of us who still cling to our unearned privilege, means peace for us and our kind.

Not when peace means black citizens are told they must respond to yet another mockery of justice in ways the powerful and privileged deem “socially acceptable,” yet it’s somehow OK for law enforcement to come at them with tear gas and tanks and military-grade assault weapons.

Not when peace means a return to the status quo, a resumption of normalcy—that is, privilege for us and discrimination for them.

Not if what peace really means is that I don’t have to face the implications of my privilege or the pervasive reality of systemic racism. Peace, as many have noted, requires so much more than the absence of conflict.

You want “peace” in Ferguson—by which you mean you don’t want to see any more cop cars burning on TV—but you don’t want to do anything about a system in which people have no other way to make themselves heard?

Then what you want isn’t peace. What you want is for your privilege to remain untouched.

When the privileged pray for peace—if it’s not accompanied by a commitment to justice, a willingness to lay down our privilege—then what we’re really saying is we’re OK living in a world where white mass murderers are apprehended alive, yet unarmed black teens pose such a threat that they must be shot dead on the spot.

What we’re saying is we’re OK living in a world where black male teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white teenagers.

We’re saying it’s OK that blacks in Ferguson are disproportionately targeted by police—in 92% of searches and 86% of car stops—even though whites are found carrying illegal contraband far more often than blacks.

This is not peace.

As one pastor observed, it’s like trying to have the benefits of resurrection without crucifixion. Peace without justice. Reconciliation without owning up to the sin of oppression. Harmony without relinquishing any of our privilege.

It cannot be done.

Peace does not come cheap. As you watch the scene unfold in Ferguson, as you mourn (I hope) with those who mourn, do not pray for peace. Not until you’re ready to come to grips with what is necessary for peace.

Image source

White people don’t want to talk about Ferguson. Which is why we need to.

Let’s be honest. Most of us who are white don’t want to face what’s happening in Ferguson.

We don’t want to be confronted by anything that might disrupt our carefully constructed narrative which says we already took care of racism in this country. I mean, hey, we have a black president, right?

Yet here we are in a country where blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate. Guess which group is 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for it? Blacks are significantly more likely to be pulled over, and they are sentenced to more time in jail for the same crimes.

And of course, black young men are more likely to be killed by police (or vigilantes), then tried in the court of public opinion. Kendrec McDade. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. John Crawford. And of course Michael Brown.

We’ve heard all these facts before. They’ve been on a recurring loop since the media began reporting the terrible events in Ferguson. Yet according to a study from the Pew Research Center, only 37 of whites say Michael Brown’s shooting raises racial issues, compared to 80 percent of blacks.

When you see a police force that is 94% white fire tear gas and rubber bullets at a population that is 67% black, it raises racial issues. When the images out of Ferguson look like something out of the Deep South fifty years ago, it raises racial issues. To say otherwise is to live in a particularly toxic form of denial.

The Pew Research Center also asked about the police response to the protests. Only a third of whites think the police went too far in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting.

Only a third think armored vehicles rolling down the streets of Ferguson is going too far.

Only a third think police dressed in camouflage (for some inexplicable reason) waving military-grade assault weapons at unarmed civilians is going too far.

Only a third think lobbing tear gas and stun grenades at civilians—the very citizens they’re supposed to protect—is going too far.

Only a third think threatening reporters and calling protestors “f*****g animals” is going too far.

Only a third think treating black civilians like enemy combatants is going too far.

We have a problem. And the problem is that we won’t even accept that there’s a problem.

There can be no justice, no resolution, no reconciliation until those of us who’ve been blinded by our privilege come out from our gated communities and our artificially constructed realities and listen—really listen—to the experience of being black in America.

We don’t want to talk about Ferguson. Which is precisely why we have to.

Image via Medium.com.

The most important Super Bowl ad you didn’t see

Some issues are complex. Nuanced. Gray.

For me, this one isn’t.

This 2-minute ad called “Proud to Be” takes the seemingly complicated issue of Indian sports mascots and distills it with remarkable clarity.


At roughly $4 million per 30-second slot, this ad never had a chance of making the airwaves during Super Bowl XLVIII. But you should watch it anyway.

Created by the National Congress of American Indians, the ad touches on the rich history of Native American communities. It mentions iconic figures like Sitting Bull, Hiawatha, Jim Thorpe, and Will Rogers. It highlights many aspects of Native American identity: Proud. Forgotten. Survivor. Mother. Father. Son. Daughter. Underserved. Struggling. Resilient.

“Native Americans call themselves many things,” the narrator concludes. One thing they don’t call themselves, however, is Redskin.

Yes, the Washington Redskins’ mascot has been around for more than 80 years. Yes, it would be costly to change it. (After all, the NFL is just your everyday 501(c) nonprofit, right?) No, Washington’s football team isn’t the only one with a controversial Indian mascot that needs changing.

But these are diversions. Excuses.

A friend of mine who shared the video on Facebook asked what I think is the one question that really matters:

Would you feel comfortable calling a Native American this name to their face?

Assuming the answer is no (and it should be), isn’t that an implicit acknowledgement that the term “Redskin” is racist?

Then why do almost 80 percent of Americans think the Redskins should keep their team name? Is it because we don’t like asking difficult questions? Because we never stop long enough to view the issue from someone else’s perspective?

Of course, changing a team mascot won’t end the problem of racism. It won’t address every grievance that Native Americans have or right every wrong that’s been done to them. In reality, a name change seems like a drop in the bucket when it’s weighed against our country’s history of injustice, discrimination, displacement, and outright slaughter of Native Americans.

As far as changes go, this one is more symbolic than structural. But symbolic change still matters. It can still make a difference. It sends a signal that some things are no longer OK. (Not that they ever were.) It’s like a signpost directing us to a different path — one it’s well past time we took.

The only potential downside to changing Indian team names is if someone thinks that doing so will automatically eliminate racism, much like some people thought electing a black president meant we had overcome our troubled history of slavery and segregation. It’s only one step in the journey. But it’s an important step… and it’s time we took it.