Cultural Whitewashing

The Washington Redskins and El Paso Whitewashing

If the Washington Redskins can come to terms with the origins of its name, why can’t the El Paso community do the same? According to the online edition of the Cambridge Dictionary, whitewashing is “an attempt to stop people finding out the true facts about a situation”. In a recent article, we added “cultural whitewashing” to the debate. We argued that cultural whitewashing is not about racism, but rather about minimizing the dominant culture of El Paso to replace it with a minority one. We also argued that it was an important debate to have.

Whitewashing is not racism, although racism plays a part in it. But we must dispense with the term racism and focus on what whitewashing is to fully understand it and counter it. The easiest way to explain whitewashing is to point out that white actors are normally cast to play historical actors that are not white.

There is a very poignant example of Hollywood whitewashing in the 1956 movie, The Conqueror. In The Conqueror, the main character is Genghis Khan, an Asian, who was played by John Wayne.

John Waynes as Genghis Khan, 1956

However, the most obvious whitewashing is the numerous images across the globe of Jesus Christ that is represented as a Caucasian man in what was then, a predominantly a dark-skinned part of the globe. Looking at the images of Christ is like suspending reality and pretending that somehow a Scandinavian Viking suddenly appeared in the Middle East and went on to become the Son of Man.

Selected Slide from the Glass Beach Study, 2006

The infamous Glass Beach Study was a study, paid for by El Paso taxpayers, that articulate whitewashing in El Paso. The study argued that to make El Paso a vibrant city, all Mexicanisms had to be erased from the city and White culture was to replace them. That was the only way El Paso would succeed, according to the study.

Bowie High School is named after a slave trader that was guilty of crimes in his time. That he was a slave trader is part of the discussion but it is a fact that Bowie traded in slaves illegally at the time. Judging him in his time frame means that he was guilty of crimes then. But what matters is that most focus on La Bowie and its legacy forgetting that the underlining namesake is counterproductive to what Bowie and its alumni aspire to be.

NASCAR has reconciled with its Confederacy legacy by eliminating the Confederate flag. The Washington Redskins have decided that their legacy deserves much more. But in El Paso, where is the outrage over Juan de Oñate and the continued displacement of the Mexican culture?

Case in point is self-proclaimed Chicano activist, Jaime Abeytia, arguing for keeping the name of the Redskins while identifying himself as a Native American person.

Paul Cicala, News4Tucson, KVOA.com, July 13, 2020 @ 6:31 p.m.

It is the defense of keeping the name of the Redskins because it means something to an individual that exposes the hidden agenda of El Paso’s cultural whitewashing.

Readers should note the following. Paul Cicala is a former El Paso reporter, thus it is likely that he met Abeytia while in El Paso. But what is most poignant about the interview is that the individuals Cicala interviewed for his presentation found the name offensive to the Native Americans. The first was Net Norris, a Tucson native. Cicala also quoted Arizona Representative Raúl Girjalva, stating that “you either step into this century or you don’t.”

Note that both individuals are in Arizona. The poignant part of the news report is that Cicala used someone in El Paso to offer the counter that the Redskins name should be left as is. Was Jaime Abeytia the only “Native American” that Cicala could find to offer the counter? Were there no individuals in Arizona willing to argue that the Redskins should keep their name?

Abeytia arguing that the Redskins should keep their name demonstrates the cultural whitewashing of El Paso.

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