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Letter to Senator Barrasso

Dear Senator Barrasso,

On behalf of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, I respectfully write to you today for the following three reasons:

  1. To commend the sponsors of H.R. 1278, the “Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons and Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013″;
  2. To ask the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on this measure; and
  3. To request that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs move this or similar legislation at the earliest possible date.

UNITY also wishes to express our interest in testifying in any hearing on this legislation.

H.R. 1278 is important legislation because it would strike a public blow against racist stereotypes, which are an anathema to human dignity and diversity. There is no worse racial epithet used to refer to Native American people than the name of the Washington professional football team. It has heinous origins in the bloody history of commodification of Native skin and other body parts as bounties and trophies, and these despicable practices trace directly to today’s “Native” mascots that glorify a savage past.

The federal government never should have granted federal trademark protection between 1967 and 1990 for this disparaging term — as the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board determined in 1999, when it canceled the six existing trademarks, only to have that ruling overturned on an unrelated technicality involving a unique interpretation of laches — and it is right to permanently remove the federal imprimatur now.

We, the members of UNITY, emphasize that this is not a matter of censorship.  Rather, this is a matter of racism. It is not about whether the team may be named a racist slur. It is about whether the federal government should grant the exclusive privilege of making money for such a term. We in UNITY work with words and many of the people we represent can attest to the harm that is done by this base word. We would appreciate being advised of future action in this area of federal policy and look forward to the opportunity to present our full views on H.R. 1278 and other similar measures.

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, an alliance of four journalism organizations representing more than 4,000 journalists, is the most diverse journalism organization in the nation. A coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association, UNITY is a strategic alliance that advocates for fair and accurate news coverage of people of color and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. UNITY aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in employment at all levels of their companies.

On behalf of UNITY, I thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Tom Arviso, Jr.

Tom Arviso Jr.

UNITY President

 

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