Marshall’s Option Discussion
A discussion between collaborators Thomas Canavan and Joshua Sandoval
May 14 - May 31, 2019
List of acronyms: TC=Thomas Canavan, JS=Joshua Sandoval
TC: Hey Josh, how’s it going man? I really appreciate you being a part of this project and for taking some time to talk about why you wanted to lend your vision and design skills to making this happen. Can you tell us a little more about your artwork and why you agreed to collaborate on this?
JS: Well, first when you approached me about the project I knew that it was something that I was going to have to be a part of. I look at this as an opportunity to further the efforts to decolonize attitudes towards Native Americans and disregard for their heritage. The artwork that I created was in an effort to illustrate the absurdity of any organization using a racial slur as their brand identity. My hopes are that conversations like these never stop until organizations like the Washington Redskins remove these images. It was very uncomfortable for me to create them, it should be that uncomfortable for people to know that to this day organizations use racist trademarks for profit. I hope the artwork brings that to surface for those who take it in.
TC: We are attempting to provoke a reaction and hopefully that reaction leads to rethinking how we view this team name, which is really a part of a larger conversation about how indigenous and minority groups are treated within the US. As more people begin to learn the history of the US for what it is they can begin seeing and addressing all of the ways in which we have historically marginalize and excluded people from gaining power.
Can you talk a little bit about the design of the logos and how they play into our concept? What are some of the specific elements that are meant to provoke our reaction?
JS: With the design of each logo I tried to keep the aesthetic close to the Redskins logo, not only to keep a visual consistency, but to also keep the premise & purpose in this project central. I tried to capture different nuances of each demographic. It was a little bit of a challenge but focusing on the hair gave me an opportunity to also include a racial touchstone that is very close to each of their identities. Keeping the associated slur similar to the Redskins typeface also let the audience know that this is in reference to the racist Washington Redskins brand identity. I was concerned with these being reused and taken out of context and the design keeps all that intact and prevents that from happening.
You being white, what kind of responsibility do you feel calling out these types of organizations that were built by white men? Is this part of a larger conversation about the genocide of Native Americans and those conversations happening more & more and being addressed nationally?
TC: First, let me say the approach to the design was great. I think you found a respectful balance. They don’t come across as caricatures. We didn’t create this to be an exercise in making people angry, we want to create a provocation toward a solution and that won’t happen if our audience is focused on a negative image of themselves. I really appreciate the consideration and thoughtfulness you put into each one.
The hairstyles are really a defining element. When we started the logos they were just going to be black silhouettes and your idea to place more emphasis on the hair made them alive and I imagine will be why many people will connect with the campaign.
Regarding my responsibility to White America, I think as a human it’s important for us to speak up when others are being mistreated, marginalized and not listened to. With that said, that means for me and other non-people of color, the majority of the time, here in the US especially, we are speaking against people that look like us. There is still an assumption that White people think we identify with one another because we look the same. I’m not a white person who believes in a White race and who is trying to protect it.
I was born in DC in 1980 and grew up in Prince Georges County Maryland. Part of my family immigrated to DC after the Civil War and others migrated north from the south around the same time and both camps settled mostly in DC’s Wards 7 and 8 before most of them moved to the suburbs in the 1950’s. I mention this to illustrate that this team has been a part of my entire life and my families life from the beginning. So when I moved back to this area after being in LA, I felt like I came back with some strategies for creating more awareness for the issues that people are fighting against and this fight has been going on for decades. For some, this team has been seen as a racist bastion for a long time and it’s time to just not let that be.
I got a little off track from your question, we should all be considering the ways in which White America marginalizes and excludes minorities and fix it. Imagine if that was an organized initiative? We have to start by feel more comfortable listening and being supportive.
What’s your perspective on this? What do you think artists and activists in LA would do if the team moved from DC and kept the name?
JS: I don’t think Artist and Activist In LA would take it lightly. The casual acceptance to racism has long lasting effects. I think that’s understood now, especially with Trump in office. The acceptance of racist attitudes towards individual demographics can be used to incite fear and a tool to manipulate populations to vote against their own self interest. Sport organizations using these racist names are basically a spit in the face of Native Americans who have had to endure decimation of their populations, history, & culture in the United States. It’s really the only reason why these organizations can get away with these Racist brand identities, Native Americans are still enduring the effects of Manifest Destiny.
Why do you think it’s so hard for people to accept the fact that brand identities like The Washington Redskin logos are racist? Why is it so hard for them to let go and move on from them?
TC: Related to the Redskins specifically, I think part of it is, if they acknowledge that it’s wrong it implicates them in being racist and people have a hard time accepting that. I think another part is tradition and investing emotions in a team. Football fans are passionate people and spend money, travel long distances, and invest their time and I think it’s hard to step away from that and to think the team we’ve been supporting is doing something that other groups of people are against.
From an organizational standpoint I honestly think its money driven, but they have a larger responsibility to the staff and players and this region they need to figure out how to get from under it and make the change. The voice of Native Americans in this country is quieted by the fact that they are a small group of people comparatively. The reason they’re a small number of people is because White people effectively destroyed them. For that reason, it makes the use of an indigenous person as a mascot in the US that much more deplorable. Our other point is, would the organization be able to get away with a mascot that was Black or Latino? That question is why you and I created the alternative logos. If it’s not acceptable for those groups, why is it ok to do this with Native Americans?
I can’t speak for teams with the same name in other places other than to say amateur level teams take the names of professional teams and this happens to be one of those professional teams. The decision in those communities to not remove them is made probably from a combination of the previously mentioned reasons we’re working with here.
To change something this ingrained in thousands of people isn’t proving to be easy. Numerous attempts at all levels have been made. I think the best thing to do is to just keep trying. As a social media professional, what do you think is the best strategic approach? How do we get people engaged in this discussion to the point where we’re making a visible difference?
JS: A thought came to mind, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. I think that may be too true for institutionalized racism. With that said, I think where this needs to start is with the youth. The casual acceptance of racism needs to be something that is taught from a young age as not being acceptable, period.
Creating organized platforms and building social capital within these organized social channels will hold weight. These channels would be built up to give the youth a platform to engage and engage on these issues in a way that they communicate. We must go to them, we must go engage them on their terms to start these conversations.
These conversations need to happen with the younger generations of this country. If we can make that the narrative that is how we can make a massive visible difference.
Think about someone like Emma Gonzalez. Her voice resonates and Inspiring and in that moment after the horrible shooting at Parkland she was the voice this country needs. Think about a million Emma’s and the power & impact that would make. The kind of voices that speak out against inequality, sexism, & racism on a constant persistent manner. There would be no room for Racist symbols anywhere in society, period.
There’s a civil war going on as we speak in this county, on many fronts. The one occurring on Social Media is happening with every racist comment, death threat, racist post etc. If the tide could be turned and if the youth could understand the power that they could wield for good, I think that’s how the change we need would be perpetuated.
I know I went on a tangent there but I think it’s because as we both agree this goes way beyond the Redskins brand identity.
As part of the current generation beginning to take over the county, do you feel a responsibility to create platforms outside Social Media for the youth to engage with these issues on a more constant basis?
TC: Yes, which is one of the reasons why Sanguine exists. By design, it presents artistic work in a traditional format with structure and curation while also being able to transition to more mobile, less restrictive applications. When we started the gallery we decided to use it as an opportunity to introduce artists who identified as members of historically underrepresented groups within the arts to larger audiences. These artists, especially those we are featuring, create artwork that often addresses the impact of this country's political and social injustices in their communities. These artists are showing us the true nature of this country and when you see it, what we think of as our home starts to look a lot different and you can’t unsee that. It then becomes a part of your story and its your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t disappear again.
That was kind of the answer to the platform question, but I want to also talk about us taking over the country, our generation that is. In the case of this football team, there has been decades of protests over the name and logo and our generation knows this and as I mentioned this project to friends I was surprised by how many people don’t care. At some point we become complacent and I hope that this project inspires people to think a little about what this all means to people, indigenous people here in the US specifically. Going back to what I said in the introduction for this campaign, if we can’t fix this, what type of influence do you think we’ll have to do anything else? If every consumer says they will not attend games or buy the team’s apparel, do you think they’ll keep the name?
How do you think this project will impact the work you do and the projects you think about for the future?
JS: It’s hard to say, this year my personal work has taken on a political tone. With everything going on in this country I believe as an artist it is my duty to educate, disrupt & comfort. This project is a continuation of that approach. I understand the impact that art can have on the social conscience and right now we need to really look at ourselves and the history of this country. I believe then and only then can the healing begin. There’s a lot of pain in this county, I want to continue to be a part of an effort to comfort the disrupted, disrupt the comfortable and hopefully educate everyone in between.
TC: I agree and I’m so glad we got the chance to work on this together. I really appreciate all that you brought to the project and always routing for your work to reach as many people as possible. I hope other people will continue this conversation on other platforms soon.
This discussion is part of the Offensive campaign.