I love Richmond, Va. Really I do. Last weekend’s Richmond Folk Festival just reinforced my love for the city that much more.
But sometimes this city’s hang-ups just drive me nuts.
I use the word nuts on purpose. You see, a Class AA minor league baseball team recently moved to Richmond (don’t get me started on how the city lost the AAA Richmond Braves to Gwinnett, Ga.) and the new team’s name is the Flying Squirrels.
Yes, the Flying Squirrels. That was the winner among the other finalists: Rhinos, Flatheads, Hambones, Rock Hoppers and Hush Puppies. That was the best the new ownership team could do after having a contest in which fans could submit names. Oh, and CNBC submitted the name Hush Puppies. I guess they felt that would be an improvement on the others.
Flying Squirrels is a stupid enough name, but here’s what really fluffs my tail. Team owners withdrew Hambones (a reference to Virginia hams) after complaints that the name is offensive to African-Americans. As the local newspaper described it, Hambones is a “foot-stomping, thigh-slapping dance brought here by enslaved West Africans and later performed at minstrel shows.” I’m sure that’s the first thing that pops into the average white person’s mind when Hambones is mentioned. Just another way to keep black folks down.
And as if that was not enough, a few days later came complaints that Flatheads is offensive to Native Americans. The intent was to honor a type of fish found in Richmond’s James River, but it seems there is a Native American reservation in Montana called Flat Head. Some Richmond area Native Americans could foresee a mascot dressed in ceremonial regalia rather than a mascot dressed as a fish.
This is one of Richmond’s worst traits. It can’t get past the ultra-sensitive feelings worn on too many sleeves. Everything has racial undertones. Everything is suspected to be a slap against the heritage of one group or another. Distrust reigns. And we get a baseball team named the Flying Squirrels.
Well, I’m thinking of protesting the selection of Flying Squirrels as the team’s name. It’s offensive to me because I hate squirrels. Squirrels are simply rats with good PR. Besides, I believe my ancestors hunted squirrels. To desecrate the name of game hunted by my ancestors is to disgrace my heritage.
Yeah. Come to think of it, maybe this city deserves a minor league team named the Flying Squirrels.