He thought his T-shirt would turn a few heads, but he wasn't expecting so much backlash.

The Washington Redskins are one of the most controversial teams in professional sports, and it has nothing to do with what's happening on the field.

For one, unless it's meant to describe a type of potato (which, while that would be delicious, it is not the case), the team's name is a racist slur, and not one that many Indigenous people are super excited about. The logo, meant to be some sort of chief with — you guessed it — red skin, compounds the problem. When you add in the fact that many of the team's fans like to dress up as that logo, it creates kind of a perfect storm of racism.

Arguments over whether the team should keep the name have gone on for years. Those in favor of keeping it often cite tradition (the team was established in 1932), while those who'd like to see it changed often cite the, you know, racism. But this is not an article about that. Not exactly, at least.


Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Frederick Joseph decided to conduct a bit of a social experiment. The results were fascinating.

Joseph, a marketing professional and CEO of We Have Stories, wore a shirt modeled off the Washington team's logo with a few small tweaks: The shirt read "Caucasians" rather than the usual slur, with a white bust in place of the team's current mascot.

Here's what happened next, in Joseph's words:

"The shirt is a play on the Washington 'Redskins' logo to demonstrate how people look wearing apparel with a logo that is blatantly racially charged and disrespectful. The shirt doesn't have any rude language or slurs such as 'crackers' or 'honkies' ...  but that didn't matter. I left [SiriusXM Progress] after just doing an interview with [radio host Xorje Olivares], and it was my first time in public with the shirt on. A white guy walking by mistook the shirt for an actual team shirt and yelled 'Go Skins!' I said 'nah,' he then saw my shirt and yelled 'asshole!'

"Next, an older white lady stopped me in the street and said 'why would you wear that? It's disrespectful!' So I asked her if she would have said the same if I had on the actually team shirt or another team using disrespectful branding. She said 'no, because that’s the logo!'"

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

He continued:

"The third person or rather people was a group of white guys across the street and one pointed at me. I can see from the corner of my eye that two of them were seemingly trying to come across the street and have a word with me. I wish they would have, but that's [neither] here nor there.

"As I walked through Manhattan, people looked at me and rolled their eyes, pointed, made snide comments, etc. But, I've never seen white people do the same when people are wearing 'Redskins' apparel, which is actually racist versus the word 'caucasians' and a white man logo. Basically, I was being shamed as a black person for wearing a non-disrespectful shirt with a white person logo on it.

"But people wear apparel and jerseys with logos depicting things such as a Native American and call them 'redskins' ... whew chile, the hypocrisy and privilege. I was fairly surprised by the reactions of people because again, there are so many disrespectful and racist representations of minorities used for brands and they don't even think twice. But, it goes to show how fickle and hypocritical people can be.

"I'd be interested to see more people wear shirts and apparel such as this to make the point and see how the people who have racist car decals, shirts, jerseys, etc. respond when the tables are turned (and still not really)."





Each of the people Joseph talked about in his story were so close to getting it. So, so close!

Many acknowledged that seeing yourself represented in mascot form could be offensive and inappropriate — at least when they were the ones being depicted. Joseph's situation resembles what happened in 2016 when Bomani Jones wore a shirt on ESPN reading "Caucasians" that also riffed on the Cleveland Indians logo and uniform.

One person, clearly missing what Jones was going for, asked him to consider how he'd feel if someone wore a shirt reading "African Americans," to which Jones responded, "Or ... Indians."

In both Jones' and Joseph's cases, the goal was to help build empathy by sharing a bit of perspective with people who hadn't considered how it feels to be on the other side.

Too often, people fail to consider how something might affect others if it doesn't also affect us personally.

Maybe the Washington team's name and logo doesn't seem that bad to non-Indigenous people. That's not really our call to make though, is it?

And while some things may seem petty or centered around "hurt feelings," it's not always so obvious how serious it is to the people being affected. Whether we're talking about race, age, gender, political affiliation, geographical location, religion, or any other axis of identity, we could probably all benefit from a deep breath and a refresh on our outlook.

With his "Caucasians" shirt, Joseph did just that.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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