transgenerational trauma
(Josh McBee)

Jumping the Shark is an idiom “used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality, signaled by a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in an attempt to keep viewers’ interest.” Thanks, Wikipedia.

This is where I believe we are with being PC, or “politically correct.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being aware of issues that are sensitive and offensive, but there is a limit to Stretch Armstrong’s abilities. (No offense meant to Mattel or the Armstrong family.)

Several student groups at the University of Oklahoma have dropped the school’s nickname, “Sooner,” from their branding. These include LBGTQ Allies, OU Students for Social Justice, and the group formerly known as “Sooner Mental Health.”

Sooner Mental Health co-founder JD Baker told The Oklahoma Daily that the move was intended to be more inclusive to all.

“That’s why we removed the term — to be inclusive, but the term ‘Sooner’ and the controversy around it and how it offends Native American students is a distraction from our real focus,” Baker said to the OU Daily. “Mental health is the focus, and it affects all of us … “

From the same OU Daily article:

The term “Sooner” has negative connotations for many Native American students who suffer transgenerational trauma from displacement of Native peoples following the Oklahoma land rush, Indigenize OU member Sydne Gray said.

Transgenerational trauma? The school’s name wasn’t enough to keep the Indigenize OU members from enrolling at the university.

As a member of the Ponca Nation, a graduate of OU and someone who tries not to take himself too seriously, I have watched with amusement as Indigenize OU has campaigned against the word “Sooner” this year like it were a racial slur.

If you haven’t followed along, here are a few tweets from Gray:

Sydne Gray, an OU Indigenize leader, tweets about her efforts to remove the word "Sooner" from OU's vernacular. (Screenshot)
Sydne Gray, an OU Indigenize leader, tweets about her efforts to remove the word “Sooner” from OU’s vernacular. (Screenshot)

Make your own call, but the group’s goals seem lost in the spotlight Gray so gleefully now enjoys.

As we all know, there is a much larger outcry from activists and natives alike who find the NFL’s Washington Redskins an offensive moniker, while Chief Wahoo of the MLB’s Cleveland Indians goes largely unnoticed.

Personally, I take issue with the attention given to the Redskins controversy in that I find it hard to believe tribes don’t have more pressing matters to address. Native communities across the United States consistently struggle with corruption, illiteracy, substance abuse and a variety of health problems.

The word “Sooner” itself is not offensive. It is a historical term describing those in the land-runs who cheated and snuck into areas ahead of time to stake out prime property. In reality, “Boomers” — who pushed for the opening of Indian lands to white settlement — did far more to harm tribes than Sooners ever did, but that’s a harder soundbite to craft for local TV cameras and Twitter rants.

OU using “Boomer” and “Sooner” to name two badass ponies that run their hearts out at home football games is hardly an act deserving outrage. The real outcry should be that people don’t know Oklahoma’s history.

A large chunk of OU’s student population comes from out of state, and those from Oklahoma rarely seem to have had much more education on the matter than their imported peers.

Sure, anyone who does know that history understands that what led to the names Boomer and Sooner was despicable, but in and of themselves the words are not offensive. What I find offensive is how groups like Indigenize OU would want to bully other groups who mean no harm or malice by using the name “Sooner.”

Like them, I take pride in my heritage; however, unlike them, I live in the here and now, not 100-and-some years ago.

So, while there are plenty of things that need changing in this world — and while there are still unbalanced and harmful power structures in need of reform — focusing on sports symbols and posturing about transgenerational trauma doesn’t build consensus or right past wrongs.

If anything, it makes the PC-police look like they’ve jumped the shark, and it wastes credibility that could be used for other more important efforts.

If Indigenize OU wants to focus on real native issues, let’s talk about electoral oversight, tribal gaming compacts or — dare I say it — the plight of the Cherokee Freedmen first.

Otherwise, all I’ve got to say is: Boomer Sooner. Go OU.