If There’s One Thing I Hate More Than Dumb Excuses To Support a Racist Team Name, It’s Dumb Excuses To Support a Racist Team Name That Use Bad Math.

Washington Redskins Vs Atlanta Falcons 07.10.2012 FedEx 012

By Assaf Yekuel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I just watched the segment on The Daily Show that interviewed Native American activists and R*dskins fans about the Washington D.C. football team’s name. One of the peripheral points brought up was that a whole mess of people claim to have Native American heritage who don’t — often a great-great-great(etc.) Cherokee ancestor. (Why is it always Cherokee? I have no idea.)

Anyway, one of the R*dskins fans claimed she was 1/12 Cherokee, and said, “As [someone who is] 1/12 Cherokee, I am not offended [by the name].”

WHAT

WHAT

WHAT

YOU CANNOT BE 1/12 ANYTHING

THE MATH IS LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE

YOUR HERITAGE HAS TO BE IN INCREMENTS OF INVERSE POWERS OF TWO SERIOUSLY YOU JUST SAID SOMETHING THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE

I mean, supporting a racist team name is bad enough. You really have to compound that with BAD FAKE MATH?!

(Seriously, you have two parents, so you’re 1/2 of what each of them are. They each have two parents, so you’re 1/4 each whatever your grandparents are. You’re 1/8 what your great-grandparents are, and 1/16 what your great-great grandparents are. NOTICE WHAT NUMBER ISN’T IN ANY DENOMINATOR? THAT’S RIGHT, 12. If you’re going to invent imaginary Cherokee heritage, at least invent something possible. GAH!)

About the author

SL Huang (aka MathPencil)
SL Huang (aka MathPencil)

SL Huang justifies an MIT degree by using it to write eccentric mathematical superhero books. Debut novel: Zero Sum Game, a speculative fiction thriller.
 
Website: www.slhuang.com
Twitter: @sl_huang

11 Comments

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  • That’s right! It takes a mathematician to catch something like that. I doubt she has any Native American perspective. The name if the sports team is clearly racist, so change it already!

  • It really always is Cherokee, isn’t it? And I don’t understand why they refuse to change the name. Although the Cleveland Indians’ logo is, well…yeah. They should change that too.

    1/12 Cherokee *snort*

    • Yeah, it makes me feel bad for people who really are part-Cherokee and care about their heritage!

      And yeah, I don’t understand in the minds of the proponents for these names how being attached to a name or mascot can override the very real hurt they’re causing real people. I get being sentimental about things — I do — but, you know, priorities?

    • To be fair, I guess if someone comes from a nontraditional family with more than two parents, and they perceive that they have had cultural heritage passed down from three (or some other nonbinary) number of parents, it would be possible to end up with 1/12 heritage — I wasn’t thinking about cultural heritage rather than genetic heritage when I wrote this.

      I do, however, find it highly unlikely that’s what this commentator meant…

  • I really would like to know why it is always Cherokee? And best thing is, it’s always some fabled Indian Princess to boot. I have Native Heritage, but it’s small enough I refuse to claim the right to say how those who are half or fullblood should feel about this. It would be like someone whose great-great-great-great grandma was the mixed daughter of a black slave saying they can speak for black people, when their family has only married white people since the birth of that one mixed child. No, no you can’t speak for me.

    People man. Why are they so damn stupid?

  • It’s not possible that “1/12 of my ancestors over all time were Cherokee.”

    But it *is* possible that “1/12 of my living ancestors from the year 1800 were Cherokee.”

    Or even “There were 12 people living in 1800 who were my ancestors, who also did not have any older living ancestors of their own. One of those twelve people was Cherokee.”

    This is possible because people have children at different ages. All of my mother’s great-grandparents, plus all of my father’s grandparents could have been born in the same year. That makes twelve.

    In this way you can argue for 1/12 Cherokee ancestry without having to approximate binary fractions.

    • Well, technically, it is possible for 1/12 of your ancestors to be from, say, Yorkshire. What is not possible is to have 1/12 Yorkshire ancestry.

      Going back 40 generations, say, a simple counting argument shows that your family tree and mine are not trees. They can’t be, because there weren’t $2^{40}$ people alive then (that’s over a trillion, right?), and never have been. Even four or five generations back, confluence is legal, respectable, and genetically harmless. So the number of your ancestors of a certain generation – or over all time – could well be divisible by 12.

      “Ancestry”, as I understand it, is weighted by the number of directed paths involved, and would have to be a binary fraction.

      Quibbling about mathematics is more pleasant than contemplating the names of certain sports teams.

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