What's in a name?

by: JanF

Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:43:54 AM EST

Today my local newspaper's sports section shared the words of Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen who says the team will not consider any name change:
"There's nothing that we feel is offensive," Allen said.

As "proof", the team has posted on their web site "interviews with officials from the 70 high schools they say still called themselves 'Redskins.'".

JanF :: What's in a name?
This is not a new controversy but it is back in the news after a forum sponsored by the Smithsonian discussed the offensiveness of the name:
The symposium on "Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports" was a day-long assault on the use of Native Americans as sports mascots. It was a thorough prosecution, delivered by a dozen or so mostly academic speakers before an audience of more than 300 people.

The speakers took issue with the standard defense offered by past Redskins owners that the name is a way of honoring Native Americans.

"Honors like that we don't need," said Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians.

Those team owners have been steadfast in resisting a name change citing "many, many Indian chiefs", certainly not as compelling as "70 high schools" but enough for Jack Kent Cooke:

"I have spoken to many, many Indian chiefs who say they have no objection whatsoever to the nickname. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead issue. I'm not even interested in it. The name of the Redskins will remain the Redskins," the late Jack Kent Cooke said in 1994

Washington DC radio station WTOP writer Dave Johnson on their history of rejecting the name:

Back in 1991 WTOP made a decision to stop using the name Redskins because it was offensive to Native Americans. It was a well-meaning call of then General Manager Michael Douglass. It did not start a trend. Other media outlets did not follow WTOP's lead. As I recall it was generally scoffed at.

In college sports offensive nicknames have been dropped. Syracuse is no longer the Orangemen, but just the Orange. St John's is no longer the Redmen, but the Red Storm.

At least one newspaper, the Kansas City Star, did follow WTOPs lead, refusing to use "Redskins" and referring to the club as "the Washington football team". From the Kansas City Star last fall after a letter writer complained about the Star's policy:

I remain unconvinced by every argument I've ever heard that the name is not a racial epithet, plain and simple. And I'll even break my usual rule about commenting on issues outside The Star's journalism to say that I find it inconceivable that the NFL still allows such a patently offensive name and mascot to represent the league in 2012.

So, what do you you think? Is "Redskins" offensive or are complaints about the name "political correctness run amok"?

(Crossposted from Views from North Central Blogistan)

Tags: , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

What's in a name? | 71 comments
When words hurt ... should those hurt just "toughen up"? (2.00 / 31)

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

I'm just going to slip in a link to some video of (2.00 / 11)
the conference on RACIST STEREOTYPES AND CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IN AMERICAN SPORTS held at the museum, some of which I watched live over the internet. I'll post my comments on this at the bottom of the current thread.


Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
Well... (1.94 / 17)
Is "Redskins" offensive or are complaints about the name "political correctness run amok"?

There is doubtless some truth to the latter, especially coming from some non-native quarters, but that doesn't make the former any less true.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

What I saw happen related to sports teams at the college level and high school level was they found a way to honor the history. (2.00 / 20)
In Wisconsin, there is a policy in place against offensive mascots. One school changed their name from Red Raiders to Raiders and changed their logo from a Chief Wahoo type image to something unrelated to Native Americans.

There are creative ways to retain the traditions.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
::nod:: (2.00 / 17)
Where there's a will, there's a way. Keep the best of the old ways without getting stuck in the past. That's a challenge.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Wow (2.00 / 23)
When words hurt, then different words need to be used.

I don't like the "b" word. I've had women tell me to lighten up. Sorry, but my ex-husband's favorite thing was to call me that and follow it up with "but I was only joking".

It's not about being politically correct. It's about treating people decently.

The team needs to change their name.  

Come visit us at our NON political blog jellybeansofdoom.com

Yes, supposedly if we "embrace the words" they can't cause us pain. (2.00 / 19)
That does not work for me, some words will always hurt.

I also worry that when you "toughen up" against words that hurt, you lose a part of your ability to feel other people's pain.

But I am a humorless feminist ... what do I know? ;)

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
I believe in "toughening up".... (2.00 / 19)
...as a personal survival strategy. But only because it is still necessary in this imperfect world. But I don't believe it applies when characterizing entire classes of human beings. The former is pure pragmatism; the latter is a matter of principle...

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Change the name...... (2.00 / 21)
Insensitive mascot names have always offended me, especially this one in Orofino, Idaho

Orofino is home to both the Idaho Correctional Institution - Orofino and Idaho State Hospital North. These two facilities are located adjacent to another Orofino institution: Orofino High School. The mascot for Orofino High School is the Maniac, one of only two "Maniac" mascots in the country.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

That is exremely offensive, princesspat! (2.00 / 19)
I suppose they thought they were being funny.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
a jerk self satisfied that he doesn't offend himself (2.00 / 16)
Is a poor show flack, running today's stall up the flagpole.
The owner is who needs awareness. The league has been hearing about it. The networks could use more nudge. Sponsors. This is a live issue.
Our friends have spoken clearly. The name goes. Change is gonna come.
We can even help. Stay after it. Don't ignore it or just let it go.

I have heard parents say to kids, we don't use that word in this house. You could fill in a number of wrong words there.
Same deal here. It might not irk those who don't know how much wince it exacts on others. Quicker they know, faster it's gone.

Of course, they won't change it until it affects some bottom line. (2.00 / 15)
And the NFL owners are a prime example of a group that has to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing what is right. It is no coincidence that the new concussion protocol came out of the new concussion lawsuits.

Unfortunately, simply "being offensive" is not actionable. The fans would have to demand a change. A good start would be refusing to buy the swag emblazoned with the Redskins name and logo.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
The rationale that 70 other teams (2.00 / 18)
continue to use such a blantantly racist term is laughable. It is on the order of:
"Well, shucks, there are a dozen other teams called the "Kike-kickers" around.  That proves that its not offensive."

I am for the individual over government, government over big business and the environment over all. -- William O. Douglas

That one made me laugh out loud also. (2.00 / 14)

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
If someone takes offense to it (2.00 / 17)
then isn't it, by definition, offensive?

It is always really easy for folks on the outside looking in on an issue to not put themselves in other's shoes, learning to defer to the offended should be the norm and not the rarity.

I think that there should be some sort of a consensus of the targeted group though otherwise politcal correctedness could run amok.

In the cases of a specific tribe name such as Illini or Seminoles, (2.00 / 15)
the tribes gave their permission to the schools to use their names.

In North Dakota, one tribe of Sioux gave permission to use the name Fighting Sioux and another tribe refused to give permission. The North Dakota teams at this point in time have no mascot or logo because the NCAA sanctions would have not allowed them to participate in post-season events.

In the case of the "Redskins", I am not sure who you would assign to give permission: all native people? It seems like it would be much easier to just change it. It is not the name of a tribe or even a designation like "Warrior" or "Chief" ... it is the first team owner's term for "Indians".  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
A general consensus of 1st Americans if that would even be possible? (2.00 / 9)
Not sure if it is.

I do see a slippery slope if otherwise. As if the Redskins do change their name and next year a dozen folks demand that the Braves change their names and so on.

Look at the animal rights issue. Laws do change and people are concerneed about animal rights but every demand of PETA is not greeted with acceptance.

What is offensive? That's a damn good question. Shame we don't have Ed Meese hanging around to decide that for us.

[ Parent ]
False equivalency: "Braves" and "Redskins" have nothing in common. (2.00 / 10)
The slippery slope argument is actually a logical fallacy. One thing does not necessarily lead to another, you can stop at any point.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I know they have nothing in common. (2.00 / 12)
My larger point, which I am failing miserably at conveying, is that people will always find something to complain about and that tends to de-emphasize real bigotry as in the use of the term Redskins in a team name.  

Does that make sense? I apologize if my first comment came across differently.

[ Parent ]
Well, sure. You will always have someone unhappy. (2.00 / 14)
And in the grand scheme of things the "problem" of having a team named "Redskins" in comparison to the problems of native people starving to death on reservations means diddly squat. But it is about respect. When you disrespect a people, you allow others to dehumanize them.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
In the case of the Seminole Tribe of Florida... (1.92 / 12)
...of which I am one of 2,322 enrolled members, there is tribal approval  of FSU's use of the name Seminole after the school made some adjustments in its stereotyped depictions. But there has never been a tribal vote. My guess is that the vote would favor letting FSU keep the name, but there are many Seminole opponents of the use of the name.

As for Illiniwek, the tribe DID NOT give permission. Here is the resolution from April 2000:


"Request to University of Illinois to Cease Use of
Chief llliniwek as Mascot "

WHEREAS, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma is a federally recognized Indian Tribe organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of June 26, 1936, and is governed by its Constitution approved by the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Indians Affairs on August 3, 1997, and

WHEREAS, the Business Committee of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma is authorized to enact resolutions and act on behalf of the Peoria Tribe under Article VIII, Section 2, of the Constitution; and

WHEREAS, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma are descendants of the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Piankeshuw, and Wea tribes, a group of tribes known as Illiniwek, or Illini, or Illinois Nations whose members were removed from their homelands and forced to move first to Missouri, then Kansas and finally into the northeastern part of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma; and

WHEREAS, the image portrayed by Chief Illiniwek does not accurately represent or honor the heritage of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and is a degrading racial stereotype that reflects negatively on all American Indian people

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Peoria Tribe of Indians does not endorse or sanction the characterization of Chief llliniwek as mascot for the University of Illinois and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma request the leadership of the University of Illinois to recognize the demeaning nature of the characterization of Chief Illiniwek, and cease use of this mascots.

[ Parent ]
Thank you. (2.00 / 8)
I did not realize that about the Illini. Probably because those sorts of things are not honestly reported in our local newspapers. The BigTen has a "no Indian mascot" policy and their acceptance of "Illini" was reportedly because they had been given permission.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
Well hey there, MB... (2.00 / 6)
I'm glad to see your voice on this subject. I have often wondered, once you remove all the non-native voices from the din, how those who actually 'have skin in the game' come down on the matter.

It makes sense to me that it depends upon the word/usage in question. Seminoles, a Tribe name, to the best of my knowledge has never been used as a slur (at least not widely). I don't see its use in the same light as 'Redskins'. I know of no other way that 'Redskin' was used than as a pejorative.

Indians, Braves, Redskins, Seminoles, Chiefs....and probably others I am missing....I don't know where the 'line' is drawn. And those are just the words...the imagery involved is another potential point of contention.

I have opinions on the different words...the different images...
but, the reality is...I'm just a middle-aged, white, Southern boy....and I don't pretend to think I have a solid grasp on what words/usages would be palatable to those actually of the First Nations. (holy run-on sentence, Batman!)

In the long run, though, I don't see that there is any harm in changing the team names...whereas, to keep them, for many, it is harmful and hurtful. Other than pigheadedness, I see no reason to cling to a team name that is hurtful to a large swath of people (and potential fans).

So, yah, thank you for commenting on the matter...and welcome to the Moose. Just give a holler if you have any questions...we're glad to have your voice join the conversation.



[ Parent ]
Welcome to the Moose, MB! (2.00 / 5)
You may have noticed that we have something of a tradition of throwing a mat out for folks who either walk in unannounced or end their lurkonian status by joining in the conversation. While a trivial tradition in the grand scheme of things, it is also an intentional act of beginning to note the commonality and respect we all share, differences not only notwithstanding but in fact intrinsically included.
So pull up a pillow, make yourself at home, scrounge the snacks that pass around (Kysen made some wicked spicy cheese dip not long ago, there should be some left) and otherwise take a load off however it is you do.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
many years ago, I saw a magazine ad (2.00 / 16)
that had mock team names and logos with analogously offensive racial derivations.  ITSCS mentions "kike," and that was one of them.  The others, you can imagine. I thought that was a jarring, in your face, but ultimately effective messenger.

Do away with these names.

It is a failure of people's imaginations if they can't come up with a fun and clever name that doesn't offend. (2.00 / 16)
I had stumbled across the article in the Kansas City newspaper last fall and I was pleasantly surprised to see that some papers have been refusing to use the name "Redskins". Maybe if more did, it would make people stop and think about what is okay and what is not. The tone of civil discourse in our society is at a low point and failing to call out racist language lends a certain acceptability to it.

It is not acceptable.

Changing the name of one football team won't result in Magic Unicorns of Civility sprouting wings but when we reject gratuitous insults to ethnic groups, it is certainly a step in the right direction.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
"result in Magic Unicorns of Civility" (2.00 / 16)
heh. I know a place where the MUoC will core you like a Granny Smith on the way to being pie filling.  

Nor will a name change result in the hideous death of a beloved entity.  Teams move, change names, new teams come in.  Oilers? Titans.  Baltimore was really pissed when the Colts slinked (slunk?) out of town to the greener pastures of Indianapolis.  Fastforward... Ravens won the Super Bowl and Payton's leading the Broncos.  Who's crying now?  Are a team and their fans so fragile?  I doubt it.  Grow up and move on.

[ Parent ]
sorry, hit post too soon (2.00 / 14)
still same lousy team but now with a name that the fundies can hate!

[ Parent ]
can we also get the utah jazz to change their name? (2.00 / 13)
i know it doesn't imply racism as the redskins do but utah and jazz do not belong in the same sentence.  i do enjoy the new orlean pelicans new name but their logo fell short of my hopes.  
i used to live in dc and think the fans will get over it.  there will be a week of whining from the anti-pc people but anyone with a brain/heart will understand.  

[ Parent ]
No doubt, even the Tennessee Oilers (2.00 / 15)
realized that sometimes a team name does not travel well. The LA Lakers being an execption?

Even if it is only for monetary reasons those teams should change their name/logos and they can claim moral high ground while doing it. No one really cares if their heart is in the right spot, they just want the name changed.

They would still have the rights of merchandising the "throwback" logo and make their fans restock their closets with the new and improved logo/name. Let's face it, money wins out in the end.

[ Parent ]
Are there lakes in Los Angeles? (2.00 / 14)
Certainly not as many as in Minnesota. ;)

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
Are there (trolley) dodgers in LA? (2.00 / 5)
Another misappropriated namesake (not to mention the outright theft of the franchise).

I am for the individual over government, government over big business and the environment over all. -- William O. Douglas

[ Parent ]
Aha! (2.00 / 4)
that's the reason. Don't think I ever wondered, but it is an odd name.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Oh come on! I mean when you think "jazz" you think "Mitt Romney" right? n/t (2.00 / 1)

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
Yeah, what is it with the tone deafness of sports owners in our nations capitol? (2.00 / 14)
At least the Washington Senators, back in the day, tied into the theme of the city. Bullets? Yikes!!

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
the washington senators. (2.00 / 16)
do they ever score? Probably hard to get them out to play. I bet they filibuster any ruling on the field.

[ Parent ]
I think they disbanded when no one could agree on who the lead off batter would be. (2.00 / 14)
They all wanted to be first.

Actually, the team moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins ... another example of a team changing its name to something more befitting its location.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
The bullets derived from (2.00 / 4)
the time when they were the Baltimore Bullets.  At least, that was alliterative.

I am for the individual over government, government over big business and the environment over all. -- William O. Douglas

[ Parent ]
Agreed...in full... (2.00 / 5)
It is a failure of people's imaginations if they can't come up with a fun and clever name that doesn't offend

It comes down to pigheadedness. There is no other excuse to cling so stubbornly to a 'name' that needlessly hurts others.

It is just a matter of time...we all know that the team name will eventually be changed...it is just a shame that it will have taken so long for the right thing to have been done.


[ Parent ]
I hear the Cleveland Crackers (2.00 / 16)
have a great shot at going all the way next year!

If the Bullets can change their name...

the Georgia Crackers would be better. (2.00 / 17)
the East Tennessee Hillbillies are playing the Arkansas Rednecks, and the winner gets to take on the Lower Alabama Pissants.

[ Parent ]
Just as soon... (2.00 / 16)
...watch the San Francisco Fairies flit fleetly across the field. ;-p

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Har! (2.00 / 15)
Given the recent rash of ill advised comments from the current San Francisco team, I suspect that there might be some resistance to Fairies. ;)

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
asdf (2.00 / 16)

I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot.

-- Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

Ha! (2.00 / 14)
Great mascot! (Nice tEEth).

We have a high school in town whose team name is Crusaders. There's another extremely insensitive name. Yes, let's celebrate the invasion of a people because of religious intolerance.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
It's a tough one, and it isn't. (2.00 / 9)
There are no bad words. There are bad thoughts, and bad intentions. And there are words.
- George Carlin

Which I think is true, when it comes to censorship and "swearing".

But there are a couple words I don't like to see or hear at all, and I would never say.

There is the use of one of those (you know it, starts with 'n') by millions of people who would have been previously labelled by it. I argue against this, but others argue that it allows them to "take the word back", to somehow take the power out of the word.

I know a lot of folks who would be labelled by another of them (the one that starts with "f") who use it all the time. Again, I disagree. As with the previous one I find myself offended by its use, regardless of who is using it. It is sometimes used as a dagger (which, pointing either direction, is still a weapon), and its use seems more a tool to pick at a scab rather than to heal.

But I agree with George Carlin, in the end. Words are words, intentions are intentions.

Should it be OK if a sports team entirely of or by an ethnic group use an ethnic slur to itself? Would anyone complain if a sports team of the Appalachian hills called itself the Rednecks/Crackers/hillbillies (I bet you could find one or two that already does)? A Cherokee Nation baseball team called the Redskins?

Dunno, dunno. Very simple question, very hard answers. Simple on the micro scale (imho the Redskins should change their name), complicated on the macro (the Braves do in fact catch hell for their name).

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

Well, we can't really know each other's intentions ... all we have is the words. (2.00 / 9)
I think that "Braves" are not the problem but the tomahawk chop and the logo. A brave warrior is a perfectly acceptable mascot, in my opinion, but depicting him as a savage beast, not so much.

In Milwaukee, Marquette University changed their name from Warriors to Golden Eagles. There are no eagles, golden or otherwise in Milwaukee. That change was an overreaction.

I think George Carlin was a brilliant man but I think you are misreading what he is saying about words. Words themselves have the power to hurt and I don't think you can say that all words are acceptable and we are to assume good intentions unless we receive other cues.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
That's the rub. (2.00 / 8)
Every word is, in theory, OK. Depends upon the intention.

But some words are just very hard to use, intentions of not.

Redskins fans are not, I can only imagine, making any connection to indigenous Americans. I don't really even follow football, and native people's don't pop to mind when I hear the football names. Doubt there is any negative intention in perhaps anyone's minds today in that regard, but at the time of the naming there probably was.

But as names go, it is a hard one to defend.

And George Carlin was a very brilliant man, but in many ways also incredibly dark and cynical. Like all of us, I think he had times and times, and the loss of his wife (and generally weariness) made him virtually intolerable in later life.

But at that point - Toledo Windowbox - I think he nailed it on "words". You can say "that's wonderful" and be a total dick, you can say "fuck you" and be sweet as all hell. It depends on the context, the inflection, to determine intention.

Many times folks who throw around n and f tags (whether they are self-referential or not) are not being negative in any way. Many times (again, regardless of self-reference or not), they are being negative.

I find it incredibly hard to say any word is "bad", but nevertheless there are some that I do feel that way about. At the very least, I think there are some that can't be used without causing more harm than is at all necessary. Some that Conway would never use.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I hope no one thought I was suggesting that Redskins fans are racists. (2.00 / 8)
I don't think the owners are likely racist either, just incredibly insensitive.

But ... I do think that ...

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
They're not even insensitive, (2.00 / 5)
just business people. They have nothing to win and everything to lose. Solid brand, loyal following, no hit to the pocket by doing nothing, odds of being sued by shareholders if they change and the team/company loses value.

Probably decent people at the end of the day, most folks are.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Yikes!! So it is okay to be insensitive or demeaning if it is "good business"? (2.00 / 10)
I fear on this point we must part ways, sir. They have every right to continue to use the name but their opinion that there is nothing offensive about the word "Redskins" is simply wrong and it is hard to use the word "decent" to describe them or their position.

We will agree to disagree.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
I don't think Chris is suggesting that it's not a problem, (2.00 / 8)
just offering the business perspective. I wouldn't call it insensitive, though, I would call it just plain ignorance in the best case, and callous cynicism in the worst (kind of). However, as I point out below, it's NEVER  acceptable to use bigoted words, no matter what the purpose is. As long as such terms are bandied about without any thought, racism will not go away.

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
We don't know that. (2.00 / 5)
Maybe it bugs the crap out of them. Maybe they would rather change it, but have very strong reasons to believe that it would be a failure of their diligence to shepherd the retirement funds of little old ladies who own shares.

I don't know anything about the team or ownership, maybe it is four rich guys. My point is, that making the point that the owners of something like this are (or are not) insensitive to the feelings of others is not necessarily supported by their decision not to change the name of a sports team. Their decision to change the name, if they made it, would not necessarily indicate that they were sensitive, either.

I know how attractive it is to get angry with those we disagree with, and to assign to them negative characteristics. Sometimes (Kim Jong-un, Mugabe,...) it is accurate. More often, though, we don't know the people we are talking about and assume that because they do not make a decision we imagine we would in their position that they therefore are (mean, insensitive, hate woodpeckers...).

My experience is that the vast majority of such judgments are inaccurate, and that the vast majority of people are decent. Almost all the time they are simply dealing with things that are either more complicated than we believe, or trying to achieve a similar goal we might support but believe that different methods are more effective.

I think George Bush is a bit of a boob, and not the sharpest tack in the box, but I don't think he is a bad man who intended to make the world worse. (Cheney...?  that's a tough one, he may just be mean).

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
No Cherokee Nation team would call itself... (1.93 / 14)
..the "Redskins."

I addressed the matter of the team name and the Smithsonian symposium on Wednesday here.

Obviously not every fan of the team who supports keeping the name intends to be racist or has it in for Indians just because they repeat this slur. But this isn't about intentions. Just because someone engages in racist behavior without knowing it does not mean the behavior isn't racist. Those resisting changing the name are engaging in racist behavior. If they would educate themselves on the subject, they could avoid doing that. That should be an easy education. Just switch that obnoxious line on the team's website saying "We Are Very Proud To Be Called Redskins" to  "We Are Very Proud To Be Called Niggers."

That is not a false equivalency.

If the NFL team were named the Washington Niggers, Washington Spics, Washington Chinks or Washington Kikes, this discussion wouldn't even be happening. Nobody would be asking, "is it offensive?" Everybody would automatically know it. Those names are equivalent to "Redskins." But some people believe that that name is okay. The question isn't whether the term is offensive; the question is, why there is a dispute over it? It dehumanizes us Indians. It's not some f'n academic issue.

The 69-year-old National Congress of American Indians, which is not a militant group, but is the largest representative group of First Nations peoples in the United States, has been fighting against Indian stereotypes and the use of Indian names and Indian-related mascots since the 1940s.

NCAI is pleased that tribal advocates have succeeded in eliminating over two-thirds of derogatory Indian sports mascots and logos over the past 50 years. Today, there are fewer than 1,000 of these mascots left. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college athletics, formally condemned the use of disparaging mascots and banned the use of Indian names, logos, and mascots during its championship tournaments.

However, there is plenty of work yet to do-especially in the realm of professional sports. NCAI recognizes that this can be a difficult and sensitive issue, and we acknowledge the significance of athletics for the public, as well as the attachment (both emotionally and financially) of professional teams and university athletic programs to their names and logos. At the end of the day, there is no excuse for cultural stereotypes that degrade, slander, mock or belittle Native people. This misrepresentation would not be acceptable for any other minority community in America and NCAI will continue to oppose the use of offensive Native mascots and imagery that promote harmful stereotypes.

"Redskins" is a racist slur. It demeans us. As do hundreds of teams' stereotypical mascots attached to names like "Braves" or "Warriors" that, by themselves, would not be demeaning. Team owners or school coaches often claim that they are honoring Native peoples with the names even when the stereotyped mascots that accompany them, usually depicting a faux Plains Indian, have nothing to do with the Indians who once lived (or still live) in the area of where the team is. What does this honor? John Wayne movies?

From the American Psychological Association website:

"We know from the literature that oppression, covert and overt racism, and perceived racism can have serious negative consequences for the mental health of American Indian and Alaska native (AIAN) people. The discontinued use of American Indian mascots is a gesture to show that this kind of racism toward and the disrespect of, all people in our country and in the larger global context, will not be tolerated," said Dr. Lisa Thomas, APA Committee on Ethnic and Minority Affairs.

[ Parent ]
Oh no fracking way MOOOOOSE METEOR (2.00 / 6)
What up Blades!

"I honor the place in you where Spirit lives
I honor the place in you which is
of Love, of Truth, of Light, of Peace,
when you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
then we are One."  Namaste Friends!

[ Parent ]
Woohoo, look who's here! Welcome, MB, to our peaceful (2.00 / 7)
purple pasture. Find a nice comfy tree to lean against and stay awhile!

(translatorpro here)

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
it is (2.00 / 8)
as offensive as calling a woman of First origin "redbone," still very common in the south.  still despicable.

Twitter Doesn't Make You Martin Luther King

[ Parent ]
Hey MB, (2.00 / 3)
I agree. While the intent may or may not be there, the name itself is just intrinsically offensive. "Braves" or the tomahawk chop or other artifacts can be talked away - validly or not - but "redskins" is a purely racial word.

It is harder in many ways to address unintentional discrimination than intentional. A lot of words or phrases get used without the people using them even being aware that they are being offensive. I remember being very young (under 10) and learning that the term "he jewed me out of..." actually referred to a given ethnicity (it hadn't occurred me that the words were spelled similarly, and I hadn't heard the stereotype of Jews being cheap).

This issue marks the kind of things we need to address as the human rights topic gets moved further towards some kind of final resolution. It may not be as simple as laws against being (black, gay, female, native) - which is good - but the finer points can in their own way be more difficult to address.

(I'll save the Welcome for a comment that doesn't have serious content in it. ;~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
As a language professional, I know the power of words is (2.00 / 11)
indisputable, and as long as racist terminology is deemed acceptable in connection with sports, which is a very emotional topic for many, there can be no change in subliminal messages about racism, i.e. that it is "ok". No, it is NEVER ok, and the business honchos don't care, because not enough people are educated about the harm of bigoted language. I think the education should start early, but I have no idea how to go about it.

The symposium raised quite a few interesting perspectives, and it is well worth watching, at least part of it.  

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

It is a difficult issue, Moozmuse. (2.00 / 9)
And the way you educate people about the impact of language is, as you suggest, to start early. Subtle and not so subtle social cues that racism is okay find their way into young people's brains. When we see racist images or hear racist comments, we need to talk to our kids about it and explain why it is wrong.

Sports is an extremely emotional topic. I added and deleted entire paragraphs trying to defuse the "sports" part of my diary so that it would not overcome the "words" part of my diary. In the end I decided to let it post as it was without the disclaimers and warnings. I think sports ties into something that links to who we are: regions of the country that we embrace or reject, schools we graduated from or admire, things that connect us to our childhoods.

I will try to watch some of the video later today. Thanks for posting it.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
It worked with me, (2.00 / 9)
starting early.

There was never a time in my life when any discriminatory language was OK. I rankle against the "everyone is racist" memes often pushed by many, I don't think it is true. There was never an adult figure or authority who said a word of any of that, and I grew up without the concept other than the knowledge that some people unfortunately thought that way.

The key, I think, isn't to train children not to be like that, but rather to not train them to be like that. Kind of like with drugs, "Don't Do That!!!!" doesn't work - ('but my favorite uncle and parents drink themselves silly, the cool older kids smoke pot....').

I was fortunate to have a mother who had been the student of a very early human rights leader (who is now my step-dad). To be far enough away from aunts and uncles and a grandfather who did carry those memes that on the rare holiday occasions we were together their comments just seemed like odd artifacts instead of anything to emulate. To not have many friends as a small child, so not have peer pressure to emulate them, and to have the kids who paid me the most attention - bullies - be racist homophobes that I would rather have gnawed my arm off than to emulate.

When I had finally figured out how to socialize with my peers in my teens those mental patterns were fixed. By the time I got to High School in Toronto where racist words and views were endemic it was too late to make them part of my world view.

It is tougher when kids have reference points who do support discriminatory views. You tell them they shouldn't, but they know that wonderful old Grandpa does (or uncle, or the big kids...). If you can get them out of that environment for the first ten years of their lives and simply not give them the discriminatory models to follow, your work is done.

Easier said than done for most parents in the real world. I think it will just take a number of generations of best efforts.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
That's what I meant, that education should start early, but (2.00 / 4)
how to go about it on a very large and sweeping scale? Individual efforts are good, but not nearly enough. Certainly voting more minorities into office might help. I think electing President Obama has had a generally positive effect on attitudes towards black people, even if it polarized swaths of the populace and brought out racism that had been simmering under the surface for decades. But that's only my opinion, and I'm white and live far away, so I would be interested in hearing the views of minorities on this.

Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.
                       - Bertolt Brecht

[ Parent ]
I think it gets past large efforts and into small at a given point. (2.00 / 3)
During Karl's work on human rights it was a matter of going from the world (1945) where racism was legal and almost completely endemic to where we are now. We cannot overstate the difference in those two points in time.

Blunt instruments (jack hammers, dynamite) are the best tools when you are beginning to sculpt an enormous statue. Fine chisels and polishing cloth are the tools to finish.

Now is the time for the latter.

"The" answer (not that there is just one) at this point is in fact more one-on-one than broad. Talking these things through - as I have done all my life - with one person at a time. Almost all of them, you find, are not completely hateful racist but simply under-thought and misled. Their trajectories can be altered with small forces, and they in turn can alter others'.

Changing the focus from one demographic (white folks) to everyone is another bit of chisel work. It has never been true that only white folks hold discriminatory views, just that early on in the human rights movement they were the group that required the most effort to change, and whose changed direction would have the greatest positive impact. Others may disagree, but I don't believe white Americans as a demographic today are in fact the group with the highest percentage of discriminatory views on average. Discriminatory views are wrong no matter who is perpetuating them, and every demographic needs to introspect on themselves.

Strategically backing off on the use of blunt instruments is another part. While I agree that the continued increase in diversity in publicly visible positions will continue the positive trend, it is less important to force the issue than it was when every non-white-male was the first to hold such a position (first woman mayor, first black congressman,...). It was important for Jesse Jackson to run for President, for example, to break that mold. But he wasn't qualified by a long shot, and it was left for Barack Obama to show up and run on flat merit of skill to resolve that particular issue.

It is interesting to see the history texts here in Tennessee that my children are taught with. The civil rights movement is laid out plainly, there is no hint of pro-Jim Crow in any of it, and no suggestion that the end result was anything other than what it should have been (everything short of an explicit "we were wrong").

These are not popular things to say, in all cases, in a community of liberals and progressives. I believe them to be a large part of the truth, nevertheless.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
It's true that political correctness sometimes (2.00 / 10)
gets in the way of having important conversations. However, in this case, I doubt that anyone involved knows why the term "redskin" is offensive. You might notice that Native Americans don't have particularly red skin -- so it isn't the same as being called black or brown or white.

The term redskin refers to scalping. The bloody scalp is the redskin. The term reinforces the stereotype that Native Americans are savages.

This isn't part of the conversation, though. That's because Native Americans aren't yet human enough for America -- particularly pro athletic teams -- to care. They are little more than a circus show to them.  

"If you buy cloth for your mother-in-law, do not tell her it is to cover her butt."  -- Congolese proverb

Gak! That hits the nail on the head. (2.00 / 10)
It is considered "okay" to use Native Americans as mascots because they have been dehumanized in our popular culture. A "circus show", indeed.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
Didn't know that bit of history. (2.00 / 5)
I wonder how many do (even in pre-modern times). The skin-tone delineation of black/white/yellow/red has been enough for everyone to divide themselves into camps regardless.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
first names (2.00 / 7)
does anyone actually like his or hers?  why is it necessary to bestow a name on anyone so immediately after birth? my parents weren't native English speakers, but both loved language and words.  i was their only, so Alexa for lexema (literally, words).  haha.  very funny, Ma and Pops. should have just named me Webster's dictionary.

my children dislike their names just as much as I do.  

Madalena (Maddy, almost 4) knows that to be "mad" or to go "mad" is not exactly a compliment.  Monica, age 8, wonders why she has heard whispered jokes about another Monica from the Clinton era she didn't live in. Amy, 17, the angry youth personified, does not want to be called "friend" unless, you know, she officially decides someone is her friend, after meticulous vetting.

only Jamie (age 6, named for my first cousin, and for musician Jackson Browne, my nephew who lives with us) doesn't complain about his name (yet). he probably knows it wouldn't change anything, in a Spanglish-speaking family with first generation Alexa and Jason to voz una queja acerca de su nombre.    

Twitter Doesn't Make You Martin Luther King

I was named Christopher by Christian parents, (2.00 / 6)
a label I have to carry for life. Kind of like Mohammed, it is an act of nailing your kids down to a religious viewpoint.

Our kids - Damien, Roxanne and Christine - like their names. As non-theists we chose Christine (Terry) in part as a "jr." but more for my twin cousins Christine and Terry, Terry was born with Cerebral Palsy and died at 21.

I was a very liberal young man and insisted that "no woman has to change her identity to mine!!!1!1!", so Donna kept her last name after we married. Six years later she casually mentioned she had changed it to Blask because she wanted to have a cohesive team name when we had kids.

As usual, in the end I agree that she was right. While I don't think it is the end of the world for parents to pic a family name, I do think it is much less an issue of parenting than for oneself to maintain multiple hyphenated names (which just puts the issue off to your kids, anyway, unless you expect them to have increasingly long last names that look like morse code).

Like many things, it is easy to over-think the topic. Most people don't know what their own names mean, much less anyone elses (I never knew Redskin referred to scalping, for instance). There are outright bad ways to name people, but not definitively good ones.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
If you want to know if something hurts (2.00 / 2)
you have to ask the injured party.

But, if you want to ask yourself, just imagine it changed to YOUR group.

Hmm. Suppose the New York Mets were the New York Jewboys?


Oh, yeah.  

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

Odd, yet an artful name. (2.00 / 1)

I am for the individual over government, government over big business and the environment over all. -- William O. Douglas

What's in a name? | 71 comments

Advanced Search

Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Blog Roll
Angry Bear
Angry Black Lady
Balloon Juice
Black Kos
Booman Tribune
Charles P. Pierce
Crooks and Liars
Daily Kos
Five Thirty Eight
Huffington Post
Juan Cole
Maddow Blog
P.M. Carpenter
Political Wire
Scholars & Rogues
Stonekettle Station
Talking Points Memo
The Field
Washington Monthly
Moose With Blogs
Canadian Gal
Charles Lemos
Cheryl Kopec
Curtis Walker
Douglas Watts
Hubie Stubert
Intrepid Liberal
John Allen
National Gadfly
Peter Jukes
Senate Guru
Zachary Karabell

Back to Top

Posting Guidelines  |  FAQ  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact the Moose  |  Contact Congress
Powered by: SoapBlox