Redskins as Pejorative

Washington RedskinsSpeaking of football, Jonathan Bernstein has long been making the argument that the Washington Redskins should change their name simply based on the issue of etiquette. This isn’t to say that there aren’t a whole lot of other issues, but you don’t even need to go there. The Native American community finds the name offensive. It’s as simple as that. So change the name.

Well, today I made the mistake of reading the comments of his most recent iteration of this argument, About That Washington Football Team. Well, apparently he has a troll that has nothing better to do than spout his ignorant opinions hour after hour. He goes by “Elesis” (a female name, but I don’t buy it) and I wouldn’t have even noticed him except that he kept making the same argument again and again and again.

And what an argument it is! Basically, “Sure ‘redskins’ can be a pejorative, but it isn’t a pejorative when the Washington football team uses it!” This is kind of like someone calling you “stupid.” When you complain, they say, “Hey, I know ‘stupid’ is generally a bad thing, but I don’t mean it that way when I refer to you that way!” In fact, here is an actual quote:

The team picked it because it wanted to be associated with Indian Warriors as can be seen by the accompanying motifs on their uniforms. Rather than denigrating Indians, the Redskins are in fact honoring them.

This made me think of a line from the film Pulp Fiction. What if Daniel Snyder decided that he wanted to name his team the “Washington Hard Pipe-Hittin’ Niggers”? I mean, in the movie, Marsellus doesn’t say that as a pejorative. He means he’s gonna bring in some hardcore guys who are going to “go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.” I can hardly think of a better name for a football team that is going to open up a can of whoopass every time they hit the field!

By Elesis’ logic, that would be a perfectly fine name for a football team, “Rather than denegrating [!] African Americans, the Hard Pipe-Hittin’ N…..s (or just the N…..s for short) are in fact honoring them.” Why would African Americans have any reason to complain?

The only reason that occurs to me is that it is a totally racist name regardless of what Snyder and Elesis claim. And that’s be just as true of the Redskins as the Pipe-Hitters. So I think we can get rid of the whole idea that “Redskins” is an honorific moniker. I’m still with Bernstein: it’s just a question of etiquette. But obviously, for people like Snyder and Elesis, etiquette doesn’t matter. I think I’ve dispensed with the pejorative and racist arguments. I wonder what they’ll come up with next?!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Redskins as Pejorative

  1. I’ve run into these racist name defenders, and what’s funny is that they get it, but only from the weakest side. They are offended because they see "group" after "group" getting "special politically correct treatment," and they decide this is where they want to draw a line in the sand. Enough defeats for the white man, already!

    Of course that insulted group identity is exactly the point. It’s bizarre how these people who feel as though their side has taken a prestige hit or three over the last few decades is incapable of imagining what it’s like to have actual historical slaughter be part of your identity.

    Most of them, I’ve found, are receptive to the common courtesy argument. Mention that some Native tribes have voted in favor of local sports team nicknames (the Florida Seminoles) and say it should be up to local groups to decide what’s offensive, and most defenders of the nicknames back down.

  2. @JMF – Yeah, I think most people will go with the "don’t be rude" logic. I think that’s why Bernstein pushes it. It ain’t hard.

    The sand line drawers are people who really don’t get what it means to be a straight white man in this culture. The truth is that it took me a while to get it. We just are, we don’t represent. And we should be grateful that we don’t. No one should have to represent. But given that most people [i]do[/i] have to represent–"Just like a Mexican to cut me off like that!"–we should be falling over ourselves not to offend. Nothing is being taken away from the white man. We are just taking baby steps to provide other people what the white man already has.

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