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RedĚskin n.  Dated, Offensive, Taboo
(7/22/05)


Another response to RedĚskin n.  Dated, Offensive, Taboo:

Hello. Hope you do not mind all the occasional comments. I keep finding more and more in your site. I see that the "Redskins...taboo" item has floated to the top of one of your index pages. This reminded me of a newspaper I read, that refuses to use the "Redskins" name in the sports section for the Washington team, inspired by the obvious concerns covered in your article. They had an editorial explaining their stand. I happen to not agree with what they decided to do, and am wondering what your take on it is. By refusing to use the name of the team, they are in effect "covering up" the name of the team, and possibly making it less likely that the name will be seen as a problem (since it is not seen!) and dealt with. Regardless of what the newspaper reports, the team still has the name. When I first read their explanation, I thought of a comparable hypothetical example where a newspaper reported on a speech of a KKK or neo-Nazi leader. Would it be good for the newspaper to remove or re-word the outrageous parts of the speech as not to offend anyone? By doing so, they would be softening the words of David Duke/etc. Should team mascot names be reported in sports sections? Or does censoring them from reporting actually have some sort of positive effect on the situation that I am not thinking of?

Rob's reply
>> I happen to not agree with what they decided to do, and am wondering what your take on it is. <<

Well, I tend not to support protests unless I think they'll have an effect. And I'm not sure this kind of protest is having any effect.

>> By refusing to use the name of the team, they are in effect "covering up" the name of the team, and possibly making it less likely that the name will be seen as a problem (since it is not seen!) and dealt with. <<

Yes, this is a valid point. On the other hand, doing nothing simply reinforces the status quo: that there's nothing wrong with the name "Redskins."

>> Should team mascot names be reported in sports sections? <<

Most "Indian" team names aren't offensive per se. The problem is usually the logo, the dancing mascot, or the fans' (re)actions. "Redskins" is about the only name that's literally offensive.

True, many Indian team names are stereotypical. But stereotyping is a subtle, long-term problem, not an in-your-face insult. Some stereotypes are intellectually offensive, but I don't get emotionally upset about them. (Native people may feel differently.)

>> Or does censoring them from reporting actually have some sort of positive effect on the situation that I am not thinking of? <<

The positive effects are explicitly removing the offensive word and implicitly alerting readers to the problem. Whether these are sufficient is the question.

Rather than doing nothing or censoring the "Redskins" name, how about a third approach? How about a footnote at the end of every Redskins article saying, "Many Native Americans find the word 'redskins' offensive"? Or better yet, "According to dictionaries, the term 'redskins' is dated, offensive, or taboo"? (The second version would remove the issue from the forum of competing feelings and make it more of an objective claim.)

This approach would keep the issue on everyone's minds on a daily basis. No doubt it would anger the Redskins fans who don't want to hear about their team name's history. For that reason it has much to recommend it. <g>

Rob


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