Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's In A Name?

There are quite a few objections to team names I don't understand, but this isn't one of them:

All major Native American organizations have called for the Washington pro football franchise to end its team's despicable name. Why? Because it's a racial slur and – no matter how many millions it spends trying to sanitize it and silence native peoples – the epithet is not, was not, and will not be an honorific.

Washington 'Redskins' is a racist name: US pro football must disavow it

I seem to remember objections being raised about the names of the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians baseball teams, for instance, and I really don't get that. This I get. Would anyone name their team, say, the "Indianapolis Honkies"? I don't think so. The closest I can come to an offensive stereotype in team names is Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish", and even there I'd have to say that it would probably be best for those offended by that name to acquire a sense of humor. Aggression, after all, is considered a good thing in many sports.

But the name of our nation's capital's football team is singularly offensive. Not only has the term been a historically demeaning one, but it reminds us of the long, sad history of relations between the indigenous population of the United States and those of us who came afterward. Maybe it's good to be reminded of that once in a while, but I'd rather we came to realize that it was a bad thing, that racist attitudes of some of the newcomers were a big part of that reason, and we don't think those racist attitudes were OK.

This is why, on the rare occasions when Washington's team does something notable, I've refused to refer to it by its team name, and will continue to not refer to it that way.

It may not rank high on the list of crimes committed by America these days, but I agree that the NFL ought to change it.


Anonymous said...

Do you think that anyone who's not looking for something non-PC to rail about ever notices stuff like this?

I don't.

At least, my own experience is that these team names become automatized as terms (that need no deconstruction).

Cujo359 said...

Since this is clearly a "PC" issue to you, and thus anyone who is bothered by it is no longer in the universe of "anyone who's not looking for something non-PC", then the answer is clearly no. For those of us who live in a less dichotomous world, this name, at least, ought to raise some hackles. It's an insult to a group of people who live in our country.

I'm sure there are lots of people who don't think much about the names of sports teams, even sports fans. I don't see how that makes their opinion interesting. People who haven't thought about an issue generally don't have useful thoughts about it in my experience.

Cujo359 said...

On further thought, I think I see where you're going with this:

my own experience is that these team names become automatized as terms

Which implies that since the fans who use them mean no insult, none should be taken. To which I reply, I wish the world would always take my words that way. Unfortunately, people can feel insulted due to things I've written or said, even though I had no idea why they would be insulted. In some cases, yes, those people were thoughtless and self-centered, but in other cases they had their reasons. In the latter case, in particular, it's usually wise not to say things in that manner again.

Fans using this team name isn't what that activist found insulting, nor is it what I find insulting. It's the name itself, which is a demeaning epithet for an ethnic group.