Is current use of the word "Redskins" racist?

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I have written before about how a term can be used positively or negatively, and for me this is the essence of whether a term is offensive. The “N” word is universally condemned and rarely uttered or even printed these days, but in my limited knowledge of the usage of the term by some Black people, it appears that in certain contexts from one person to another the term is acceptable depending who’s listening.


Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Diana Parton (left) and Yolonda Bluehorse protest outside AT&T Stadium prior to the game with the Dallas Cowboys playing against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A 2002 poll commissioned by Sports Illustrated found that 75% of those American Indians surveyed had no objection to the Redskins name. The results of the poll have been criticized by Native American activists due to Sports Illustrated’s refusal to provide polling information (e.g. how participants were recruited and contacted, if they were concentrated in one region, if one ethnic group is over represented and the exact wording and order of questions).

But in 2004, a poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania essentially confirmed the prior poll’s findings, concluding that 91% of the Native Americans surveyed in the 48 states on the mainland USA found the name acceptable and setting out in detail the exact wording of the questions.

However, Anyone could find a poll with the results they want to find to prove their point. It’s like using statistics as they say…there are lies, damn lies and statistics.  You can prove anything, you just need to find the appropriate statistic to back you up.  But should the name be changed if just one person finds the name offensive?  That’s a tricky one.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell accepted that the NFL should certainly look at it if this was the case but a minority of people get offended from all sorts of terms, such as “lanky” or “ginger” or even “obese”.  You can’t not offend everyone, so I don’t buy this either.  In this PC-mad, over-sensitive world, and especially in the UK, we are so busy trying not to offend a minority that the majority get offended.

We see this so many times, for example not being allowed to display the English national flag, the St. George cross in Radstock, Somerset, as it may offend the 16 Muslims in the village, or the Red Cross banning Christmas decorations from their shops to prevent offending.  A hot topic in the UK is immigration control.


Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who believes in controlled immigration, and not the open and uncontrolled movement between countries the EU permits, lays themselves open to accusations of racism, as if concerns over housing, infrastructure, school places etc are irrelevant compared to the “racist” thought process.

Finally, I find it interesting that so many people are now speaking out against the use of the word. It certainly feels like there is a bandwagon element to taking the anti-Redskin stance with some TV journalists taking cheap pot shots and ridiculing Dan Snyder’s attempts to justify the use of the word and its current meaning.

I saw one guy, and I have no idea who he is, just make himself look an idiot as if he is a better person for speaking out against the team name, claiming it is racist. White journalists cannot possibly know if the term is offensive but spend their time insisting to anyone that will listen, that it is.

There’s no doubt that many people are using this hot topic to score some political points, or whatever the TV equivalent might be, but are trying a little too hard not to appear racist.  As a team nickname, it is clear that the term is not being used intentionally in a racist way but people seem to get this confused with racism, as if by using the term this makes you a racist.


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