Friday, November 29, 2013

The Reasoning Behind NFL Week 12 Wrapup

As the debate over the naming of the Washington, D.C. NFL franchise rages on, many people have criticized the team's mascot on the grounds that racial slurs have no place in current society. Others have defended the mascot on the grounds that other teams with Native American-inspired mascots have not faced and are not facing the same scrutiny as is Washington.

Ironically, both of those camps are off base. How so? Allow me to explain.

While it is certainly true that racial slurs have no place in a decent society, there is much debate about whether the history of "redskin" even includes usage as a racial slur to begin with. Some factions within the Native American community say "yes, people have used the term to denigrate us". Others say "no, it is a term we have used to identify ourselves". How do you begin to reconcile two such diametrically-opposed views?

Answer: you don't. Because, honestly, to any free-thinking person, it doesn't matter whether the name originated as a slur or not. What does matter is something intrinsic in the term "redskin" itself, something that makes it completely unique from other slurs (real or imagined); something I will get to in a brief moment.

The second camp, as I said, is also off base (in comparing the term to other sports teams names) for one simple fact: none of the other team names focus on a physical trait of a race or ethnic group. And this, actually, is the crux of where both camps fail in their analogies.

No, we obviously would not accept "nigger" or "spic" or "honkey" or "kike" as a team mascot. But we also wouldn't accept "darktans" or "yellowskins" or "palefaces" or "longnoses". Those don't necessarily have deep and long histories as racial slurs, but they're still, clearly, unacceptable characterizations for a group of people. This is, as I alluded to earlier, what makes "redskin" unique in every regard; it is an almost patently-immature designation focused on a physical trait. There is nothing equally-moronic on a linguistic level about names like 'Braves' or 'Chiefs'; rather, it is the mascots the teams use, and moreso the overall minstrelry of cultures, that makes them offend. There is simply no way to use "redskins" in a mature way -- unless of course you're ready to go to bat for names like darkies, slantyeyes, longnoses, and shortpeckers.

That is the heart of the debate over the name, and is the reasoning behind the names chosen in the semi-faux satirical NFL wrapup: to highlight what is inherently unique about the disputed name of the Washington franchise. It is a name based on a physical trait, something which no one anywhere would accept in any other example you could possibly dream up.

It's high time we grew up and let go of our immature past already, no matter how long we've allowed ourselves to be blind to it.

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