The debate over the Redskins name quickly became another red state/blue state brouhaha, with the liberal “thought police” trying to protect Native Americans who may not be offended by the term and conservatives fearing that changing the name “Redskins” would result in the elimination of every team name based on any type of human or animal or other organism, living or dead.
One prominent conservative columnist, risking the wrath of other red-staters, has attempted to focus the argument not on politics but linguistics.
In an item appearing in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer compares the term “Redskins” to other words that were once socially acceptable but have, over time, become radioactive.
As Krauthammer points out, the term “Negro” was commonly used when referring to members of the group currently known as African-American. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the term 15 times in his “I have a dream” speech. But times changed, terms changed, and that’s just the way society evolves.
Ditto for the term “retarded.” As Krauthammer points out, “retarded” at one point became the preferred alternative to “mongoloid.” Now, both terms aren’t used.
Though it was never widely used, the term “redskins” has fallen victim to the common evolution away from certain words. Even if it ever were an appropriate or welcome reference to Native Americans, no one would use that term when interacting with Native Americans, when talking publicly about Native Americans, or (absent some type of discriminatory intent) when talking privately about Native Americans.
The problem, as explained in our first item on the issue from early February, is that Redskins fans have become numb to the fact that, if stripped from a football team, the name never would be or could be used.
Though Krauthammer dubs it a close call, he concludes that he would personally choose not to use the term if others are available.
When it comes to naming football teams, other names are available. An infinite array of other names are available. Eventually, one of those other available names will be adopted.