Idle No More: Get Over It, You Redskins

Lately there’s been more than a little controversy about the word “Redskins” when it comes to professional and amateur sports teams.  The NFL team in Washington uses the term (and has for decades) and the football club in Nepean uses the term and so do other sports teams across Canada and the United States.   More than a few people think that Indigenous peoples should just shut up and get over it already.

So why is there so much controversy?  What’s so bad about calling a sports team the Whatever Redskins?

Let’s start by opening up a dictionary and getting the definition for Redskin… from experts.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Oxford Dictionary Definition

Oxford Dictionary Definition

Random House Dictionary Definition

Random House Dictionary Definition

American Heritage Dictionary Definition

American Heritage Dictionary Definition

Based on the definitions provided by these four reputable dictionaries, it’s a fact that the term is offensive … not just to Indigenous peoples but to anyone regardless of their cultural heritage.

So why do some people insist that using the term Redskins, and justifying its use with all manner of excuses from claiming it’s okay to use the term because it’s been used for hundreds of years all the way down to claiming it’s okay to use because someone heard someone else claim they have Indian blood and they don’t find the term offensive?  Here’s why:  Because they believe they can get away with it.

If someone named a team the Nevada Niggers, you’d hear outrage from everyone because the n-word is offensive.  How do we know it’s offensive?  Well, for one thing, the dictionary says so.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

How about if someone ran with the idea of naming their team the Kansas Kikes?  Do you think more than a few people would be upset by that?  Wouldn’t it be offensive seeing as the dictionary says the k-word is offensive?

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

And what if someone decided that the San Diego Spics was a great name for a team because recent stats show that 1 in 3 people in that city are Hispanic?  It wouldn’t fly with anyone because the s-word is offensive.  Just check the dictionary where it says so.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

What would people say if a sports team in say, West Chester in Illinois, proudly announced their latest professional sports team was known as the Westchester Chinks?  It wouldn’t take long before scads of people were up in arms over the use of the offensive c-word in the team’s name.  The dictionary would back them up on that, too.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

And it doesn’t matter if the sports franchise or team owners argue that they can’t afford to change a team’s name because of all the expenses involved plus the fact that they have trademarked the name and all their merchandising is tied to that trademark.  It’s interesting that the argument of having a trademark is part of the justification for using offensive, racist words to name a team.  After all, trademarks in Canada and the United States are not supposed to “disparage . . . persons, living or dead, . . . or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”

But you know, those business people and sports fans will argue that the expression Redskins isn’t disparaging or bringing into contempt or disrepute a person, living or dead.  It’s a general term that encompasses a large number of people so disparaging them is fine as far as they’re concerned.

Except it’s not.

It never was.  It isn’t now.

Why not take a moment to step back a bit and ask yourself why it is that Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins says  he’ll never change the name of the team.  He says that no First Nations peoples in Washington, D.C. have told him how offensive the name is.  There’s a reason for that, Mr. Snyder.  Less than 1% of Washington, DC. has residents that are Native American Indian.  In fact, the exact percentage is 0.6%.  That means that 99.4% of the population in Washington, DC isn’t speaking out about it and 0.6% of the population in Washington, DC is intimidated by the 99.4% of the population in Washington DC that isn’t speaking out about it.

People like Dan Snyder have wonderful excuses they use for continuing with using the r-word.

Dan Snyder's Redskins_IMAGE

It’s Tony Wyllie and friends’ job to make sure that Redskin is used properly to preserve that value?  If that’s a fact, and if the franchise stands by that statement, then it’s about time that the Washington Redskins – and all other sports teams, professional and amateur – stopped using the term Redskins to identify their team.

Here’s hoping no one suggests going with something like the Washington Wops or the Washington Wogs because neither of those will fly either.  Why not?  Because offensive terms are offensive terms, no matter how you look at them.

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition

And that, dear readers, is why using the r-word is not acceptable in today’s society.   It’s not any more acceptable than using other offensive terms.

It’s about time everyone got the memo.

Elyse Bruce

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11 Responses to “Idle No More: Get Over It, You Redskins”

  1. BJ Says:

    Regarding your comments about Dan Snyder and the lack of D.C. residents of Native American heritage . . . there are several Native American organizations and associations headquartered within the D.C. metropolitan area (MD/DC/VA) . . . including the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indian Gaming Association, for starters. The majority of staff working in both of these associations are Native American, although not technically “living” in D.C. proper. (I know this because I was employed at BOTH . . . ). I don’t think that using the population of D.C. argument flies here. The sentiments among the staff of each of these two organizations ran about 50/50, for what it’s worth, when I asked my fellow Native American co-workers.

  2. Russ Letica Says:

    That phrase was coined when the colonizers meet the Natives of the eastern door. They went home to tell of a people who lived on the lands who had red skin. The red skin was produced by a berry that was used to repel mosquitos and “no see’s” those little black flies that bite.

    You can not argue with common sense the offensiveness when you compare this issue to the definitions of other racial slurs. Great Job at bringing clarity to such utter nonsense from proud racist America.

  3. theprimeau Says:

    BJ…are you nit picking a reason to keep using a racist word. even after reading this article you believe it OK to use it because of some 50/50 formula you devised by asking people in Washington….go to the rez and ask this silly question

    • BJ Says:

      I would like to think I’m NOT nitpicking anything, “theprimeau” . . . I have been to several reservations for my work, and asked this question (although, not of everyone, obviously) . . . I am a D.C. native who happens to work for Native American-related causes/rights movements, and I am genuinely interested in the answers to this question, thus I ASKED when it was comfortable of me to ask. Just throwing this out there. Silly question? I don’t think so. In a world where it is okay for black people to refer to each other as “niggers” . . . I asked a SIMPLE question of the Native American people I have not only worked with, but worked FOR. Just relaying my personal experiences with the answers I’ve received. Don’t shoot the messenger, okay? Jeez.

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