Political correctness comes part and parcel with living in a modern, global society. Though there are times when the move toward political correctness seems to go a bit too far, the reality is that the principle behind the practice is sound.
One area in which the PC movement seems to strike the right balance is the use of slurs or epithets directed toward a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. In general, the use of such language is frowned upon by society at large.
This is one of the reasons why the continued use of the term “Redskins” to describe the Washington. NFL team is beyond astounding. If you listen to the supporting arguments, coming from people like team owner Dan Snyder, who shares in the revenue of NFL cable TV deals, you’ll hear that the team name should remain because it’s traditional, and that fans identify the name with a football team, not a slur. While it seems true that most supporters of the name aren’t seeking to actively offend Native Americans, the reality of the “tradition” argument is a much more prickly matter.
The problem with arguing the tradition angle is that plenty of really awful, horrifying things were also once considered tradition. At one time, women and minorities couldn’t vote, based on tradition. In much too recent history, segregating people of different races was perfectly acceptable in society, based on tradition. The list goes on and on, ad infinitum. What matters is that many things that were once acceptable, even traditional, are now looked back upon with disgust.
This is especially true of language, which often evolves much more quickly than other aspects of society. Many terms once used regularly to describe or insult people of different backgrounds have essentially been stripped from the global lexicon. Sure, some people may still use these terms, but those people are either quickly educated, assuming that they didn’t know that what they were saying was wrong, or chastised and shunned, assuming they used the term with malicious intent.
The bottom line is that even if a lot of people are offended by the name of the Washington Redskins, then the name should be changed. That fans who just want to watch their favorite team don’t mean to offend Native Americans when using the term is largely irrelevant.
Groups like the Oneida Indian Nation are fighting to have the name changed, because they find it offensive. This leaves the supporter of the name with two choices – continue to use the term, with full knowledge that it is a slur which offends a large group of people, or decide to change the name, based on the fact that so many people are offended by it.
With the growing, organized opposition to the name, people who support its use can no longer plead ignorance. It is a fact that many people are offended by it, and that a growing number of people, Native American and otherwise, support the name change.
Tradition is no excuse for bigotry, which is proven regularly as society becomes more inclusive and casts aside old prejudices. The NFL should take the lead here, using some of the money from their cable TV deals for positive change, instead of maintaining the status quo.
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