Charles Krauthammer: Redskins and reason
Fifty years ago the preferred, most respectful term for African-Americans was Negro. The word appears 15 times in Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Negro replaced a long list of insulting words in common use during decades of public and legal discrimination.
With a rare few legacy exceptions, Negro carries an unmistakably patronizing and demeaning tone.
Similarly, regarding the further ethnic breakdown of Congress, you wouldn't say: "And by my count, there are two redskins."
I know there are surveys that say that most Native Americans aren't bothered by the word. But that's not the point. My objection is not rooted in pressure from various minorities or fear of public polls or public scolds.
Not because I took a poll of Roma to find out if they were offended. If some mysterious disease had carried away every gypsy on the planet, and there were none left to offend, I still wouldn't use it.
Let's recognize that that there are many people of good will for whom "Washington Redskins" contains sentimental and historical attachment - and not an ounce of intended animus. So let's turn down the temperature. What's at issue is not high principle but adaptation to a change in linguistic nuance. A close call, though I personally would err on the side of not using the word if others are available.
Choose whatever name you like. But let's go easy on the other side. We're not talking Brown v. Board of Education here.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post.
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