Is the Use of “Redskin” Racist?
Racism is a critical issue that still concerns much of the world today. It was posited before that people of other races, more specifically those with colored skins, are inferior. At the onset of the American Civil War, the primary debate was the use of African Americans as slaves and their stature in society. More recently, the civil society, particularly the institution of sports, was been struck with an issue involving the use of term that was regarded to be derogatory to the Native American Indians—“Redskins.” There are those, however, who believe that the use of the term is not derogatory. Instead, they believe that the term as used in sports is a celebration of the American Indian’s brevity.
The term “Redskin” is derived from an old genocidal practice where Native American Indians are being scalped by bounty hunters (Muwakkil, n.p.). The scalps, which were bloody, were called “redskins.” The term was also used to describe the color of the skin of American Indians and the paint they had used to cover their bodies during battles. Clearly, the term is associated to a dark past of American Indians who were involved in an almost constant battle with the colonists. It is therefore not surprising that the term is considered by some to be a derogatory remark against the native settlers of the land, who were then considered to be savage creatures and were persecuted.
On the other hand, most held that no one thinks that the term is disparaging nowadays. In fact, there are many who find that the issue hilarious to be worth being concerned with. Some held that language is ever evolving, and that a term that was used to be derogatory could be turned into something positive which, they believe, was what the term “Redskin” has turned into. The loss of the lawsuit filed against the Washington football franchise, while not necessarily resolving the racism issue, has reinforced the claim that the issue is not taken seriously by the majority group.
There are also claims that only nine percent of American Indians find the term “Redskin” demeaning to their race (Associated Press, n.p.). The more sensitive components of the society, however, have performed necessary actions in response to the increasing opposition against the term. Furthermore, Muwakkil reported that “virtually every Native American organization has condemned the use of demeaning images or mascots” (n.p.).
While the majority does not believe that the term Redskin as used in sports is derogatory of American Indians, what matters is what those who are being referred to feels about the term. Regardless of how people of other lineage conceive of the term, may it be in honor of American Indians, it is not enough to justify its use when the people being referred to remembers a time when they were persecuted. It is apparent that most American Indians still perceive the term as an insult to their heritage and are offended by it. If American Indians perceive the term as racist, then it should be regarded as such. After all, they are the ones who know best about their race and whose emotions regarding the issue the people of other races should be sensitive to.
Muwakkil, Salim. “Racists slurs taint U.S. sports.” 21 January 2004. In These Times. 8 December 2008. <http://www.inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=567_0_3_0_C>
“‘Redskins’ mascot acceptable, poll says: More than 90 percent of American Indians not bothered by the name.” 25 September 2004. Associated Press. 8 December 2008. <http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/6093796/>