9th Reading Forum

"Redskins" article response

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How do you feel about California's ban on public schools (high schools and colleges) using "Redskins" as a nickname or mascot?

Should this ban extend to other states? To other Native American-associated nicknames like "Braves"?

What about the professional football team from Washington D.C.? Should they be allowed to continue using their nickname? Why or why not?

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  • Native Americans are an invisible minority for many Americans. Unless you have lived in or near tribal areas, your schema for Native Americans may well be limited to the (often incorrect) stereotypes presented in movies and your history textbooks. Nicknames and mascots such as "Redskins" only further this dated and cartoonish portrayal of the original Americans. So I applaud California's ban on the use of the "R-word" and I believe such a ban should extend across the nation and into the National Football League. Daniel Snyder and others in the Washington organization claim that the nickname is meant to honor Natives, but if a significant proportion of the people you are honoring are offended by the name, what kind of honor is that?

    As linguist John McWhorter says in his editorial, "(W)ords have not only core meanings, but resonances of the kind that may not make it into the dictionary but are deeply felt by all of us." Things become more complicated when we consider other terms such as "Braves" and "Indians." Indeed, the nickname of Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico is the Braves, and that school is run by Natives themselves. And that matters: When nicknames and mascots are referring to groups of people, those groups should have the ultimate say in what is offensive or what is not. I think about my own alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, known as "The Fighting Irish." Our mascot is a leprechaun (well, not a real leprechaun, mostly because leprechauns aren't real) and our nickname does further negative stereotypes about the Irish. But Irish people are not upset by the use of the mascot or the nickname. Perhaps this is because they had some say in creating the nickname in the first place (despite being founded by French priests, the University of Notre Dame had many Irish priests and students in its early years). If over time the "resonance" of the term changed, I would fully support Notre Dame changing its nickname and mascot.
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