The Battle of the Redskins

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


redskinsOver the summer, those two legendary sources of sports coverage, Salon Magazine and MSNBC, or as they are known in some places the S Word and the M Word, announced that they would begin referring to the Redskins football team as the R Word.

Ordinarily liberals would not be too eager to call a team with 40 black players, a black quarterback and a passionate black fan base a hyphenated euphemism. But worried liberals were reassured when Barack Obama, or the B.O. Word, endorsed a name change for the Redskins.

The affinity that black D.C. residents have for the Redskins, a team that white D.C. liberals feel they should despise, has long been a sore spot. Every story about the Redskins begins with the team’s segregationist past even though it has as much to do with the current issue as Harry Truman saying, “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s not an N Word.”

If the Democratic Party was covered the way the Redskins are, every story would begin by wondering at how, despite a really bad start of supporting slavery and segregation, African-Americans came around to the Democratic Party. And that would be fair because even in their worst season, the Redskins have killed fewer people than the Democratic Party.

Political correctness though doesn’t practice consistency. Like most liberal activism, it’s about class and power.

If Redskins fans were poor whites, they could be hit directly. But a mostly black team with a large black fan base can only be attacked indirectly with a manufactured controversy about their name.

The latest wave of pressure is being headed up by Ray Halbritter, CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, who has the virtue, unlike Rachel Maddow and 99 percent of the skinny pale liberals wearing retro glasses who write about this, of actually being Native American. (Or least 1/4 Native American considering that’s the blood quantum standard in the Oneida Nation, the small tribe, not the company, whose employees are mostly of the tribe of New Yorkers.)

The more local chiefs of the Patawomeck and Pamunkey in Virginia who said they weren’t offended were ignored. Robert Green, the former chief of the Patawomeck, said that he was a Redskins fan and would be offended if the team did change its name. Then he added that the Redskins name came from the Indians and that the country had become too politically correct.

The Harvard educated Halbritter is much more politically savvy than Green. Despite being removed from his position by the Grand Council of Chiefs, he was backed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and allegedly hired a tribal police force of non-Indians to suppress his Oneida critics.

Halbritter knows that what liberals really want is a minority to shout “Racist!” at appropriate targets and that campaigning against racism will gain him more political influence than telling irritated white liberals in retro glasses that their class-based obsession with the Redskins is a silly waste of everyone’s time.

Like Toure or the innumerable minorities who show up on MSNBC to shout “Racism!” when the red light turns on, he understands that the best way to rise in the ranks of the white liberals in retro glasses is by being useful to them.

And there’s really only one use that liberals have for minorities.

What Robert Green understands though is that intent matters more than nomenclature. Words don’t have fixed meanings that persist throughout time. They change based on the way we use them.

It’s not about the word, but about the human heart.

A sportswriter demanded to know whether a name like the Washington Negroes or the Washington Heebs would have been tolerated and defended the way that the Washington Redskins are.

That is actually an issue in the United Kingdom.

Fans of the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team defy the police and the Football Association by chanting “Yid Army”. The Hotspurs once had a strong Jewish fanbase which responded to anti-Semitic taunts of “Yids, Yids” by calling itself the Yid Army. The now no-longer Jewish fans still call themselves the “Yid Army” and the players “Yiddos” for reasons of tradition– something Jews can certainly appreciate.

The Yid Army has run afoul of soccer’s efforts at stamping out racism, even though Yiddo, like Redskin, by now represents a different sort of tribal identity. A tribal identity built on team sports, rather than ethnicity or race. The latter, like urban identities, proliferate in multicultural societies where the number of actual Indians and Jews by blood is sharply diminished.

In one of the more surreal sports shouting matches, the Spurs fans shouted “Yid Army” in defiance of the ban while their rival West Ham supporters shouted, “Racists” at them. Somehow a game of soccer had turned into a paper on the more confusing aspects of multiculturalism.

Prime Minister Cameron, on a campaign to justify his political survival with strategic displays of common sense, said that, “There’s a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult.”

There’s also a big difference between the Redskins team and calling someone a Redskin– which as a slur probably died out around the same time as Daniel Boone.

The refusal to look at what people mean, rather than what they say, has led to the criminalization of language and restrictions on speech with senseless results.

Near the turn of the century, the aide to the mayor of D.C. called a budget “niggardly” only to be fired because someone in the office assumed it was a racial slur and then rehired when the incident made the local government even more of a national laughingstock than usual.

Ridiculous incidents like these keep happening because liberal speech codes emphasize that it’s not what you mean; it’s whether it resembles something on the banned list.

The racism standard has moved away from motive to effect. Laws can be struck down as racist if it can be shown, not that they were discriminatory in intent, but in effect. It doesn’t matter what you do; only that someone was offended. And the only way to screen out the things that someone might possibly be offended by is by banning everything that could possibly be offensive.

Controlling language is about controlling people.

The white liberal sportswriters chasing after the Redskins have no interest in the problems of Native Americans. They care only about beating another phantom enemy that they created in order to give their politically correct crusades meaning.

They don’t care about what Ray Halbritter is doing to his own people. They are not interested in what people, including the black fans of the Redskins and the chiefs who like the Redskins, think; they are only interested in getting their way.

The Battle of the Redskins isn’t about racism. It’s about power.

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  • RAS

    It impossible to add anything substantive to Daniel
    Greenfield’s excellent piece on the Redskins and the never ending Liberal
    nonsense about racism and supposed racial slurs. So I’ll just throw in some thoughts of my own. First, most Liberals (aka Lily Whites) don’t have a clue about race and race relations, either past or present. They seem to assume that anyone that disagrees with their view just has to be a racist.

    Having grown up in a racially mixed neighborhood gives me a little better insight. As a child I was often referred to as white-trash by the black children at the school behind our flat. It bothered me then; it wouldn’t bother me now. Times have changed and relations were getting much-much better until the current crop of dividers got control. I’m not sure of their motivation or their objectives for all the stupid and often hateful things they do; but, I am sure that their actions are destructive and will lead to a diminished and improvised society, both economically and morally.

  • PAthena

    The self-appointed police of language are at it again. They tell us that we cannot call American Indians “Indians” because Columbus made a mistake when he discovered America and thought he had discovered the Indies. Of course, American Indians are not found in India. (The West Indies are, according to this logic, not the West “Indies.”)
    These same self-appointed police tell us that we must call American Indians “Native Americans,” a gross mistake, since a “native American” is anyone born in the United States. Then they tell us that we must not call the Eskimos “Eskimo” but “Inuit,” because in the Eskimo language they call themselves “Inuit” – but they do not insist that we call Germans “die deutsche” because in the German language the word for German is “deutsch,” or that we call Greeks “Hellenes” because in the Greek language the word for Greek is “Hellenica,” etc. Nor do they complain that Greenland should not be called “Greenland” since it covered with snow and ice.

    • Rowan

      I think the Native American issue has another failing, the natives did not call the continent America…. so once again the European terminology is imposed on the local people. They are not “Native Americans” any more than the are Indians… it all has the same failing of the “blacks” or “African Americans”, titles….

      I love the examples, great development of the theme ;-)

      I’m not Hungarian any more, I’m Magyar… the parts that are not Nederlander, Deutsche, Bohemian….

  • mindRider

    How about using the “D”word for the democratic party as it actually is an insult to the original meaning of democratic.

  • sendtheclunkerbacktochicago

    You wasted to much time and ink on this sorry ass topic. Listen, once the Dick Head in Chief chimed in on this subject the Redskins should have immediately changed their name in his honor to The Washington Foreskins.

    • cathnealon

      clunker
      This is an attack on a private businessman, who incidentally is not on the same political side of the aisle as Obama, and his freedom to keep the name of his privately owned team. This is not irrelevant,. sorry ass, or a trite issue. This is totalitarianism. Every last nook and cranny of the nation is controlled by the regime. PC has already cost us fo much in terms of our God-given liberty to say what we want. The President’s involvement is an all out assault not only on the First Amendment but on the very foundation of capitalism. The Alinskyite Marxist does not pick and freeze a target at whim. In fact, this Redskins controversy is exactly the kind of tactic that can kill more than a few very precious birds with one soundbite. We better wake up to tthe Marxist strategies.

  • Rowan

    Considering, a team name is chosen to represent, hopefully, a successful and skilled sport team… it is a compliment. No one names a team “tech support guy”… as much as we love the tech support guy (or gal, God help me for the slight, opps, I guess I shouldn’t mention God either, ok, I’m dammed) no one expects him to necessarily have the skill and stamina, the disciple and training, the quick thinking on a field of sport, the fair play and honor (seemingly less important these days, but used to be) to win the day…. team names are chosen to inspire and in a semi magical way to imbue the team with the superior qualities represented by the name chosen. It is an honor not an insult. Teams are named, Vikings, Saxons, Braves… heroic figures, or Pirates… names associated with adventure…. no one names them Vendors, Nannies, Taxidrivers… and perhaps considering how hard these people may work, it might apply, but the lack romance and a nice and easily recognized team logo is also a factor (the Redskin’s have great logos).
    it is sad that a few people, trying to make themselves important (“power” is a good summary) wreck havoc with a positive tradition.
    And there are always plenty willing to hop on the wagon, even if it is not going anywhere useful….

  • Distantsmoke

    I was thinking that if I owned the Redskins I would keep the name just to piss off Liberals.

  • Veracious_one

    as usual, liberals love to keep the pot of hate and malcontent boiling….no matter what it takes….liberals are never happy….

  • Peggy

    Please sign our petition to save the Redskins name. Will be sent to the NFL. Over 2000 signatures and counting.

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-the-washington-redskins.fb40?source=s.fb&r_by=9269115