For media, ‘Redskins’ use question should not be hard

A Seattle newspaper is banning the use of the name Washington Redskins in an acknowledgement that it’s a racist expression.

The Seattle Times follows the lead of the Star Tribune, which refused to use the name of the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians (I can’t recall if the Chicago Blackhawks were included in the ban) in its decision in the ’90s. Few other papers picked up on it and some months later, the policy quietly disappeared.

Don Shelton, the sports editor at the Seattle paper, today writes:

We’ll probably receive scathing emails, letters, phone calls and reader comments telling me we’re too PC, that the name actually honors Native Americans or that we have no right to change a team’s official name.

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion – even if I don’t buy it.

We’re banning the name for one reason: It’s offensive. Far from honoring Native Americans, the term colors an entire race. Many Native Americans consider it an outdated label placed on their people.

Randy Lewis, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes who is a board member for United Indians, didn’t pull any punches when asked what he thought.

“I find it as offensive as black people find the N-word,” he said. “They say they’re trying to dignify or honor something with it. It doesn’t dignify us. It doesn’t honor us. It doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves.”

Lewis, who is in his 60s, acknowledges that some Native Americans, particularly from his generation, accept and even embrace the name.

“But our younger people find it offensive, and they’re the ones who are inheriting this world,” he said. “If they find it offensive, damn right, take it out.”

So we are going to do just that.

Newsies tend to make this question much more difficult than it needs to be. Presumably, no newspaper in the country in 2014 would refer to any Native American as a “redskin,” and it would refuse to do so for obvious reasons. Of course it’s a racist expression and everybody knows it is, even those who pretend not to understand what the big deal is.

So what’s left to debate here?

Related:A ‘Redskin’ Is the Scalped Head of a Native American, Sold, Like a Pelt, for Cash (Esquire).