by Leonard Pitts
See if this makes sense to you:
For years, I've argued with certain African-American people about their insistence upon using the so-called N-word which, to my ears, is, inalterably, a statement of self-loathing. They say I don't understand. They say the word no longer means what it has always meant. They say it's just a friendly fraternal greeting.
I say one cannot arbitrarily decide that a word -- especially an old and bloodstained word -- suddenly means something other than what it always has. I say that while language does change over time, it doesn't do so because a few of us want it to or tell it to. And I say that if I call you an "idiot," but say that "idiot" now means "genius," you will be no less insulted.
Does that seem logical? If so, then perhaps you can understand my impatience with people who insist on defending the
The latest is NFL Commissioner
"Neither in intent nor use was the name ever meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group," he wrote. In other words, we have changed the meaning. It no longer means what it has always meant.
As it happens Goodell's letter follows a novel -- though ultimately failed -- effort earlier this year by the
She has found empirical proof that those names and imagery lead to lowered self-esteem and sense of community worth among American Indian kids. They also damage aspirations and heighten anxiety and depression.
In other words, seeing their people reduced to mascots is toxic to Indian children. And if the names and images in general are damaging, how much more harmful is "Redskins"?
That name, after all, was never neutral, but was, rather, a hateful epithet hurled by people who were stealing from and committing genocide against, those they saw as savage and subhuman. So calling a football team the "Washington Redskins" as a way of honoring an Indian makes precisely as much sense as calling a soccer team "The Warsaw K---s" as a way of honoring a Jew.
Fans of franchises bearing Indian names often resist changing them out of sentiment. Owners, meanwhile, are loath to tamper with lucrative trademarks.
That's understandable. But it is also short-sighted.
You can delude yourself all you want. Things are what they are, and as
This is not about honor and even less about "strength, courage, pride and respect." It is rather, about moral integrity, intellectual honesty and the immutable weight of certain words. Whether we choose to acknowledge it, or never do, doesn't change the fact:
"Redskins" is a curse word.