Washington Redskins


from Suzan Shown Harjo:

Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, an expert witness in our case, wrote to me on June 13 that “Ron Butters posted a message to the American Dialect Society list a while ago claiming that ‘redskin’ was rarely used and was not disparaging.” Butters is an expert witness for the Washington football club, but did not identify himself as such in his posting.

“I did a search in Google Groups,” wrote Nunberg, “and found a number of citations that demonstrate that the word is still widely used in its pejorative sense. I attach these; the names of the relevant discussion groups are in parens. These are all from the last ten years or so:”

— “Hey Redskin: Go back to the Indian Reservation and make some illegal booze.” (rec.sport.pro-wrestling)

— “These redskin c***sucks up at the reservation are now claiming that THEY own the portion of Nebraska that pertains to Whiteclay….Times like this make me wish Custer had access to air support and a couple of tactical nukes.” (alt.tasteless)

— “Hop down to Any Boat store. Don’t you know how to read? I bet your one of the redskin, indian whoop de do’s who object to seeing sports teams demeaning native americans and bitch about everything.” (alt.scooter)

— “I am getting f***ing tired of these damn redskins belly aching about how the paleface came and stole their land. Why don’t they get off their lazy, reservation living-asses and start working?” (alt.discrimination)

— “As I said the white Europeans had ‘firesticks’ for CENTURIES before the redskin savages even HEARD about them! The redskin savages didn’t even have the incredibly complex machine known as ‘the wheel’ until CENTURIES after other races had it! They were a VERY backwards people!” (alt.atheism)

— “Those indian savages instead opted for much more equisite forms of torture and methods of creating intense pain in their redskin neighbor victims.” (Thread, “Indians Are Sleaze Merchants,” alt.fan.rush-limbaugh)

— “I stopped into a New York club and found an American Indian bar-tending. I ordered a Manhattan and the redskin f***er charged me twenty-four dollars!” (3do.bad-attitude)

The R-word for public school athletic programs is being challenged legislatively in California and Oklahoma, and both laws deserve to pass. Opponents say the word is an honorific, which is has never been and is not now.

No Native person who has been called the R-word has ever said: “Wow, they must think I’m a football player or a sport mascot or a person covered in red paint for war.” It has always been a fighting word and has never been a compliment.

People of ill will and poor taste need to stop playing their dirty word games, and good people must stop enabling them. They must have better things to do with their time than to hang on to racial-based stereotypes and anti-Indian vulgarities.

Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.
Washington Redskins

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