There has been a lot of controversy regarding the use of the word redskins, a racist slur toward Native Americans.
The term is used in the name of the NFL team the Washington Redskins and roused a lot of attention earlier this year when people of Native American descent convinced the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the team’s trademark registration.
Last month, the team sued five Native Americans, insisting there has been a mistake and Redskins is, in fact, not racially offensive.
And now the issue has gained popularity, causing widespread attention and influence. The Washington Post opinion page has recently decided to stop using redskins, and editors at a Pennsylvania high school student newspaper found themselves at odds with school administrators when they were punished for refusing to use the term ?redskins.
While I’m all for anti-racism, there is something disheartening about this whole ordeal. The banning of the word itself is enough to show that something has already gone wrong. It shows that we are, inevitably, still engaging in derogatory racial discourse.
Now people may think this is no surprise.
Words convey meaning, and certain words are necessarily negative and offensive in nature.
Thus, it’s only reasonable that words like ?redskins should be banned.
But I would like to argue from a different perspective. It is not the words themselves that carry some inherent meaning. More often than not, it’s the connotation and sentiments we attach to them that make them ?derogatory.
If people only associated the term with a popular sports team and not a racial slur, then none of this trouble would’ve occurred in the first place.
The football team would be right: redskins would, in fact, not be ?racially offensive.
The controversy about the redskins, however, just proves that these racial slurs and racist discourses are still present.
And here, I am not sure if putting a ban on such words is a viable solution to the problem. For there can always be the next R-word, the X -word, the P -word, call it whatever you like, that participates in the same discriminatory discourse.
And even worse, in banning the word, we may be adding to the problem by creating a distinction between what’s racist and non-racist, accentuating and appropriating the fact that certain words are racially discriminative and that such concepts exists and will continue to exist.
Although I don’t have the solutions to the problem of the racist discourse, I do believe the day when racism is gone would be the day when the ban on words like redskins would be lifted.
Perhaps then, in the path to creating a color-blind society, we need first be colorblind ourselves.