An offensive word that many people hate and think should be banned.
Others say not so fast, there’s nothing wrong with using the word, especially when we’re talking about a group of people we hold dear, like, even love.
Sounds like I’m talking about the n-word, which has been debated, discussed and reported countless times, but I’m not.
This time it’s the dreaded r-word, Redskins, as in the Washington football team.
For years now there’s been a push to force the team to change its name.
Some fans, and of course Native Americans find the term racially offensive.
Others say it’s just the name of a team, lighten up, it’s a tradition.
But, just this week the United States Patent and Trademark office stripped the team of its trademark protection, calling the team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans.”
That means the team’s profits from the word will probably shrink because others can now legally use it to sell products and/or merchandise.
Small victory for those who wanted the name outright banned because it doesn’t mean the team has to relinquish the name; the owner has vowed he wouldn’t’.
Last summer when I when I researched and then hosted an hour long special on CNN about the n-word, for historical context, I started by reporting on the history and origin of the word.
Let’s do the same now for Redskin.
According to the Oxford Dictionary the first recorded use of the word was in the late 17th century in reference to Algonquian people, one of the largest Native American groups who lived in Southern New York State, New York City, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.
Originally the term was not a reference to their skin color, but to the color of the face and body paint they used in ritual traditions.
But according to Oxford, “through a process that in linguistics is called pejoration, by which a neutral term acquires an unfavorable connotation or denotation, Redskin lost its neutral, accurate descriptive sense and became a term of disparagement.”
Redskins, Red man and Red Indian were all used by Brits and Americans to distinguish between Indians from India and so-called Indians or Native Americans.
It is very similar to the way Negro became the pejorative N-I-G-G-R to distinguish Africans living in Africa from Africans living in the United States.
Either way you cut it, no matter the origin a word, if over time it has become a slur, a dig or an insult, should you use it, even if it is the name of your favorite team?
My personal opinion is no, but you decide.
At the very least though, before you defend using it, you should probably know where it came from and what it means.PLAY AUDIO