Monday, June 24, 2013

Responding to Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s Argument Against "Redskins"

I was reading this article, Leonard Pitts Jr.: No justifying ‘Redskins’ as mascot | Wichita Eagle, and was honestly intrigued by the language Mr. Pitts used in his opposition to "Redskins."

Mr. Pitts uses some sorely developed points, many of which I have already offered rebuttal for when presented with them from other parties. But for the sake of honest counter-argument, here we go.

Does that seem logical? If so, then perhaps you can understand my impatience with people who insist on defending the Washington, D.C., football team whose nickname is a racial slur.
The latest is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He recently responded to a letter from members of the House Congressional Native American Caucus questioning the appropriateness of the name “Redskins.” That name, wrote Goodell, “is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” The team took the name in 1933, he noted, to honor then-coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, who was reputedly (it is a matter of historical dispute) an American Indian.
“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.
First of all, the nickname is not a racial slur, and the arguments Mr. Pitts eventually goes on to make about the use of the word as a racial slur are unfounded and unsupported in any fashion.

Secondly, Mr. Pitts incorrectly paraphrases Mr. Goodell and implies that Goodell was saying "we have changed the meaning." Nowhere in Goodell's letter or the statement presented does Goodell say "we have changed the meaning." In fact, Goodell says it has "[n]ever meant to denigrate Native Americans."

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”?
So what Mr. Pitts is suggesting is that Stephanie Fryberg has evidence that the term "Redskins" is offensive to "American Indian kids." I disagree, empirically, with this notion, as there are studies upon studies done by major research groups who have found many Native Americans look at the name with endearment and pride. But for the sake of the argument, we can--you know--ignore those.

Mr. Pitts says "if the names and images in general are damaging" that "Redskins" must be "more harmful." Well, if I'm not mistaken, "Redskins" is one of the mascots, and thus, would have been involved in the same study. This study, I'm assuming, focused on the multitude of nicknames and mascots linked with Native Americans, so did not take into account each individual name's effect on the "American Indian kids." If this is the case, the entire study is skewed and the data is unreliable in argument for any one nickname, "Redskins" included.

But as we look deeper at this segment from Mr. Pitts' article, we see that Mr. Pitts uses the phrase "American Indian." If Mr. Pitts was half the journalist he wished to be, he would have done his research and found that "Indian" is one of the words included in Stephanie Fryberg's "empirical proof." The term "American Indian" is every bit as offensive as Mr. Pitts believes "Redskins" to be. "American Indian" denotes that the people's heritage traces back to the country India. This is proven inaccurate, and has been a topic of debate for some time now. In fact, the term "Indian" was applied to Natives by the European settlers who saw the Natives as people who looked like they came from the country "India" and visually--and incorrectly--identified them as Indians. What Mr. Pitts fails to realize is that he has insulted an entire group, while trying to defend said group. This offensive language and thought-process from Mr. Pitts is enough to discredit his entire argument, but for the sake of having some fun here, I will continue.

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.
Mr. Pitts throws out unfounded arguments here. It is the same nonsensical "evidence" distributed in case after case against the Washington Redskins. There is no evidence, that anyone ever "hurled" this "hateful epithet" while "stealing from and committing genocide" against Native Americans.

While I have your attention on the subject, there is never, and has never been evidence provided by anyone that "Redskins" was ever used in a hurtful, hateful, or racist fashion. Argument after argument has been used, and stricken, because of lack of evidence. The only thing anyone ever suggests is to go to a reservation and call those people a "Redskin" to their face if you want proof that it offends them. Do you realize you could offend a homosexual male by calling him "gay" with an incentive or a tone? Using any term as a name is never respectful, but to use the term simply as an identifier, as the Washington Redskins do, is not offensive:

...Mr. Pitts, however, is. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!