Redskins: Racism or Easy Target?
Referring to persons in a descriptive term such as “red-skinned” is no more or less racist than saying “Native-American.” Women are often referred to by the description of their hair color (commonly blond, brunette, or redhead), but for some reason, mentioning a naturally occurring skin color is somehow pejorative.
At one time, Mrs. Harjo was the producer of a bi-weekly “Native American” radio show called “Seeing Red.” This was obviously a clever turn of the phrase referring to the skin color of her target audience.
No word is inherently offensive. A word becomes offensive through use and convention. That applies to "kike," "wop," and "Jap" and it applies to "redskin."
As for Harjo's alleged hypocrisy, guess again, bright boy. "Red" doesn't refer to skin color, since Indians are brown-skinned, not red-skinned. It refers to a color that's become associated with Indians through (stereotypical) use and convention. Environmentalists are labeled green and Indians are labeled red regardless of their actual skin color.
Why is "redskin" considered offensive but not "red"? I dunno...why is "jungle bunny" considered offensive but not "bunny"? Why is "spade" considered offensive but not "heart," "diamond," or "club"?
Because it's arbitrary, that's why. Repeat: No word is inherently offensive. A word becomes offensive through use and convention. It happened to "redskin" but it hasn't happened to "red." (But I think Indians are beginning to use "red" less often because they realize it sounds stereotypical.)
I explained all this in my comments on Red Ink magazine. Read them again and enlighten yourself.
As for the alleged intent, the issue isn't whether the Washington team intended to offend Indians. Most people don't intend to offend others with their racist ignorance (e.g., claiming Indians are naturally colored red). The issue is whether Indians are offended regardless of the team's intent.
For more on the subject, see Red·skin n. Dated, Offensive, Taboo.
Below: A stereotypical redskin and two real Indians. See any resemblance?