August 21, 2006

"Redskins" not as bad as "N-----s," but close

What's In A Name?[T]he N-word, so fully associated with that history, is a special case, and it has no equal.

But as we know, alas, there are several pejoratives for black people that are one or two ticks down from the big one. And here, we start to see very clear parallels with redskin. The closest one is "spade." Both refer specifically to pigmentation (the latter a metaphor drawn from a deck of cards). Both mock and categorize entire races explicitly because of pigmentation. So if you think Washington Redskins is OK, then you believe that Washington Spades would be fine, too.

And there is more: Because of the nature of the historic conflict between white man and Indian, the word redskin carries another, more implicit meaning—it marks the people described as a different, hence exotic, hence somehow threatening tribe. Here, the equivalency is with Jews. Could we imagine the Washington Hebes?

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