January 08, 2010

"Injun" as bad as n-word?

Michael Steele's 'honest injun' comment sparks backlash

By Dawn Turner TriceSusan Power, 85, the last living founding member of Chicago's American Indian Center, said she was offended by Steele's comment.

"I'm really disgusted with him," said Power, a longtime activist and member of the Dakota nation. "He's an intelligent man and I know he's probably kicking himself all over his office for saying it, but he should know better. It would hurt if he were white, but it hurts more because he's black. How can you be so stupid?"

She said that "injun" is one of two words--the other is "squaw"--that should never be used because they are throwbacks to a time when Native Americans were defined almost exclusively by negative stereotypes.

"Are we so unimportant that he couldn't have caught himself?" she said. "I would never use the N-word. I know not to. This man must know nothing about native people, that's what's so hard about this. Native Americans know everything about everybody else, but there's so little interest in knowing who we are."
Comment:  So "injun" and "squaw" are the two words people shouldn't say? Does that mean it's okay to say "redskin"?

From what I've seen, most Indians would say "redskin" is worst, "squaw" is second worst, and "injun" is a distant third. By describing "injun" in mild terms, most dictionaries would agree.

Given that Steele didn't direct his comment at Indians or refer to actual Indians, I'd say his offense wasn't serious. If it were me, I wouldn't spend a lot of time pressuring him to apologize.

If you're not familiar with Michael Steele, here's more on him:

Michael Steele:  Should He Go Now...or Later?

By David Corn"Michael Steele is a...."

The Republican consultant I was talking with paused. In anger. In frustration. In exasperation.

"Fool?" I asked. "Buffoon?"

"You name it," he said.
And:Steele is having another one of those banner stretches. In recent days, he's come under fire--from people inside and outside his own party. He has had to defend the practice of accepting big-dollar speaking fees. (Blogger Greg Sargent couldn't get a straight answer out of the Republican Party as to whether Steele is pocketing all the profits from his just-released book.) During a soft-ball interview with Sean Hannity earlier this week, Steele declared that his party was not going to win back Congress this November--and that Republicans weren't ready to run the House and Senate. What a vote of confidence!For more on the subject, see Steele:  "Honest Injun" on That." and R-Word = N-Word.


dmarks said...

Now, how would you rank "injun" in comparison to "The Other N-Word", the mild one used by Sen. Harry Reid?

This milder N-word is outdated, but unoffensive enough to remain in the name of that famous college fund.

I'd rank "Injun" as worse than this word.

Rob said...

I agree that "Injun" is worse than "Negro." It's arguably worse than "colored," too.

But I wouldn't say it's as bad as "spade," "coon," or words like that. Its belittling effect may be comparable to calling a black man "boy."