The Washington Post is once again on a quixotic crusade to make the Washington Redskins change their name. Leading the charge is columnist Mike Wise, but the paper has been devoting tons of space to the topic. The core of the argument is that the term "redskin" is a slur against Native Americans. We would be offended by a team named after any other racial slur, so we should be equally offended by a team called
But the difference is that "redskin" has virtually no
currency as a slur. It's an anachronism that is unused except in the
context of the Washington NFL team. It's more like having a team named
the Washington Blackamoors or the New York Mooks. Yes, you can go back
in time to find a point where the name was used as a racial slur, but
it's so far in the past that it has no relation to the modern age.
There is a very small, but vocal, group of people offended by the name Redskins. According to a 2004 poll of Native Americans, 91% of respondents were not offended by the use of the name. The charge to change the name is driven by vocal activists and liberal guilt. And the Washington Post.
Hail to the Redskins!
Update (3/12/13): A friend who used to live in the upper Midwest informed me that she has heard people in Minnesota and Wisconsin use the term "redskin" as a racial slur.
Also, I found a very good article on the Language Log on the Origin of Redskin. It's worth reading if you want to know the actual linguistic history of the word.