Another day, another round of skirmishes over the Redskins name. Today’s sally is led by Tom Garrett, founding father of a “culture and society” blog called TheAxisofEgo.com, whose post for that site got a signal boost by being re-posted as a “Special to” over on Hogs Haven.
Garrett offers a lengthy, sesquipedalian defense of the Redskins team name, marshaling various avenues of attack on those who want change, and I recommend that you go read the entire thing to understand the subtle nuances of his myriad points, because I’m not recapping them here.
Especially since, for me, all those carefully reasoned points are completely undermined by one paragraph in the middle, which I’ll reproduce below:
Then what do we make of the fact that the only comprehensive survey conducted among the Native American population as to the offensiveness of “Redskins” showed very little opposition? The poll, from 2004, found that 91% of Native Americans found the name to be acceptable, while only the remaining 9% found it to be offensive.
Making the same assumption that Garrett does in his following paragraph –- that the math has not changed in the intervening years –- here is what we make from that information: 9% of a minority group finds the name offensive. If we use 2010 U.S. Census data and assume that the folks surveyed were representative of the entire population, we can further make a specific number of Native Americans that consider the name offensive –- something like 469,000.
So I guess the anti-name-change argument based on that poll boils down to this: “Some people care an awful lot about this issue, but it’s a small enough number that I’m totally okay ignoring them.” This creates the impression that there is some objective mathematical point at which “enough” people care, and that is an asinine idea. If “most” don’t care, then SOME do. And “some,” which is not “none,” is too many for me.
Also, a few notes specific to that poll, conducted in 2004 by the Annenberg Public Policy Data Center and popularized via AP story:
— The poll only covers “768 Indians,” which is not a particularly compelling sample size either way. (According to the survey’s methodology they spoke to 65,000 random adults, 768 of whom self-identified as “Indians or Native Americans”.) The question that was put to them, in case you’re curious, was “The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or doesn’t it bother you?” This guy has some issues with the specific polling methodology that are beyond what I feel like going into here.
— The choice of the word “offensive” allows people to make idiotically reductive arguments about the Celtics and Vikings and Yankees and Packers as names that some people might find “offensive”. The people who oppose the Redskins name –- the actual activists who fight it in court and protest it at the Super Bowl, not the media who covers them – -find it things like “demeaning” and “insulting” and “belittling” and “derogatory,” none of which apply to the other examples.
— Ultimately, one way to look at this is to say, “You guys! 90% of Native Americans are okay with the name! HIGH FIVE!,” which is how the AP spun it in their story linked above. And then there’s the other way to look at it, which is to say, “Holy crap, ONE out of every 10 Native Americans polled finds this name offensive!” You can guess which way I skew.
I am not trying to change anyone’s mind. I am not trying to speak for anyone. I am not looking for things to get offended about. I do not disagree that some people seem to be grandstanding to get facetime based on this issue. I just wish my favorite team had a name that didn’t make ANYONE feel denigrated. That’s all.
(Redskins mascot image taken from a previous Mr. Irrelevant post.)