Wednesday, September 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

What is a slur? Redskins case forces us to decide

Redskins What’s A Slur

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2013 file photo, American Indians and their supporters gather outside the Metrodome to protest the Washington Redskins' name, prior to an NFL football game between the team and the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. Based on testimony from linguistics and lexicography experts, and a review of how the term was used in dictionaries, books, newspapers, magazines and movies, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled 2-1 that the "Redskins" was disparaging to Native Americans on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

By
From page A10 | June 22, 2014 |

Something is happening just beneath the fight over the name of a certain Washington, D.C., pro football team: America is working through the process of determining what is — or is not — racially offensive.

What is a slur, and who gets to decide? How many people must be offended to tip the scales? Why should some be forced to sacrifice their traditions out of respect for others?

We are a long way from consensus on these questions, judging by the response to a federal ruling that the “Redskins” team name is disparaging and its trademarks should be canceled.

The team is appealing the decision, and even if it loses its trademark, it can still use the name. But this latest development highlights the limitations of how America wrestles with certain racial statements, and our struggle to balance free speech and social good.

A rapidly diversifying nation has more need than ever to figure out what is racially offensive.

Some offenses are undeniable: NBA owner Donald Sterling earned universal condemnation for asking his mistress not to bring black people to his games.

Yet in an era of blunt and sometimes coarse online discussion and political debate, Americans continue to disagree about the nature of calling Hispanics who cross the border without documents “illegals,” or the propriety of images that depict President Barack Obama as a “witch doctor.”

And it took years of discussion to win makeovers for Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, the stereotypical black faces used to sell syrup and rice.

Jim McCarthy, a lawyer who followed the Redskins trademark case, said he is not offended by the name, but “there’s no denying the fact that a certain percentage of Native Americans are offended. We don’t know if it’s a minority, a majority, but it’s a fact.”

“If we want to be the best version of ourselves in our society, do we want to promote that, or do we want to minimize that?” he asked.

“I’d love it to be different where people just cooperate to effect change,” he said. “But we’re a very adversarial society.”

Michael Lindsay, who was lead attorney for Indians in a prior trademark case, said there are two ways to determine if something is offensive.

“The first is the legal path. The other is out in the real world. The legal test, it seems to me, actually does have something to teach the real world,” said Lindsay, of the Dorsey and Whitney firm in Minneapolis.

Here is what the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, ruling Wednesday in a case first filed more than 20 years ago, tried to show the real world:

— What matters is if “Redskins” is disparaging to Native Americans — whether other ethnic groups are offended doesn’t matter.

— A “substantial” percentage of Native Americans must be offended — not a majority. The judges defined that threshold at 30 percent.

— A disparaging term does not require intent: “Redskins” can still be disparaging even if the team says it is intended to show honor and respect.

Based on testimony from linguistics and lexicography experts, and a review of how the term was used in dictionaries, books, newspapers, magazines and movies, the board ruled 2-1 that the term was disparaging to Native Americans.

The dissenting opinion was not a ringing endorsement of the term: “I am not suggesting that the term “redskins” was not disparaging … Rather, my conclusion is that the evidence petitioners put forth fails to show that it was,” the judge wrote.

All of which left Paul Calobrisi, co-founder of www.savethewashingtonredskins.com, quite unsatisfied. In his opinion, there’s a simple way to determine whether something is a slur: The majority rules.

“I think an overwhelming majority of Native Americans should be against the name before we change it,” said Calobrisi, who grew up in Virginia rooting for the team.

He resisted the idea that a few people could decide something is offensive when he did not intend to offend them.

“If they think we’re demeaning them, if they think we think they are mascots, if we were doing it in any negative way, they are wrong … As Redskins fans, we love them. Cowboys and Indians, we were the Indians. We cherish these people.”

But intent is irrelevant to Lindsay, the attorney: “When a substantial percentage tell you this is offensive, you should stop. It’s really that simple.”

“Even if you meant no offense, if you keep using it, what does that say about you?”

It says that some people care more about their traditions than determining what is offensive, said Gillian McGoldrick, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

Neshaminy’s mascot is the “Redskins.” Her newspaper recently chose to no longer print the name, but school administrators ordered them to do so. When McGoldrick and her staff resisted, administrators briefly confiscated the newspapers.

At first, McGoldrick thought the name honored Native Americans. But when an Indian school parent objected, she researched the history and usage of the word and changed her mind. She doesn’t think those who support the team name have fully investigated the issue.

“I don’t think they want to,” she said. “I think they want to decide the word for themselves. But that’s not how this works. We have dictionaries for that.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says the term is “very offensive and should be avoided.” But again, given today’s confrontational discourse on the Internet and in politics, do we really care about giving offense? Or has that value gone the way of curtsies and tipping hats?

“As a general culture, I think we care about offending certain people,” said Karmit Bulman, executive director of the Conflict Resolution Center in Minneapolis. “We are still very much a power-based society. We care if we offend those in power. We don’t care if we offend those who we see as irrelevant and invisible.”

“You can look at this (Redskins case) as a trivial dispute, it’s just a name,” she said. “Or you can look at it as demonstrating how we still have huge clashes between people who we see as different than we are. And that our systems that we use to try to address those issues are really unsatisfactory.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

David Grant doctor’s mission continues

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Chamber PAC draws candidates to Jelly Belly

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Damaged dog gets going-away party after getting healthy

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Police enlist help to find armed bandit

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Suisun City slaying suspect case moves forward

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Touro University to host Zombie Run/Walk

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Land trust organizes Rockville Trails Preserve hike

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun police to host medication take-back

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

Chamber to host Suisun City candidates night

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

 
Coastal Cleanup Day targets local waterways

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Judge questions juror in Calkins case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

Drama reigns supreme with week’s film debuts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Anti-drug programs face funding shortfall

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A8

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 13, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Sept. 13, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Sept. 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Suisun City police log: Sept. 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Sept. 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B14

.

US / World

Woman in wildfire’s path lost almost everything

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Lumber town takes stock after wind-driven wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

PG&E officials leave posts over improper emails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Governor signs first California groundwater rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Things to know about California groundwater law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
California drivers must give bikes 3-foot buffer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

San Francisco trying shaming for quake safety

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
UN: Nearly $1 billion needed now to stop Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

CDC study: Americans’ bellies are expanding fast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Blacks, Hispanics have doubts about media accuracy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

School bus driver killed during safety drill

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Hunt on for survivalist charged in trooper killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Robbery suspects tried to make off with $15,600

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Top general: US ground troops possible in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Obama: Ebola outbreak a threat to global security

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Afghan suicide bomber kills 3 foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Mexico airlifts tourists after Hurricane Odile

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Iraq parliament rejects interior, defense nominees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
.

Opinion

Brown dons rose-tinted glasses for look backward

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

 
Time for utility execs to start worrying

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 17, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Climate change: Complacent vs. apocalyptic

By John M. Crisp | From Page: A11

 
Column focus on campaign signs misplaced

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 12 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My selfish husband neglects and cheats on me. What’s next?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

All the flavors of fall in one twice-baked package

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Leave them feeling full with nutritious chia seeds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

A late summer Southern classic – tomato pie

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B6

 
.

Entertainment

CBS: Rihanna out of NFL telecast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Leonardo DiCaprio named UN Messenger of Peace

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Kazmir, sloppy Athletics lose 6-3 to Rangers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Armijo volleyball team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Peavy, Posey help Giants gain ground in NL West

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Prep volleyball preview: Big goals for city teams

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders games are like live reruns

By Tony Wade | From Page: B1

 
Sacramento Kings to retire Stojakovic’s jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Broncos, Seahawks top AP Pro32 before rematch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Union appeals Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension by NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jaguars sign Rodriguez grad Jensen off practice squad

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B2

 
Short stay at NASCAR’s party for AJ and Almirola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hindsight: a Ryder Cup tradition, like no other

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Senator ties NFL tax status to Redskins name

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

DA: Josh Gordon gets probation in DWI case in NC

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s voice NFL disapproval

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Criticism mounting for Vikings, Adrian Peterson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
McIlroy wins PGA player of the year award

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Grand jury to weigh case of NASCAR’s Tony Stewart

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
49ers defense looks to bounce back from tough day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

NASA picks Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Web filter lifts block on gay sites

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Alibaba risk: China’s rise leaves out investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Corinthian Colleges sued for predatory lending

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

UPS expects to hire up to 95,000 seasonal workers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
US CEOs less optimistic about hiring, spending

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Minnie Watkins Dixon

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5