Thursday, June 23, 2005

Is "Redskin" Pejorative?

Just came across an interesting article, from the American Indian perspective (sorry to be so PC), concerning the ongoing litigation over the Washington Redskins name. Harjo et al had persuaded three trademark judges on the substance of their grievance in 1999; in 2003, a district court overturned their finding. This article cites some detective work by Geoffrey Nunberg of Stanford on the point.

Suzan Shown Harjo


Anonymous said...

Under these rules, the Super Mario Brothers series is offensive. Thank goodness Italians have lives.

arrScott said...

Hmm, I've never heard "Mario" used like "nigger" or "redskin" to insult Italians. But I'm just the mick son of a potato-eating taig and a rockhopping jaffa, so my knowledge of pejorative synonyms for "wop" and "dago" might be incomplete.

But I jest. "Under these rules" Super Mario Brothers would not be disallowed, for precisely the reason that it is not like "redskin" or "nigger." I've heard white folks in rural Minnesota and South Dakota use "redskin" as the severest of pejoratives, and as such I would no more use the word "redskin" on its own than I would call a black man a "nigger" or call to him saying, "boy."

If conservatives want to clean up our coarsened culture, here's a place to take a stand. The government's grant of trademark protection is a privilege, not a right, and so the government can do something to reduce the filth in our culture by denying legal protection to patently offensive material. You want to call your team the Redskins or the Niggers or the Paddies? Fine, go right ahead. That's your right. But don't expect the government to endorse your choice.

To me, the real question is what name the Redskins could switch to that would allow them to use those awesome arrowhead helmets they brought back a couple of years ago?