Redskins – Political Correctness or Cultural Sensitivity?


The debate continues over the name of the Washington Redskins football team. By now most know the basic stances of both sides:

  • On the one hand, you have a team that has used that name since the 1930s. Claims are it was never meant in a derogatory fashion but instead to encourage a sense of pride, strength, and warrior spirit. To change it would cost millions in re-franchising and close the chapter on almost a century of sports history.
  • On the other hand, you have a team using a name that was wildly used as a pejorative throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Regardless of the frequency of use today or its archaic nature, the term is offensive and is inconsiderate to a large population of people. To not change it would be to turn a blind eye to the feelings of others and to support a precedent toward apathy in an already divisive society.

One recent suggestion was that to change the name was simply trying to be “politically correct” for the sake of being such. The name is not the source of any discriminatory acts against Native Americans, who are likely unaffected by some football team on the East Coast. I disagree with this assertion and so do over 250 distinct nations represented by the National Congress of American Indians.

“Political Correctness” would be about whether someone is called “American Indian” versus “Native American”, or if it’s OK to use any Native American iconography. Instead, this is about the insensitive use of a term that even the apathetic agree is a racial slur; 56% of those in favor of keeping the name still agreed it was an “inappropriate way to describe a Native American Indian.” Although archaic and not holding the same strength it once did, “Redskins” is no more acceptable than the terms “Coolie” or “Spearchucker”. Such a word has no place in common parlance, no matter what the current connotation or usage.

To understand different ways to use words, let’s look at semantics, political correctness, and cultural insensitivity:

  • Semantics is all about intent versus literal meaning. This has nothing to do with offense, it’s simply arguing about the literal nature of words, like whether the word “gay” only means “happy” or that an “electric eel” is not an “eel”. Claiming a naturalized citizen from Africa is the only true “African-American” is semantics, because we know what the intent of the word was regardless of its literal definition.
  • Political correctness is the claim that a given meaning is offensive, regardless of its prior unoffensive usage. This may be done because of new information, like the fact that “Eskimo” turned out to be a pejorative by the original French settlers, leading to the use of the term “Inuit”. Claiming that “Black” is offensive where as “African-American” is not, despite its widespread, non-pejorative use (even among that population) is being politically correct.
  • Cultural insensitivity is the use of a term that is (or was) a pejorative, regardless of its current status or the target population’s feelings on the matter. Claiming you were “gypped” is insensitive because it originated as an accusation against the supposed thievery by the Roma or “gypsies” (a politically incorrect term). Using a term like “Spearchucker” in conjunction with anything related to African-Americans (toys, media, organizations, etc.), while claiming nothing ill is meant and its done in honor of them, is being culturally insensitive. (Not to mention stupid.)

Regardless of what one believes, the term Redskins is neither semantics or politically incorrect; it is an offensive term applied to a people who still find it insulting. Changing it is not because of political correctness but an attempt to to change the system of modern racism and individual discrimination; to do this we need to recognize when words or acts are inappropriate and remove them from everyday society. Although some of us are smart enough to understand common sense, recognize our own bias, and avoid such behavior, we must accept that much of the population lacks that critical thought and education. So, to teach younger generations cultural sensitivity we have to start with basics… such as accepting that this team’s name is inappropriate, offends a significant portion of the population it refers to, and has no place in a diverse, intercultural society.

A Pacified Generation: Conspiracy or Culture?

Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

I read an article recently on today’s youth, who often show apathy and a lack of resistance to a supposedly intrusive and oppressive government. The overall tone was one of conspiracy, with each reason focused on a malevolence underlying a variety of disparate factors. The suggestion was that the government and its agents in medicine, education, entertainment, etc. are all out to pacify the next generation and make them more pliant for control. I have to say… it was the biggest piece of tinfoil hat wearing bullshit I’ve read since the birther conspiracy.

I wholeheartedly agree that there are people today who don’t care, but it’s not because of some sort of Illuminati grooming them. It’s a cultural evolution that has led us into a society of lazy, apathetic, egocentric assholes that care more about Honey Boo Boo, McDonald’s, and what new minority child Brangelina has adopted than any blatant corruption and injustice in our government. I don’t think Congress and its corporate puppet masters created the stupidity, they just capitalized on it. So, let’s go down these factors…

1) Money

The claim is that the high debt, low wages, and increasing school costs are all tools of the evil government to keep young adults out of the voting booth. That makes no sense, because the only way that limits them from voting is if they are too busy working or to research the candidates. Even the busiest, poorest college student still finds ways to vote and they’re often more educated and informed than most of the adult workforce.

As for the debt itself, this is no conspiracy it’s just plain greed. Any increased costs exist because people were too apathetic and self-centered to pay attention as the costs were slowly jacked over decades by corporations and institutes.

2) Psychopathology

Apparently, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in cahoots with our government overlords, manufactured fake disorders all to diagnose children and young adults as insane. Symptoms including rebellious natures, questioning authority, and aggressively resisting oppression are diagnosable as mental illnesses, allowing doctors to prescribe pacifying medications. Of course, this theory forgets some important information, like that the APA is a private organization consisting of thousands of psychiatrists, not a singular council that determines the fate of psychiatry and psychology; claiming they’re controlling anything is like blaming all the scientists in support of climate change as being part of a “liberal conspiracy.” In addition, the APA has conflicted in the past with the ~actual~ government-funded mental health department, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Certainly the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has made some poor conclusions over the past 60 years, but that’s why it has been revised numerous times. At one point they diagnosed homosexuality as a disorder, until new science (and more logical heads) discovered that sexual orientation was likely innate and perfectly natural. Also, the DSM is not the final decision in what constitutes a given mental disorder; this manual has grown out of favor in the global community, who have begun to turn to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD).

Instead of blaming the APA for diagnosing a questionable disorder in their DSM, why not look at parents who are so lazy they’d rather give their kids medication than have to spend time with them? No, the diagnosis of today’s youth as suffering mental disorders and the rampant use of drugs falls squarely on the shoulders of those who should be caring for them. Instead, they have children and then get upset when they can’t handle the responsibility, pressuring the medical community to find a cheap “fix” to their ills.

3) Education

Oh, the bevy of accusations on the public school system is numerous. “Zero tolerance” policies teach children to never step out of line, “teaching to the test” does nothing but encourage blind following of facts, and the subject matter in schools is biased and fills their heads with obedience to Big Brother. What these people fail to mention as they rave about education is that their theories aren’t based on children not learning truth, but rants about how children aren’t learning ~their~ truth. They can’t handle that their kids come home talking about the age of the Earth, the evolution of life, or how babies are made, so they cry out that it’s blasphemy poisoning their children’s minds.

Then their theory explodes from there, claiming that bans on aspirins or gun-shaped Pop Tarts are evidence of their delusions. They fail to notice other factors that may play a role, like overcrowding and underfunding. After all, if schools have a larger portion of students than 50 years ago, wouldn’t it make sense they’ll have more troubled youths to deal with? And with less staff because of budget cuts, what’s easier: find a way to focus on these kids while balancing everything else; or simply ban a behavior with zero tolerance and be done with it? It’s a band-aid solution to an issue of poor domestic priorities, not a government conspiracy.

Then they talk about concepts like “teaching to the test”, “No Child Left Behind”, Common Core, etc. as more evidence of government intrusion. These things are (mostly) crap, that’s for sure, but a conspiracy? I think not. Instead, we just need to look at where these ideas came from: mid-20th century child psychology. These programs are based on poor educational designs from flawed century developmental theories that we continue to use because we’re cheap. There is one conspiracy out there: the manipulation of classes to net a better grade average. By using these programs, you can ignore those pesky kids with poor grades and display an overall positive average that gains more money for your school district. Stupid, selfish, and short-sighted, but far from the cries of Orwellian educational camps.

4) Government Surveillance

The NSA is everywhere! It’s in spy planes, black helicopters, mysterious vans… and now it’s in your computer and on your phone. They’re listening and if you say anything they’ll show up in the middle of the night and haul you away! Really? You think the NSA gives a damn if you talk about how you wish Congress would be removed from office, how the government is in the pockets of the corporations, or how the President should die? If that was the case, you’d have the entire Tea Party locked up by now. Not to mention, government surveillance has been going on since the McCarthy era, from the Red Scare through Watergate. You’re just getting scared now?

No, the government doesn’t give a damn, especially when you’re probably just surfing cat pictures and watching porn. There is no fear of government retribution in today’s youth, and in fact the blatant uproar shows that we’re becoming more aware and sensitive to the issue. I’m sure there are people or groups in the government that would like mindless compliance, but it won’t happen because there are always chaos factors.

5) Media

Ah, the dreaded television, the idiot box, the boob tube, that bane of our existence that has driven us into mindless slaves. There is no doubt it pacifies, but was this on purpose or was it a byproduct of technology? Blaming television for the laziness of America is like blaming Beavis & Butthead for stupid kids burning down trailers. The inherent nature was already there, but somebody found a way to capitalize on it.

If someone is so mollified they’d rather watch Amish Mafia or Dancing With the Stars than campaign or vote, that’s an issue with the person… not the show. We choose to spend hours in front of the television, watching mindless drivel that contributes little to our education, creativity, or culture. Not to mention, the same people blaming television are the ones putting their children in front of the TV so they don’t have to deal with them. Kinda like those aforementioned drugs…

6) Fundamentalism

Ah, finally a statement with some veracity. Those fundamentalist… consumerists? Yes, that’s right. Part of the grand conspiracy to oppress our children is the rampant consumerism that keeps them distracted from the man behind the curtain. They’re too focused on buying a new iPad or the latest Reebok’s to care about what’s really going on. Except, capitalism and consumerism don’t exist to encourage shopping, they occur because of people shopping. If people didn’t prioritize cars, televisions, and cellphones over personal responsibilities and their own neighbors maybe the corporations wouldn’t have such a hold on them. A fat man at a buffet won’t get sick if he doesn’t overeat; if he does, you can’t blame the restaurant for his illness.

No, the conspiracy theorists ignore the true fundamentalism behind a lot of the brainwashing: religions. Fundamentalists teach people to take archaic words at literal value, to blindly follow those before them, and to never think for themselves. To do otherwise will bring the wrath of higher powers who will take them away to an eternity of torture. Of course, this is just one more piece of stupidity that those in charge can capitalize on, manipulating constituents by pointing them at their oppositions and claiming “blasphemy!”

In the end, it’s not about the government pacifying the youth so they are easier to control. We’ve done that ourselves, by prioritizing objects over people, focusing on Hollywood over education and free thought, and shoving pills and television down the gullets of our own kids all so we don’t have to deal with them. The real oppressors of our society and the coming generations are ourselves.