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Political Correctness Gone Wild:
Offended by the Word "Redskins"
by Matt Moody, Ph.D.  

The controversy over the word "Redskins" is created by Politically-Correct People who ignore HOW WORDS WORK. Here are three basic principles of How Words Work:

1 In and of themselves WORDS do not mean; instead, people BRING MEANING to the sounds and symbols we call WORDS. Anyone who wants to BRING OFFENSE to any WORD or ACT or EVENT, can BRING a pejorative MEANING according to a personal interpretation or political agenda, or both.

2 A single WORD can have multiple meanings; open any dictionary and this fact is confirmed.

3 WORDS have different definitions depending upon three factors:

* TONE of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* INTENT of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* CONTEXT within which WORDS are expressed

Protesters Offended by the Word "Redskins"

Can the word "Redskins" be spoken or written as a SLUR? Yes, of course!

But when PC People speak of "THE" meaning of the word "Redskins," as if there is only ONE meaning they ignore HOW WORDS WORK!

SLURS occur when a Speaker or Writer of Words INTENDS to denigrate and demean; therefore, those who INTEND to SLUR should be held responsible for SLURRING. It's that simple!

Above, read the Signs protesting the word "Redskins," and then ask these two questions:

1) Exactly WHO is referring to "the scalps of my ancestors," when using the word "Redskins"?

Is this person dead or alive? Instead of making a theoretical argument, just identify the person who is using the word "Redskins" as a slur, and if possible, take legal action against that person for Hate Speech.

2) Exactly WHO is explicitly using the word "Redskins" as a "Racist" term?

Is this person dead or alive? Again, instead of making a general theoretical argument, simply note the name (or names) of the people expressing "Racism" through the word "Redskins," and put them to public shame by broadcasting their racial hatred or take them to court if a law has been broken.

In 2004 a poll by taken by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania; they found that only 9% of respondents who identify themselves as "Native Americans," considered the mascot-name for the NFL team to be "offensive." Whereas 90% of respondents were not bothered by the mascot-name "Redskins."

Truth is, on an Indian Reservation in Red Mesa Arizona there is a Native American High School that uses the name "Redskins" as their mascot. And in the State of Massachusetts, 40 High Schools have Indian-themed mascots, to include the Tewksbury High School "Redmen."

But here's the bottom-line for words that supposedly "slur." There are thousands of words in the English language that can be used with derogatory intent. Offensiveness is determined on those specific occasions where a particular person INTENDS to SLUR. And the words that are used to SLUR, are almost irrelevant, because it is the INTENT in the heart of the SLURER that determines whether a SLUR has been committed.

Now, it is true that through continuous use over time, certain words come to be known as "slur" words. Nevertheless, these same words can be used within other contexts without any "slur" meaning. Therefore INTENT is the single most important factor that determines a SLUR.

Did the Students and Administration at Red Mesa High School "intend" to SLUR themselves, when they chose "Redskins" as their mascot? Of course not. And within this particular context, the word "Redskins" has no derogatory meaning, but only a positive meaning. The same is true for the use of the term "Redskins" as the mascot for the NFL team in Washington D.C.

Now the Politically Correct Police are trying to blame the owner of an NFL team and broadcast shame upon him for calling his team "Redskins." But here's the problem: The owner of the NFL team never uses the term "Redskins" in a denigrating or demeaning way but always in a positive way.

Hatred and Racism are not automatic meanings that accompany the word "Redskins," whenever it is spoken or written. Again, WORDS have different definitions depending upon three factors:

* TONE of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* INTENT of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* CONTEXT within which WORDS are expressed

SLURS always occur within a specific CONTEXT, where a particular person INTENDS to SLUR and delivers that SLUR with a degrading TONE -- the word "Redskins," by itself, does not carry an automatic "slur" meaning, until some person intends to express a slur.

Washington Redskins Logo

When a person speaks the word "Redskins," and does not have Racist Intent to SLUR, then, there is no SLUR that's how words work according to TONE, INTENT, and CONTEXT.

So within the CONTEXT of a professional football team in Washington D.C., the word "Redskins" is INTENDED as positive, and not pejorative.

When Washington Redskins Fan's sing "Hail to the Redskins," the INTENT of that song is positive; therefore, the meaning of the word is positive within that context.

Note how the following exclamations can have diametrically opposite meanings, depending upon TONE, INTENT, and CONTEXT:

"That's SICK" meaning, something is grotesquely awful.
"That's SICK" meaning, something is beyond amazing and wondrous.

"That's INSANE" meaning, something is terribly twisted and crazy.
"That's INSANE" meaning, something is beyond jaw-droppingly awesome.

To repeat, WORDS have different definitions depending upon these three factors:

* TONE of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* INTENT of the person who writes or speaks WORDS
* CONTEXT within which WORDS are expressed

Dr Matt

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

Related Article: You Can't Say What You Mean: Words Won't Let You

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