Error message

User error: Failed to connect to memcache server: :11211 in dmemcache_object() (line 415 of /var/www/html/sites/all/modules/contrib/memcache/dmemcache.inc).

Header

Paula Deen's N****rs vs. Dan Snyder's R*****ns: What's the Difference?

John F. Banzhaf III
6/24/13

Celebrity chef Paula Deen admits that she used the word nigger “a very long time” ago in strictly private conversations, and she, like so many others, is immediately banned from broadcasting, but team owner Dan Snyder is not only responsible for the repeated use of the word "redskins" on hundreds of radio and TV stations, but is so proud of it that he publicly vows he will "never" change the team’s name. Why? What's different?

Deen is certainly not alone. Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was ousted over a few ill-chosen stereotyped remarks about black athletes. Don Imus was suspended for using the racially charged term “nappy.” Pat Buchanan was fired by MSNBC because of ideas – not offensive words – expressed in a book, but not on the air. Juan Williams, a minority himself, was fired by NPR for admitting some trepidation when he saw people in Muslim garb boarding airplanes. An ESPN reporter was fired for using the well known phrase "chink in the armor" in connection with Asian American athlete Jeremy Lin.

In connective with the Lin firing, WRC-TV anchor Jim Vance – a long-time friend and supporter of the football team – said on the air: “What I find curious is how some people I’ve talked to are offended by a derogatory term for Asians, but not by the word redskin. Folks, redskins is not a term of endearment, any more than the N word or any other racial or ethnic slur. From its inception and inclusion in our language, it was meant to be an insult."

Yet Snyder is proud to continue using a word which three judges found to be "a derogatory term of reference for Native Americans" and tends to bring them "into contempt or disrepute"; which the D.C. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments condemned as "demeaning and dehumanizing"; which both chairmen of the congressional Native American Caucus, and other members of Congress, blasted as "offensive epithets," "disparaging to Native Americans," and "racial slurs"; which several states have found too offensive to be permitted to be used on personalized vehicle license plates; and which has been denounced and condemned as the most racist of all terms relating to Indians – the R-word is to them what the N-word is to Blacks – by dozens of leading organizations representing American Indians.

Recently, the former chairman of the FCC, several former commissioners, and other broadcasting law experts concluded that "Redskins" is an "unequivocal racial slur," and warned that its deliberate, repeated and unnecessary use by broadcasters may no longer serve the "public interest, convenience, and necessity." As the public interest law professor who first developed the idea of using broadcasting law as a weapon against this racist word, based upon my earlier success in challenging the racist policies of some major DC-area TV stations, I agree. This could jeopardize the licenses of stations which continue to repeatedly use the term on the air.

The broadcasting law experts likened the use of the term to "obscene pornographic language on live television," and to broadcasting the names of teams like the "Blackskins" or the "Mandingoes." They concluded that "[i]t is inappropriate for broadcasters to use racial epithets as part of normal, everyday reporting. Thankfully, one does not hear the 'n' word on nightly newscasts."

Now several media outlets are even asking whether team owner Dan Snyder is paying spin master Frank Luntz "to spin his team's name," and predicting that such an attempt “will not end well.” Another asked more bluntly: "Is Dan Snyder Secretly Maneuvering to Change Redskins Name?"

On still another front, some members of Congress are pressing Snyder to change the name of the team or they will revoke his federal trademarks, and the D.C. City Council is preparing a resolution which will reportedly call upon DC-area stations to cease using the racist term on the air. This would make it more difficult for stations to defend themselves against a petition opposing the renewal of their broadcasting licenses, since stations must first assess community concerns and then respond to them.

Some defenders of the name have argued that, while the term "redskins" may be racist and derogatory when addressed to or used to refer to persons of a specific heritage, it is not racist or derogatory – and therefore may properly be used on the air by broadcasters – when it refers to the name of an entity such as a team, group, or organization.

But, for example, the complete and proper name of the former musical group Niggaz Wit Attitudes was never said on the air, even by black stations, and even though the N-word was used here to refer to a group and not in any racial or derogatory sense, and the group was made up of African Americans who freely chose the word "Niggaz" to describe and express themselves. In contrast, Indians are not on Snyder’s football team, and did not choose the name “Redskins” for themselves.

It has also been argued that, if they cannot use the word "Redskins" on the air, radio and TV stations cannot report the news, and that their freedom of speech, and the right of fans to keep up to date about the team, would be unduly restricted. But broadcasters certainly remain free to report all the news and developments about the team and its players by simply using readily-available non-offensive alternative words. For example, one can say "DC beat Dallas 28-0" or "Washington bested Philadelphia" or "Dan Snyder's team is in trouble with too many injuries," etc.

Indeed, some broadcasters, as well as some newspapers, have announced that they will no longer use the word "Redskins" in their reporting because it is racially offensive. In this regard, remember that broadcasters had no problems playing the music of, interviewing, or reporting news about the former musical group Niggaz Wit Attitudes, simply by referring to them as NWA, and not by the full and proper name they chose for themselves.

For those who might still doubt that “Redskins” is a derogatory racist term, the Huffington Post published what it termed my “eyebrows-raising challenge”: "walk into a bar frequented by Indians and loudly ask: 'How are all you redskins doing tonight'."

John F. Banzhaf III is a law professor at George Washington University Law School and a practitioner of public interest law.
 

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

19

POST A COMMENT

Comments

Anonymous's picture
Just wanted to point out that with Paula Deen it wasn't just the use of the word, but I think the more damning thing (after all, I slip of a word in a private conversation is still gross, but not usually ban worthy) was her wanting a southern plantation style wedding with all the black men who worked at her brother's restaurant to pretend to be slaves while serving them. Definitely agree that the Redskins name has got to be nixed though, and it's ridiculous it hasn't been already.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
The Washington football team, the "Redskins", is quite obviously a misnomer since its members are Whiteskins and Blackskins. That said, most offensive is the Cleveland "Indians" mascot and the Atlanta Braves/Hawks with their stupid tomahawk chop accompanied to a so-called war chant. And now the Miami Heat fans seem to be adopting some kind of chant… It just goes on, and on, and on. People condemning Paula Dean for a 50-year-old remark are probably fans of the above-mentioned teams. Don't they listen to themselves?
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Its very simple John. The R word was used by uneducated and ignorant people who arrived off the boat from Europe with dollar signs in their eyes and hope in their hearts. What they encountered could only be said with the R word, because it was descriptive and these type of people, could only communicate in such a manner. There was no, American Indian, Native American, Navajos, etc, terms. In regards to the N, word, well that is not the case and its comparing apples with oranges. Your point is not made, nor valid here.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I am very glad that people are keeping the fight alive over the use of the word "Redskins" for two reasons; First to get the team to stop using an epithet for a name, and second to correct the perception still being taught today in public schools that all Indigenous people are gone. I can't understand why Mr. Snyder thinks that this is an honorable way to proceed. It is really unprofessional at this point for him to continue to dig his heels in and refuse to budge when he has been shown several times that this is a racist and hurtful term . It would show much more character for Mr. Snyder to address this issue like an educated man with principles.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Your argument is invalid. It is true that "redskin" was once derogatory, but there is a team called "Redskins." When people use the R-word, it's used to refer to a football team and NOT a derogatory view of Native Americans. But what you fail to explain is how can someone, especially a white person, use the word Nigger (which is not associated with any known team, unlike Redskins) and not come across as offensive? You're comparing apples and oranges my friend. And another thing, people who are on TV and are public figures have power and status. And with this power and status comes great responsibility. Shirk that responsibility and you will replaced because your individual power is not greater than the power of an inflamed public. That responsibility is unwritten but it's there and it's not to publicly insult the very core of one or some of your constituents because it's bad for business. Deen's behavior shirked this responsibility and it's a very bad look and at the end of the day, the decision makers concluded that it was very bad for business. And that's what it's all about. Some of the same people that pay to watch TV (Food Network, etc) are also people that are sensitive, bleed, have emotions and suffer. Why should they pay to watch a network that tolerates people like Deen insulting them? She had a responsibility to protect her image and not inflame certain constituents. She failed to do so and that's why she suffered the consequences.
Anonymous
Two Bears Growling's picture
While we are on bad words. The word "squaw" is as well. Thankfully some places are taking it out of use & off signs as well. This was a negative term applied to our tribal females by those of European heritage & trappers alike. It was a term associated with servitude & native females kept for prostitutes.
Two Bears Growling
Anonymous's picture
Do you know I think all of you who do not see this point of view certainly do not even know one Native American person and have no comprehension at all of the genocide and discrimination they have suffered. You find no offensiveness to a team being called the Redskins......hmm.....how about if there was a team called the Niggers? Or even the Blackskins? What about a team named the Crackers? Or the Whiteskins? None of this is allowed and both sound abhorrent. Redskins is just as offensive to Native Americans as those would be to blacks and whites.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
It’s no different than any of the derogatory labels Native Americans say about whites. The only way to put an end to all this is to stop it within ourselves. Then WE must FORGIVE and CHOOSE LOVE. There is NO OTHER WAY. Going against hate with hate only produces more hate. Pointing fingers at one another when WE ARE GUILTY OF THE SAME THING HAS GOT TO STOP! Call me simplistic but there really is no other way.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Do you know I think all of you who do not see this point of view certainly do not even know one Native American person and have no comprehension at all of the genocide and discrimination they have suffered. You find no offensiveness to a team being called the Redskins......hmm.....how about if there was a team called the Niggers? Or even the Blackskins? What about a team named the Crackers? Or the Whiteskins? None of this is allowed and both sound abhorrent. Redskins is just as offensive to Native Americans as those would be to blacks and whites.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
It’s no different than any of the derogatory labels Native Americans say about whites. The only way to put an end to all this is to stop it within ourselves. Then WE must FORGIVE and CHOOSE LOVE. There is NO OTHER WAY. Going against hate with hate only produces more hate. Pointing fingers at one another when WE ARE GUILTY OF THE SAME THING HAS GOT TO STOP! Call me simplistic but there really is no other way.
Anonymous

Pages