Confederate Flags and Washington’s Football Team

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Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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115 Responses

  1. Avatar Ethan Gach
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    says:

    Exactly.

    Also, any team w/ major stones should refuse to play’em.Report

  2. Avatar weinerdog43
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    says:

    Well said Rose. If the name instead said the Washington Ni****s, Pollacks, Ch**nks, etc…, I’m certain that that the only argument is that, well, ‘we’ve always used that term’.

    The continued use of the current name only signifies that the user is an ignorant buffoon. Knowledgeable people should refuse to say the name and point out its offensiveness to others as well. (Politely at first please.)Report

  3. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    Since you’re quoting from Snyder’s letter to [Racial Slur] fans, I think this story needs to be linked:

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/10/13/effort-to-defend-redskins-name-continues-to-backfire/

    It seems that the Native American group that Snyder claims designed the team’s emblem and provided the team’s most prominent coach with a plaque:
    (1) was founded by that same coach; and (2) denounces the use of the [Racial Slurs] name.

    Combined with the revelation that the person relied on in Rick Reilly’s widely-proclaimed but disingenuous column likewise had words put in his mouth that are completely opposite of what he believes, and you start to see a theme emerging.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    At the risk of drawing the ire of some folks ’round these parts, I am going to again talk about privilege. Or whatever people want to call it.

    Majority culture tends to get to define not only the terms of conversation, but the terms we use within conversation. This doesn’t necessarily arise for insidious reasons, but the presumption of being the sole determinant of the meaning of words that some members of the majority culture internalize is indeed problematic. The refrain of, “But I didn’t mean it that way,” smacks of, “Words mean what I want them to mean.” Pay careful attention to the people who most often invoke this defense and you’ll likely notice some trends emerge.

    There is one group* and one group only that gets to determine the appropriateness of the term “Redskin”, both in regards to the football team and more generally: Native American people. It is really just that simple. Dan Snyder is not one of those people. Therefore, his opinion is of little consequence.

    Others can then choose what to do with that information. I am still perfectly entitled to use the phrase, but I must accept the consequences of doing so. I do not get to insist on a different set of consequences.

    * Really, a variety of subgroups that full under this umbrella term.Report

    • Avatar dand in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I don’t disagree that Redskins is offensive by I disagree with the broader notion that if a member of a minority group considers something offensive than people who aren’t in that need to respect that. Ben Stein thinks the theory of Evolution is anti-Semitic but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a gentile calling him nuts and mocking him.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to dand
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        says:

        If i think yid is offensive, though, i’m still the person you’re addressing.
        OT:
        Call me stubborn, but I figure if someone fought to be called a certain term, we ought to honor them by calling them it. Even if latter generations find it unacceptable — can’t retroactively redefine.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        dand,

        I don’t accept that analogy because Redskins is an identifier. It is, for all intents and purposes, a name. Basic decency says we should call people by the name they prefer. It does not require that we accept everyone’s personal beliefs as our own.Report

      • Avatar dand in reply to dand
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        says:

        If you’re only applying it to giving a group a right to decide its own name then I’ll agree. In the past people have carried that principle further, for example saying that if a Black person finds the word niggardly offensive than white people should stop using it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        Well, I disagree with that.

        I would extend it to terms derived from names for groups.

        For instance, once upon a time people would say, “Don’t Jew me down,” if they felt their negotiating partner was trying to lowball them. This came from the stereotype that Jews were cheap. I would respect Jews opposing that phrase.

        I would extend it to other things as well. If someone heaves watermelons onto the White House lawn and claims they were just one-upping the idea of throwing tomatoes at bad comedians, I would respect black people who derived offense from that. Even if the watermelon heaver was completely genuine in their explanation, you can’t just remove the sting of that imagery with an, “I didn’t mean it.”

        But niggardly? No. Niggardly’s etymology has nothing to do with the racial slur and any conflation of the two is off base.Report

      • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to dand
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        says:

        Basic decency says we should call people by the name they prefer.

        Kazzy, are there some bounds or limits on this principle? Any limit to how often the preferred term can change?

        These changes are not always without costs for the speaker, even when the speaker speaks from a position of privilege. Some Mormons might prefer that I call them “Saints,” but the fact that the word “saint” carries certain connotations at this time in our language inclines me to resist.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        @pub-editor

        There are probably some bounds and limits, though they are much further out than most people making that argument. “In the 70’s it was black. In the 90’s it was African-American. Now it’s people of color. I can’t keep up!” To me, that wouldn’t rise to the level of being too often.

        There is certainly some room to nibble and quibble, but the prevailing idea should be, “I’m going to call you what you prefer to be called.” This works on both the individual and collective level.

        There might be some instances of conflict, but those can be addressed case-by-case.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        And looking at it from the other side, I think the assumption of positive intent on behalf of the speaker barring evidence to the contrary is also the decent thing to do. People will likely err, especially as terms evolve and when dealing with opinions that are non-monolithic (e.g., some people prefer Native American, some do not; how do you refer to someone whose preferences are unknown?). Polite corrections at the appropriate time when someone has genuinely erred should also be the expectation.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dand
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        says:

        Let anyone take offence, no matter how slight or unintentional, here come the raging ikonoclasts with their sledgehammers to knock down every offending instance. What do you want? Are we to pass a law against any appearance of the Confederate Flag? Bulldoze all those memorials to the Confederate soldiers?

        Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! . Goddamn Do Gooders, ever ready to defend us from every insult. Politically Correct Taliban, stripping music out of kids’ cassette players, you see it in the bushes in Afghanistan. See it in the USA, too. Ever hear of the First Amendment, Kazzy? Basic decency doesn’t enter into it. That’s the Taliban’s argument, too. Freedom of expression is a right, which trumps a law.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to dand
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        says:

        Blaise – Nobody except you said anything about restricting speech using laws. Invoking some spectre of government censorship a red herring brought up to deflect attention from the idea that certain speech is worthy of social – not government – censure.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dand
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        says:

        Sounds to me like ugly Taliban talk, all this bruiting about of Social Censure. I’ve seen social censure at close range within the religious world. If the Redskins’ owners want to carry about the opprobrium of a few zealots, that’s well within their first amendment rights, their trademark rights and the vast majority of their fans — and a great many native Americans who could care less.

        Sick of the issue turning up here on League. It’s nothing but flame bait.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dand
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        says:

        There is a rather large monument to Confederate soldiers in the middle of the square in my hometown that I wouldn’t mind seeing taken down, because it’s essentially the way the city presents itself (hey look, we fought for slavery, and we’re proud of it!), and another almost painfully ugly one just up I-65 in Brentwood that should be bulldozed for aesthetic reasons.

        That said, I don’t see anyone trying to limit anyone else’s free speech. People are just trying to create change, and doing so precisely how one does so in a society that values free speech: through social and, potentially, economic pressure.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dand
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        says:

        Also, with the exception of someone basically calling those who disagree with him the Taliban, this thread has been remarkably devoid of “flames,” and pretty rich in actual discussion.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to dand
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        says:

        It’s worth pointing out that the anti-Redskins crowd (whom I agree with) have tried to use the law to force that change. Namely by trademark rescission. Which is definitely not the same thing as censorship, but is a step beyond criticism.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dand
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        says:

        Will, some in the anti-Redskins crowd. I think most of us here, at least, would disagree with such actions. I wouldn’t mind the NFL putting pressure on him, or even mandating the change, but the NFL isn’t the government.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to dand
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        says:

        I’m actually not entirely unsympathetic to it, to be honest. I think the main reason I would hesitate to do it would be concern that it would be arbitrary on one hand or possibly slippery on the other. In the abstract, though, it has a certain logic to it (“There are some trademarks the government doesn’t have to uphold, including those denigrating to ethnic and racial groups, and this applies to Redskins.”)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to dand
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        says:

        I do agree, though, that while it’s not exactly on the fringes (we’re talking about congresspeople among others) it’s not a central viewpoint of most of those objecting.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        @blaisep

        Who are you talking to? If you want to tilt at windmills, take it somewhere else.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco in reply to dand
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        says:

        This came from the stereotype that Jews were cheap. I would respect Jews opposing that phrase.

        No, it came from the assumption that Jews were vigorous hagglers, because Jewish businesses commonly have a large presence in the distribution sector and trading enterprises.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to dand
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        says:

        Also, with the exception of someone basically calling those who disagree with him the Taliban, this thread has been remarkably devoid of “flames,” and pretty rich in actual discussion.

        I was thinking the same thing, Chris.

        I realize I might be stirring the flames by asking if calling someone the Taliban does not constitute social censure.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dand
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        says:

        Rose,

        Even asking that question is rather zombie-ish of you.Report

  5. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    Snyder’s comments were a perfect PR response. Loosely translated, it’s “screw you”. And he’s 100% correct. No need to change until and unless the economics change. As long as the stadium is full of customers, he’s on solid ground.

    As to the stars and bars, well, we’ve covered this already so ’nuff said.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Damon
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      says:

      No need to change until and unless the economics change.

      I haven’t heard anyone claim he should change the name for economic reasons.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Is the whole suggestion that the team’s name has the support of the Red Cloud Athletic Fund part of that 100%?Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Yeah Synder can do what he wants. Its his team. And of course other people are free to think he is a massive jerk even by NFL owner standards and that he is happy with using something offensive. He is free, we are free. What we don’t’ have to do is agree with him or if people choose to, keep bugging him.

      Wait…economics???? oh give me a break. If he changed the name and logo it would be a windfall for him. They would be able to market and sell tons of new branded crap to the same suckers who already by NFL crap. He would make a small fortune just in RG3 merchandise alone. This isn’t about money since he would rake it in with a new name and logo. I’ll bet he has already been pitched new logos and names with estimates for how much he would make. More over all the old merchandise would sell out so there would be another cash cow. Sell out all the old stuff and sell tons of new stuff.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak
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        says:

        The degree to which people who have little in their life worth defying go out of their way to be defiant is breathtaking.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to greginak
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        says:

        That’s a very good point. So, if that’s the case, maybe he’s just being “a massive jerk”. You can be assured I think he’s a jerk, but I think all team owners are.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak
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        says:

        That’s a very good point. So, if that’s the case, maybe he’s just being “a massive jerk”.

        There has to be a little space between ‘100% right to not change the name’ and ‘massive jerk if he doesn’t change the name’, no? Just a little?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        fwiw, Synder, leaving the name issue completely aside, is thought of as a massive jerk even in a league where most of the owners are jerky, ego maniacs. He is deeply unpopular and has a bit of history of seeming to go out of his way to piss people off.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to greginak
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        says:

        @stillwater

        I don’t think there is space. The two spaces overlap. As long as the money is coming in and the “movement” to get him to change the name stays small, there’s no real reason for him to change the name. Most folks don’t seem to care. Ain’t apathy grand?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Damon
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      says:

      So people should only do the right thing if its economically profitable for them to do so? Not everything is about the bottom line.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Damon
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      says:

      The economics of slavery were good. Seems stupid to have changed it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        Took a war…

        Hey! Guys! I have an idea!Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        The economics of slavery were not good. That’s why the South lost.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        Slavery is awfully limiting. Slavery works pretty well for manual labour, agriculture and such, but it doesn’t translate well into industry. For all their brave talk about Warrior Ethic and such, every culture which practiced slavery on a large scale got soft awfully quickly. Too much effort spent keeping the slaves in their place.

        I am so sick of this Redskins debate. The Confederate flag debate, oh so tired and threadbare. The native peoples of this continent practiced slavery. Why isn’t anyone offended by that fact?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        Kolohe,

        Sure, slavery limited industrial development, and the lack of industry is a big part of what doomed the south. But slavery was financially positive (for the slavers, that is). If the only pressure on it were economic, it would have lasted much longer (although I suspect industrialization–which didn’t fully kick in even in the north, until after the Civil War–would eventually have doomed it).

        It’d be a good thing, of course, if slavery was bad on economic grounds, because it would have died more quickly and more easily.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        This discussion suffers from radically underdefined terms, particularly the terms “the economics of” and “good.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        K,
        the deliberate antiindustrialness of the South was imported straight from Africa. It was a cultural poison, slavery, not just an economic one.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        Economies have two components: resources and capital. That’s it. The South had resources, of a sort, agricultural in nature, some timber, minerals in a few places. It didn’t have much iron or coal. Didn’t have very much infrastructure. The raw sugar of Louisiana was refined in New England and reimported. The cotton wasn’t made into cloth in the South, it was ginned, packed in bales and sent to the mills of New England and Britain.

        In the South, capital was tied up in land speculation and the hope of quick profits. What little mechanisation had come south in the form of the cotton gin and the sugar mill had only created a larger market for slave-produced cotton and sugar. By the time of the Civil War, farmland was already depleted in many places, cotton is very hard on soil. To compensate, they were importing fertiliser, guano from Peru, in huge quantities.

        The banking systems were nil in most places. New Orleans was then the big deal, financially. That’s where the cotton and sugar markets were operating and what few banks there were had been established along the river towns. St Louis was just then coming into its own as a staging point for westward expansion.

        The economic shortcomings of the South were immediately revealed when they tried to establish a currency. The rest you know.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        This discussion suffers from radically underdefined terms, particularly the terms “the economics of” and “good.”

        “economics of”: Economics is about tradeoffs, choosing between alternatives, and the net gain/loss of those choices. In this case, about the financialnet gain/loss of choosing to use slaves–both at the plantation level and the level of the polity’s overall economy. Note: the restriction to financial is doing the heavy lifting here, but that’s really what the initial comment to which I responded was referencing–if you want to go broader and count in social costs, the story changes. Also note that this simply considers slavery, not alternative structures; i.e., it does not consider opportunity costs. Kolohe very possibly was implicitly considering opportunity costs, which would make him right. But even then, I think the specification at each level–purely financial in its own right, adding in opportunity costs, and adding in social costs and costs to the enslaved–is valuable for a full understanding. And even though I normally object to focusing solely on direct financial considerations, in this case it’s important because it explains so much of the resistance to ending slavery–slavers did not know whether they would be the economic beneficiaries of a changed economic regime.

        “good”: loss/gain calculation is positive, not negative.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        Perhaps I should have said (or added) that the terms were both underdefined – and hence the definitions were not agreed upon. The economics of slavery were what they were, and I doubt you and Kolohe have much in the way of factual disagreement about what they were, so the whole discussion really revolved around the meanings of the terms being used, or at most relative weightings of values used to define those terms.

        I don’t have much of a dog in the fight, except to say that, even apart from a situation where the welfare of a whole class of people is being disregarded in the calculation, if you come down to basically saying that the economics were good because, as Roger would put it, the incumbent beneficiaries were wary of revolutionary change, you haven’t really distinguished the situation (the economics were good) from any other one (the economics were other than good), except perhaps a completely collapsed economy in which no one is prospering at all.Report

  6. Avatar KatherineMW
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    says:

    For the sake of information, does anyone have links to statements by Native American groups on the Washington team name? I’m strongly in favour of changing it, but it would be good to have such information, given how much “they don’t care! You’re just oversensitive white liberals saying how Native Americans should feel!” gets brought up in discussion of this issue.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that many black people are rightfully strongly opposed to the confederate flag as a symbol of pro-slavery and white supremacy. TNC’s blog and comments are sufficient to show that.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to KatherineMW
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      says:

      Katherine – see my link above. Also, the effort to force the change is being led by the Oneida Indian Nation. The American Indian Movement is also pressing the issue: http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/227300891.html

      It’s worth mentioning that two of the three groups mentioned in the article cited by Kolohe are not federally recognized.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Also this:

        But the Indian activist Suzan Shown Harjo, who has filed a lawsuit seeking to strip the “Redskins” trademark from the football team, said the poll neglected to ask some crucial questions.

        “Are you a tribal person? What is your nation? What is your tribe? Would you say you are culturally or socially or politically native?” Harjo asked. Those without such connections cannot represent native opinions, she said.

        Indian support for the name “is really a classic case of internalized oppression,” Harjo said. “People taking on what has been said about them, how they have been described, to such an extent that they don’t even notice.”

        Harjo declines to estimate what percentage of native people oppose the name. But she notes that the many organizations supporting her lawsuit include the Cherokee, Comanche, Oneida and Seminole tribes, as well as the National Congress of American Indians, the largest intertribal organization, which represents more than 250 groups with a combined enrollment of 1.2 million.

        Via: http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/indians-redskins-slur-20505945?page=2Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        “Are you a tribal person? What is your nation? What is your tribe? Would you say you are culturally or socially or politically native?” Harjo asked. Those without such connections cannot represent native opinions, she said.

        Which is exactly the same thing as saying that Barrack Obama cannot represent the opinion of what it means to be a black man in America, but whatever.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        K,
        One drop rule?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Thanks, Mark. I don’t necessarily accept the “internalized oppression” argument – largely because I’ve had it used on me by the feminist movement and it’s basically a way of saying “you’re oppressed whether you think so or so, and your own views are illegitimate or irrelevant” – but the number of groups that are opposing the name is sufficient, in my view, to warrant a name change. If a substantial number of Native Americans find it offensive, then there’s no argument against getting rid of it.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Indian support for the name “is really a classic case of internalized oppression,” Harjo said.

        I hate this type of argument. It’s disingenuous, and makes the claim unfalsifiable:

        Natives say the symbol is racist? “See, the symbols’ racist.”
        Natives say the symbol isn’t racist? “False consciousness, brought about by racism”

        Either the offensiveness of a symbol is the product of society’s aggregate understanding of it’s meaning; or there are objective criteria which determine which make something offensive regardless of people’s opinion. But switching between these criteria to find the “correct” result is contemptible.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        No, nothing to do with the one-drop rule. President Obama self-identifies as a African-American, as is his prerogative. He has furthermore, in numerous modes of communication, made both before and during the time he has held his current job, commented on what it means personally to be African American, as well as the experience of African-American men more generally. As is, again, his prerogative.

        His own, well known biography, though – growing up with his step-father in Indonesia, then later with his white grandparents in Hawaii, going to a diverse* but elite private high school, then onto top tier private colleges and universities – is the biography of someone who not really “culturally or socially or politically native.” His own accounts are of someone who sought balance between the ‘black’ world of his father – and only really pursuing it in earnest as his entered active political life in Chicago as a 20-something adult – and the ‘white’ world of much of his upbringing. And his own accounts are of someone who is still to this day seeking that balance, living in both worlds, and is continuing to seek that balance.

        *though Hawaiian racial dynamics are significantly different than most mainland locales.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @kolohe My point was more with regard to the fact that she’s got the support of five particularly large American Indian groups that presumably would not be acting without the backing of their memberships.

        Regarding the oft-cited Annenberg poll, I agree that her proposed line of questioning is less than wise, although in the context where lots of people dubiously claim Native American lineage (see, e.g., Warren, Elizabeth), I can see where she’s coming from.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        @mark-thompson I’m not disagreeing with your point. If you’re referring in the 2nd comment I made, I was responding to Kim.

        Regardless, my problem with Ms Harjo is that being right and having people in your side is not an excuse to make bad arguments, which include the absolute dismissal of anyone who takes an opposing view because you accuse them of either lacking standing & authenticity, or having a false consciousness – whichever is most convenient. If that represents the typical level of her debating skill, no wonder the trademark issue has been found in favor of the team as its been adjudicated so far.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        I’m not in principle against the idea behind internalized oppression. I think that people sometimes can, and occasionally do, adopt attitudes that serve to ensconce them in situations that keep them deep down unhappy., or limit them in a way that (again, deep down) makes them miserable.

        That said, in practice, most of the times I encounter the idea, especially when it’s expressed as “internalized oppression” or “false consciousness,” it has the condescending and question-begging undertones that Katherine and Caleb have noted. And at the end of the day, it’s not a good thing to try to divine others’ motivations.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to KatherineMW
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      says:

      I agree totally about internalized oppression as well. Would love to see a post on it.Report

  7. Avatar KatherineMW
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    says:

    Oh, and the Cleveland Indians should be getting at least as much guff, because their team logo is incredibly, incredibly racist. I was relieved when they failed to make the wild-card slot because it meant I wouldn’t have to look at that thing on the TV any more. And a logo’s even easier to change than a name – they’ve got zero excuse.Report

  8. Avatar Caleb
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    says:

    Fun fact!: The flag commonly today called the “Confederate Flag” was never used as the flag of the Confederacy. The actual Confederate flag went through several iterations, but for most of the war (1861-63) it was this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CSA_FLAG_28.11.1861-1.5.1863.svg (aka “Stars and Bars”)

    The Confederacy did employ the stars-on-blue St. Andrews’ Cross-on-red field ensign as a battle standard for some regiments, but these were usually square. (Later Confederate political flags also used the design, but they were square on a large field of white.)The closest thing to the modern rectangular flag that existed at the time was the Naval Ensign (different shade of blue) and the First Army of Tennessee’s battle standard.

    On topic: I call false equivalence. To me, the moral opprobrium attaches to the act of displaying the “Confederate Flag” given the intent to “symbolize a racist defense of slavery.” This intent may be inferred by the symbol’s largely understood cultural meaning. But it does not determine it. Context is key. In society at large, the “Confederate flag” has significant overtones of racial defense of slavery. “Redskins,” on the other hand, has a much more benign association. Comparing the two is like comparing my model rocket hobby with launching a Saturn V.

    Here’s the thing: we none of us get to simply choose what words and symbols mean.

    Depends on context. I know from experience that I can be part of a social in-group where our names for each other and behavior towards each other would be beyond the pale for society at large. Yet within our group, that behavior is acknowledged as a sign of affinity and cohesion. If we acted like that outside the group, we would face enormous social consequences. It would be unreasonable for us to impose our meanings on society at large.This “Redskins” controversy is like that in reverse. There are a small subset of socially-cohesive groups which find the symbol and the name degrading, but that is not the case for society at large.

    Come to think of it, how does your “we can’t change the meaning of symbols” not undermine your case for changing the “Redskin” symbol? The whole point of the controversy is that a small minority of persons sees the symbol as degrading, but the vast majority doesn’t. (Hence the reason for no change.) Doesn’t that mean, by your own argument, that the symbol is not racist?Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Caleb
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      says:

      Come to think of it, how does your “we can’t change the meaning of symbols” not undermine your case for changing the “Redskin” symbol? The whole point of the controversy is that a small minority of persons sees the symbol as degrading, but the vast majority doesn’t.

      I hear you on this actually. But I think you’re right, context is important. It matters what the people to whom the term refers think about it, first and foremost. Language usage is not just about the number of people, it’s about who uses it most and why. Secondly, we know that large numbers of people don’t think that the team name should be changed – the survey did not ask (or none that I saw did) whether the name was derogatory. Maybe most people do not think it is. But again, the people to whom it refers should surely have a weightier say in this.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Rose Woodhouse
        Ignored
        says:

        Secondly, we know that large numbers of people don’t think that the team name should be changed – the survey did not ask (or none that I saw did) whether the name was derogatory. Maybe most people do not think it is.

        True, it’s possible, but I think unlikely. I assume the team owner feels confident in his ability to essentially tell critics to ‘shove off’ due to some reasonable interpretation of market position. If enough people thought strongly enough that he was wrong, he’d be singing a different tune. There’s a reason there are lawsuits: advocates for the name change are trying to hit outside of their market share weight-class.

        But again, the people to whom it refers should surely have a weightier say in this.

        Why? If the meaning of symbols is ultimately tied to aggregate social interpretation, what mechanism vest higher quantitative input in the referent population?

        “People who use the term” and “people to who the term refers” are two distinct sets. They may overlap, but not necessarily. My point was that the first set varies dependent on context of usage, thus leading to variable meaning. That the second set of persons is included in that context does not necessarily follow.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse
        Ignored
        says:

        Why? If the meaning of symbols is ultimately tied to aggregate social interpretation, what mechanism vest higher quantitative input in the referent population?

        This is a good point. While I’d disagree with defining terms by their “interpretation,” even if I stipulate this, I think it’s the case, empirically, that terms are rarely, if ever, defined by simply aggregating interpretation or whatever other criteria we might use. The meaning of terms is socially mediated, and can’t be changed unilaterally, but they are not defined by simple aggregation. I think there’s a normative argument that the people to whom a term refers, particularly when those people are socially, culturally, or politically marginalized, should have more of a say in how those terms are interpreted, and what we should recognize as their connotations.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Rose Woodhouse
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Chris

        I think there’s a normative argument…

        Exactly, yes. If there’s a normative argument to be made, it should be made outright, not concealed by positivist language.

        …that the people to whom a term refers, particularly when those people are socially, culturally, or politically marginalized, should have more of a say in how those terms are interpreted, and what we should recognize as their connotations.

        I’m sure it’s a complex argument, but would you mind sketching it out? I want to know what principles you think are in play.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse
        Ignored
        says:

        The gist of it is that language can, and is, used for the purpose of marginalization, and even when it is not explicitly, or even intentionally used for that purpose, it can affect that purpose. If that marginalization is unjust, as it certainly would be if based entirely on race or ethnicity, then allowing the marginalized group a greater weight in any discussion of the meaning and connotations of a term will tend to reduce the impact of the term.Report

      • @caleb

        To answer your question “why”–which Chris, too, has also addressed–you might consider the dynamics of the situation you related in your comment that started this sub-thread:

        I know from experience that I can be part of a social in-group where our names for each other and behavior towards each other would be beyond the pale for society at large. Yet within our group, that behavior is acknowledged as a sign of affinity and cohesion.

        I imagine in that in-group, if someone objected very strongly to the name applied to him/her, then the in-group would have had to accommodate that person, or perhaps that person would have felt it necessary to disengage from that in-group. In other words, the names applied to a given person might arguably have more weight.

        Among us here, only you truly know the dynamics of the particular in-group you were referencing and the terms that were used, so I’m speaking speculatively.

        And there may have been other dynamics from the one I describe. In my in-group in high school, we repeatedly made fun of one of our members, and several times the mockery went beyond good-natured kidding to outright verbal bullying (and I was one of the worse offenders, which is why I say that I sometimes was a bully in school). For some reason, he stayed in our in-group, and we were rarely called out on our behavior. (He’d now a pretty successful businessman, so the joke’s on us, but that outcome wasn’t clear at the time and even if it was, we still would’ve been in the wrong.)Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Rose Woodhouse
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Pierre Corneille

        That’s descriptive, not normative. @ Chris makes a normative argument (one I find flawed), but it at least answers my question.Report

      • @caleb

        You’re probably right, but my question, which I realize I didn’t make clear is, in your in-group, would you have put more weight on the feelings of the person being addressed about the term that was used?Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Caleb
      Ignored
      says:

      If any significant number of the people being targeted by the name (i.e., Native Americans) find it offensive, then it should be removed. And Mark’s links show that a significant number of them do find it offensive, given that several major groups are bringing suit against it.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        Why?
        Who or what determines the set of persons “targeted” by a name?
        Does this principle extend to speech and use of symbols in general?

        And Mark’s links show that a significant number of them do find it offensive, given that several major groups are bringing suit against it.

        Is the fact that a lawsuit was filed the sine qua non of unacceptably offensive speech?
        If so, does this not amount to a “heckler’s veto?”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb,
        sources cited included hundreds of thousands of people, and their representatives.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        Who or what determines the set of persons “targeted” by a name?

        Well, in this case I’d say it’s pretty obvious. “Redskins” refers to Native Americans. If any significant number of Native Americans are offended or bothered by a team name that calls them “Redskins”, then their opinions outweigh those of any number of non-Native-Americans who aren’t offended. Because non-Native-Americans aren’t the people whom the team is using a derogatory and/or racist term for.

        And it’s not the simple filing of a lawsuit, but the fact that several major Native American organizations support it. If a lawsuit was filed by one white guy who just liked being litigious, it wouldn’t have the same meaning.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Kim

        Eh? I’m not sure what you are responding to.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        caleb,
        I’m responding to you,as this:
        Is the fact that a lawsuit was filed the sine qua non of unacceptably offensive speech?
        If so, does this not amount to a “heckler’s veto?”
        sounds utterly silly in the context of the rest of the thread, where evidence of thousands of people being upset was raised.Report

      • Avatar dand in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        If a majority of Jew find the phrase “israeli apartheid” offensive are people obligated not to use it?Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        @katherinemw

        If any significant number of Native Americans are offended or bothered by a team name that calls them “Redskins”, then their opinions outweigh those of any number of non-Native-Americans who aren’t offended. Because non-Native-Americans aren’t the people whom the team is using a derogatory and/or racist term for.

        You aren’t answering my question, you are just restating your assertion. My question is why?

        sounds utterly silly in the context of the rest of the thread, where evidence of thousands of people being upset was raised.

        In a nation of 300+ million, “thousands” of people is minuscule. If you phrase the wording correctly, you could get a few thousand out of 300+ million to agree to almost anything.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        dand,
        yes, without defending it. no, if you’re going to write an essay for the frontpage.
        and essays are always encouraged. 😉Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        So, Caleb, what you’re asking is why it matters that a substantial number of people are offended by a team name that’s a racial slur for them?

        I had hoped that basic decency made that sufficiently obvious.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        @ KatherineMW

        I had hoped that basic decency made that sufficiently obvious.

        That depends on what content you give the label “basic decency.”

        Try answering my questions above. Particularly: does the fact that people are insulted function as a trigger for your “basic decency” standard only in the realm of names/slurs/epithets? Or does it extend to any speech? If yes, consider @dand’s question. Are we bound to limit our speech if any significant group is insulted? Then consider my boundary questions. Who determines which groups count as “significant?” These are critical questions if your standards of “basic decency” are to have any purchase or meaning outside of your own head.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to KatherineMW
        Ignored
        says:

        @dand

        If a majority of Jew[s] find the phrase “israeli apartheid” offensive are people obligated not to use it?

        No. I would think it’s offensive if someone, critical of Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories, called Israeli policy “Jewish Apartheid.” If one grants a certain set of assumptions, then “Israeli Apartheid” can be, at least debatably, an accurate term. I’m still not sure it’s the right term (all I “know” about the situation is what I see intermittently on the news), but it’s more in the ballpark.

        But I frame all this with the understanding that “obligation,” in this case, refers to a moral or prudential obligation, and not a legal one. In other words, I wouldn’t outlaw any of the terms.Report

  9. Avatar Caleb
    Ignored
    says:

    @katherinemw

    Well, in this case I’d say it’s pretty obvious. “Redskins” refers to Native Americans.

    And who’s that?
    Tribe members? Which tribes? Ones in the lower 48? The entire US? All North America? All the Americas?
    Or is it ethnicity? What percentage? 100? 50? less than 0?
    Or is it those who feel like they are being referred to? In which case, what is to stop me from including myself in that class, despite the fact that I’m whiter than paste?

    How the boundaries are decided is critical, which means who decides the boundaries is critical. I note you did not answer that question.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Caleb
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, let’s use the grounds of rationality.
      Words have uses, in current and past times.

      I figure i can call a white person the n-word, and probably not offend him NEARLY as much as I’d offend a black guy.

      I’m still a jerkass for doing it, though.

      If more than 10% of the folks you might possibly address as dago hate the term, then fucking cut it out.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        @kim

        I’m still a jerkass for doing it, though.

        Sure, we can agree on that. But I suspect we wouldn’t agree on why that makes you a “jerkass.” Which is why there is a disagreement on whether the usage of a different term from a different context produces different results. I agree that calling a black person the n-word is wrong. But I’m not using the same process as you to get to the same result. I can identify my process. Can you identify yours?

        If more than 10% of the folks you might possibly address as dago hate the term, then fucking cut it out.

        How do you reach your 10% number from your “grounds of rationality?” Why not 11% or 9.5? Why not .000001?

        Why should I agree with your principle, other than your simple assertion?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb,
        Yes, i did just pull that number out of my ass.
        Still, it is done with a reasonable amount of practicality.
        If one person decides that calling him a WASP (or JAP) is offensive,
        well, that’s a personal matter.
        If it’s well known, and widely known, that EVERYONE who is a Presbyterian
        hates being called a WASP, well, that’s a different matter.

        We ought to enforce the first one differently than the second. The first one?
        We can make the assumption that you haven’t heard (or, debatably, your
        interlocutor is crazy — and you ought to be warned of such).
        When it’s most of the group, however? Then we ought to tell you that
        “hey buddy, that’s not such a good thing to say.” (for your own
        preservation if nothing else)

        I’m more applying this to the framework of “how likely is this to
        get you assaulted?” (and how ought we to react when you do get assaulted?).
        [obvsly I’m not police. But there’s a difference between “dat boy was dumb.” and
        “you don’t assault people for that?! what the hell is wrong wif YOU?”]Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Kim

        Still, it is done with a reasonable amount of practicality.

        See my post responding to Rose below about ‘reasonable practicality.’ tl,dr: Appealing to non-reductive reasoning processes while asserting normative principles is essentially an appeal to authority. I see no reason to recognize the conclusion as valid.

        I’m more applying this to the framework of “how likely is this to
        get you assaulted?”

        So speakers have a duty to not say things that will get them beaten up? How is this logically different from saying that women have a duty to not [wear provocative clothing/get drunk/act “slutty” ect.]? Seems like victim-blaming to me.Report

  10. Avatar Rose Woodhouse
    Ignored
    says:

    @caleb Thanks for pushing on this. It’s helpful. I don’t know what you mean by “positivist” language, but I agree with Chris that there’s a normative point. I mean, I wrote a normative post.

    The offense taken by the phrase is a matter of pragmatics, not semantics. So I think it’s difficult to capture in a rule-based way. This is why your objections are to be taken seriously. Here’s what I think:

    1) People cannot, as a practical matter, stipulate language use without an enormous effort (witness efforts to change N-word, R-word, various other Letter-words, and the initial change from the Washington-team-name-word from acceptable to unacceptable).

    2) The meaning of a word is determined partially, but not solely, by the way the majority of people use it. For example, I’ll say that “nice” definitely no longer means “fastidious.” “Unique” may be losing its meaning of “one-of-a-kind.” But although it may be the case that a majority of people use “literally” to mean something like “very,” the real meaning of “literally” still points to the semantic (as opposed to pragmatic or metaphoric) meaning of words. These latter two are arguable, though.

    3) If not a majority, what determines it, then? I dunno exactly, but I think a lot of other things matter, e.g., the opinion of people who use it more frequently, the opinion of people who use it to mean something precise (as is the case with “literally” or “begging the question”).

    4) Another one of those things is that weights a meaning of a word is the word’s referents (if they are people).

    Of course, that is by no means saying that all people have the right to determine exactly which words will refer to them. (You must all call me “The Utterly Fabulous Rose Woodhouse, Philosopher-Queen!”).

    So then we might look at reasons. If Mormons were to start asking to be called “saints,” I think we’d have good reason to reject that. “Saints” means something else to us (again, you can’t just stipulate word meanings). Also, the word “Mormon” does not, to my knowledge, offend most Mormons.

    If one member of a group finds a word offensive, not much to be done there. I don’t think I can say, “I find the word ‘female’ offensive, never call me that again.” If one member of a group doesn’t find something offensive (I am Jewish and only recently discovered that other Jewish people apparently find ‘Jew’ offensive; I am not as bothered by the R-word as other moms of kids with I/DD), then that doesn’t seem to matter much either. If Jewish people woke up one morning and asked everyone to call us Blickish instead of Jewish, and the only reason we gave is that Blickish sounds cooler, I think the public would have reason to resist.

    However, let’s take a group that is the referent seems to be saying, if not unanimously but in a reasonable majority, “Hey, this word really really bothers us.” They also point to a legitimate reason why it bothers them, e.g., it was used by oppressors. Or, say, like a certain football team’s name, it refers crudely to a physical feature. Or to a stereotype. Or it is dehumanizing (e.g., b***h). Then I think that’s when the users of the word who may be in the numeric majority ought to give greater weight to what the referents of the words are saying. It matters a hell of a lot more to the referents. ANd if someone is reasonablybothered by something, and it’s no skin (ha) off our back to respect that, then I don’t see why we ought not to respect that. Is it skin off their back to change the team name because of the team’s history? That’s what they say, and that’s what I’m saying seems like very little reason indeed.Report

    • Avatar Caleb in reply to Rose Woodhouse
      Ignored
      says:

      The offense taken by the phrase is a matter of pragmatics, not semantics. So I think it’s difficult to capture in a rule-based way.

      Fair enough. I understand that there are many situations and phenomena in life where the factors are so numerous and their interactions so complex that explicitly reasoning your way from premise to conclusion is well-nigh impossible. (Or at least very work-intensive.) In these situations, we have to fall back on our brain’s built-in time-saver functions: intuition, pattern-matching, heuristics, ect.

      Here’s the thing: The process and product of each person’s ‘quick-thinking’ (to paraphrase Daniel Kahneman) functions is essentially unique to themselves, driven by personality, experience, and a whole host of other factors. Many people may share similar functionality, but many others do not. And (this is key) in the absence of explicit, logical reasoning, there is no objective basis for preferring the product of one person’s intuitive output from another’s. This scenario is essentially an ‘irreducibly complex’ black box, with one person’s intuition leading them one way, and a different person’s leading them another.

      Relying on arguments of non-reductive reasoning is valid within the context of that person’s own intuitive process (and among those with similar pattern-matching “software”). But outside that context, the process of reasoning is non-reducible and non-reviewable. It is essentially an appeal to authority.

      Therefore, I recognize the legitimacy of your own construction of the “pragmatic” factors to which you appeal within the context you describe. However, given your inability to argue explicitly and objectively from premise to conclusion, I see no reason to adopt the same conclusion as you. My own intuitive reasoning process differs from yours; and I don’t see why I should preference yours over mine.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        From the fact that a word meaning is hard to capture in a rule-based way it does not follow that in any given instance of a word there is no fact of the matter about the meaning and no reasons given that persuade anyone else.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        The process and product of each person’s ‘quick-thinking’ (to paraphrase Daniel Kahneman) functions is essentially unique to themselves

        If this were the case, Kahneman would not have a job.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Rose Woodhouse

        From the fact that a word meaning is hard to capture in a rule-based way it does not follow that in any given instance of a word there is no fact of the matter about the meaning and no reasons given that persuade anyone else.

        That’s not what I’m arguing. I’m referring to the “offense taken” by the phrase, and the normative argument that flows from that phenomena. Like I said above, I recognize the validity of meaning (even given its indeterminate nature) within your construct that you laid out. Determinicy of meaning is not my concern.

        My point is that your positive-to-normative argument (where you go from the “is” as a user of language, describing how it is used; to the “ought” as a critic of language, and prescribing how it should be used) goes through a non-reductive reasoning process that I can’t follow. When you lay out your factors for “offense taken” you are not merely describing how we may measure and determine meaning. You are giving each factor and determination normative weight.

        @ Chris

        If this were the case, Kahneman would not have a job.

        Please note I said above:

        Many people may share similar functionality, but many others do not.

        Kahneman’s work is mostly in this area, determining what overlays there are and in what circumstances they occur. But my point remains that in the realm of normative argument, you cannot appeal to ‘pragmatic’ intuition and expect me to follow your reasoning process exactly.Report

      • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is,” but “is”s are certainly relevant to “oughts.” If they weren’t, we could never determine the morality of anything.

        Here is my suggestion for the normative take-away: If a word rationally offends a majority of its referents, we have reason not to use it.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        @rose-woodhouse

        Here is my suggestion for the normative take-away: If a word rationally offends a majority of its referents, we have reason not to use it.

        I’m not sure I fully agree, at least if you’re suggesting such a takeaway ought to be necessary and not merely sufficient. (And as you’ve been pointing out, it’s difficult to capture in a rule-based way. So maybe you’re arguing only that it’s sufficient and not necessary.)

        In an earlier thread on the “Redskins” name, it was argued by someone that some study done 20 years ago revealed that 90% of Indians had “no problem” with the use of the word. And yet, I and a few others argued the name should still be changed regardless. (We also disputed whether the study really said they had “no problem” with the term or whether it just indicated that they didn’t have enough of a problem to consider changing the name a priority.)

        Were we wrong to argue that? Or if that’s too loaded a question, are there other normative takeaways, such that even if a majority of the referents don’t find the word offensive and (let’s just stipulate) a majority but not a large majority of non-referents doesn’t find it offensive either, then the word might still be offensive? (I do suppose at some point, we’d just have to stipulate that language is conventional and if the number of people taking offense is so small, the word will remain unchanged.)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb,
        Kahneman’s far from the only research who looks at personalities. And it’s very easy to tell which people are gonna be assholes.
        You tell most people “Here’s a button, and if you push it, people will punch you.” Most people ain’t gonna push that button. Most people got sense.

        SOME people, though, are gonna push it, and then whine when everybody’s mad at them afterwords.

        This is why using Redskin is bad, just like n!gger and half a dozen other terms.

        You are not a victim, you do not get to complain when other people get mad at you, after they done told you they’d get mad at you if you used that word.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb, I gave you my argument, granted in nutshell form, above. It’s not a fact-to-norm argument, though it does rely on the facts of the matter (I should note that I have no problem going from “is” to “ought,” theoretically; we do it all the time, and in fact ought to do it).

        Second, it is true that there are differences in personality, cognitive style, etc., but the vast majority of the processes that are going on in our heads at any given moment are pretty damn generalizable. This is particularly true of the bulk of the processes that go into producing and comprehending language. The relevant differences tend to be with experience and context.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is,”…

        I would agree, but it seems like that is what you are trying to do.

        …but “is”s are certainly relevant to “oughts.” If they weren’t, we could never determine the morality of anything

        There’s a difference between feeding existing facts and data into existing normative rules in order to determine the morality of a given circumstance; and using existing facts in a circumstance to form the normative rule in the first place. (Which, when you apply it, surprise!, provides the per-determined outcome.) I read your argument as taking positive linguistic data and using them to form normative criteria for evaluating that data. This is circular and self-proving (but internally consistent), which is my point.

        Here is my suggestion for the normative take-away: If a word rationally offends a majority of its referents, we have reason not to use it.

        Why? I refer to the people who I think are wrong as “wrong,” despite the fact that they may rationally take offense at it. (“rational” meaning that people reasonably don’t like it when they get labeled for holding wrong ideas when they think those ideas are correct; not “rational” as in people can only reasonably be offended for being labeled “wrong” if their ideas are in fact wrong. I’m not sure which of these types of “rational” you mean.) But I feel justified in using that term, because it is a meaningful word to describe my evaluation of their stated beliefs. I think this is a pretty common normative position. So there are other factors at play.

        @ Kim

        Kahneman’s far from the only research who looks at personalities.

        No, he’s just the one I’ve read most recently, so he jumped to my mind first.

        You are not a victim, you do not get to complain when other people get mad at you, after they done told you they’d get mad at you if you used that word.

        Naturally. But that’s not we are talking about.

        You need to go one step further: what if the “insultor” doesn’t care if the “insultee” is mad at them? Is the “insultor” still morally bound to change his/her language, even if they are willing to pay the social price for using insulting language?

        To whit:
        Insultor: “”
        Insultee: “That’s offensive!”
        Insultor: “I don’t care”
        Insultee: “If you don’t stop, I and my social group will be mad, and we will shun you/not buy your product/heap all other consequences that we can on you.”
        Insultor: “Still don’t care. You lack the capability to sufficiently harm me.”
        Insultee: “You are still morally bound to change your behavior.”
        Insultor: “Why?”
        Insultee: “________”

        And here we are. Fill in the blank.

        @Chris

        Caleb, I gave you my argument, granted in nutshell form, above. It’s not a fact-to-norm argument, though it does rely on the facts of the matter

        Yes, I get that. I’m responding to Rose’s argument, not yours. (I do think your argument is flawed, but for different reasons. I figured the discussion was off-topic, so I didn’t respond to it.) But it at least has a solid normative basis, I will give you that.

        Second, it is true that there are differences in personality, cognitive style, etc., but the vast majority of the processes that are going on in our heads at any given moment are pretty damn generalizable. This is particularly true of the bulk of the processes that go into producing and comprehending language. The relevant differences tend to be with experience and context.

        Right. Again, my objection is not determinacy of meaning.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb,
        They’re bloody ethically bound to not be a fucking asshole. At least, right now.
        Courts are already too choked up with stupid assholes. No need to put more
        out there.

        [Also, you bust your teeth? you’re taking up resources in the ER that someone
        else deserves to get more than you.]

        If, however, you don’t mind not suing folks, not calling the cops (or the docs) if you get beaten up and assraped, then be my fucking guest. If you’re willing to own up to all the consequences, you get to be a putz. I’ll still feel free to call you a putz, but I may not be justified in doing so.

        (note: ethics are not morals. I trust you get the difference).Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Kim,

        I find your style a bit obtuse, so forgive me if I misunderstand.

        Yes, I get the difference between ethics and morality. I deliberately used ‘morality’ because, as we established above, Rose is making a normative argument. You are welcome to make a positive argument that the “Redskin” name violates current societal ethics. Best of luck if you do. (I think it unlikely, given the owner’s rather glib brush-off of critics and lack of quantifiable negative impact to his interests.) But that’s not what we’re talking about.

        You seem to imply that if a person is willing to pay for the consequences of their actions, then they are not morally bound to self-limit their speech (at least, along the normative parameters we are discussing). I would quibble with the inclusion of physical violence as a justifiable outcome in that set (seems brutal and victim-blaming to me), but otherwise you agree with me.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Caleb
        Ignored
        says:

        Caleb,
        You try telling a Jew jokes involving Hitler.
        I maintain that there is a level of assholery
        where the appropriate way of discouraging it
        is corporeal punishment.Report

    • Re: “Jew” vs. “Jewish”

      (Disclosure: I’m not Jewish) I tend to find the word “Jew” in most cases offensive, or at least near enough to the line to find it offensive. So I try to say “Jewish.”Report

  11. Avatar Doug Muder
    Ignored
    says:

    Here’s what’s finally going to change this: Eventually some highly coveted draft choice or free agent is publicly going to refuse to negotiate with the team because he can’t in good conscience promote racism against Native Americans. The usefulness of the rest of us talking about this is that it puts the idea out there for the next RG3 to latch onto.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Doug Muder
      Ignored
      says:

      I find that highly unlikely. Individual players, even established superstars, have very little organizational influence. The current labor agreement gives all rookies even less leverage than they had just a couple of years ago.

      Now, if the NFLPA were to take a stand, however…Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        Eli Manning and Dan Elway both exerted influence over where they would and would not play. Bigger issue is that I don’t think the great athletes care enough.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        …Dan Elway…

        John Elway. Who was in the almost unique position of having been drafted by the New York Yankees, already played a summer in the minor leagues, and done very well. Elway’s threat to simply walk away (and play baseball for millions, instead of football) had something to back it up. Players with a chance to choose between professional sports are increasingly rare in these days of greater specialization.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks, brain fart. Manning did something similar without the baseball leverage. Another athlete could kill time in the CFL, though that can be risky.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        But that does bring up the other factor to make it unlikely that an individual player would have much power over the team name.

        Players that try run away from the the team that drafted them, or those accept less money in free agency then they could maximally get, are doing so because they are trying to avoid working for terrible teams and/or terrible organizations.

        Washington’s football team may not be objectively terrible – but that judgement is eminently debatable. At the least, they are nobody’s definition of a ‘good’ football organization, and will almost certainly remain so as long as Snyder continues to be overall in charge, which he will be for the indefinite future.Report

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