Krauthammer & the Case for a Redskins’ Name Change

Charles Krauthammer is one of my favorite conservative commentators. Despite some Tea Party wackadoodles trying to argue that Krauthammer, who in an earlier life had the temerity to work for Walter Mondale, is a liberal or a RINO (Republican In Name Only), I believe he has one of the premier conservative minds when it comes to politics and culture. While I may not always agree with Krauthammer’s opinion, he is one conservative who I always want to listen to on any argument. And, apparently, that includes the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins.

On Sunday night, during half-time of the Redskins/Cowboys game, Bob Costas delivered a typical leftist diatribe arguing that no reasonable person could possibly believe that the name “Redskins” is anything but a slur or racial epitaph. In response to the leftist piling, which has included President Obama and The Washington Post among others, I wrote:

After the political commentary during the half-time show of Sunday night’s Redskins vs. Cowboys rivalry game, it was clear that Bob Costas believes that no reasonable (i.e., non-racist) person could come to any other conclusion but that the name “Redskins” is a slur and that the name of Washington’s football teamshould be changed immediately. . . . (emphasis added)

If I wanted to get leftist political tripe on Sunday nights, I would switch to MSNBC. How ironic that Costas, and others in the small minority of people who think the Redskins’ name is patently offensive, should now speak and decide for the majority. These same leftists are the ones who are the first to come to the microphone to denounce Tea Party Republicans as a minority, bent on exercising their warped will on the majority.

While we live in a Democratic-Republic, where the rights of the minority are protected against abuse by the majority, we are witnessing what can only be described as a “tyranny of the minority.”  James Madison may have warned against the “tyranny of the majority,” but he would perhaps be surprised to know how relatively small minorities of citizens (and, in the case of Native Americans, a small minority within a minority) can effectively agitate for the imposition of their radical agendas. (The Redskins, Bob Costas & the Tyranny of the Minority)

I consider myself a reasonable conservative. I may not always write like it or think like it (sometimes passion gets the best of me), but I hope that I am open to hearing and considering opposing viewpoints on issues, even if those opposing views don’t cause me to change my own opinion. In our highly polarized culture — and not just on politics — it’s rare for anyone to change their mind based on arguments from the opposing side. I find myself in that situation, even as it relates to the Redskins’ name. Not even a sarcastic  — and spot on — comment by a fraternity brother (and NYC lawyer to boot) could persuade me to see the error of my ways.

It was only after reading today’s Washington Post column by Charles Krauthammer, “Redskins and reason,” that I find myself open to supporting a name change for Washington’s National Football League franchise. Krauthammer writes:

I don’t like being lectured by sportscasters about ethnic sensitivity. Or advised by the president of the United States about changing team names. Or blackmailed by tribal leaders playing the race card.

I don’t like the language police ensuring that no one anywhere gives offense to anyone about anything. And I fully credit the claim of Redskins owner Dan Snyder and many passionate fans that they intend no malice or prejudice and that “Redskins” has a proud 80-year history they wish to maintain.

The fact is, however, that words don’t stand still. They evolve. . . .

I know there are surveys that say that most Native Americans aren’t bothered by the word. But that’s not the point. My objection is not rooted in pressure from various minorities or fear of public polls or public scolds.

When I was growing up, I thought “gyp” was simply a synonym for “cheat,” and used it accordingly. It was only when I was an adult that I learned that gyp was short for gypsy. At which point, I stopped using it.

Not because I took a poll of Roma to find out if they were offended. If some mysterious disease had carried away every gypsy on the planet, and there were none left to offend, I still wouldn’t use it.

Why? Simple decency. I wouldn’t want to use a word that defines a people — living or dead, offended or not — in a most demeaning way. It’s a question not of who or how many had their feelings hurt, but of whether you want to associate yourself with a word that, for whatever historical reason having nothing to do with you, carries inherently derogatory connotations. (full article here)

Words have meaning. Sometimes those meanings change over time. Sometimes, people use perfectly acceptable words in an unacceptable manner. Perhaps because many of my fraternity brothers and friends are Jewish (not to mention that Jesus was Jewish), I am particularly galled when Christians — particularly pastors — use the word “Jew” in the highly derogatory and offensive phrase when talking about their negotiating skills.

If I finally find myself supporting a name change for the Washington Redskins, it will not be because of Bob Costas or President Obama. It will be because of conservatives like Charles Krauthammer, who reminded me that simple decency and my own desire to be a gracious communicator are compelling enough reasons to stop using the name. It also didn’t hurt that Krauthammer got a special assist from one of my liberal Democrat lawyer fraternity brothers in New York City. He can be very persuasive when he needs to be!

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