An Ethnic Slur by Any Other Name: “Redskins” OK at School?

791px-Joe_Gibbs_during_Redskins_training_camp,_August_2005What would you think if your children’s principal wore a shirt in school with the words “Proud of Our N*gg*r Heritage?” What if she hung a poster in the school’s main office that said “Spic Families are Strong Families,” or posted a sign on her office door saying “Ragheads Welcomed Here,” or hung a banner over the school’s main entrance stating “We Celebrate Kikes,” or “Polaks Make Our School Stronger?”

My guess is that any principal who did that would be fired on the spot. If she argued that those signs were positive, that they were meant to honor and show appreciation for these different ethnic/racial groups, would anyone believe her?

And yet, that is exactly what is happening in one school in my family’s very liberal, very educated county right now.

The principal of Olney Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland wants to get out of her office and spend time in the classrooms and hallways of her school, so she decided to create an office set-up she could take with her as she went around the school:

[Carla] Glawe commandeered an old television cart, with the help of the school’s media specialist, and set it up with a laptop computer, a clipboard and pens, a walkie-talkie and a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Sounds commendable, obviously a creative and admirable principal. Until you read this:

For a touch of personality, she decorated it with a Redskins [football] theme.

Whoa! This creative, admirable and commendable principal decided that an ethnic slur was a way to add a touch of personality to her home-made mobile office. So, on a cart that rolls through the halls of her elementary school in clear sight of all the children, she prominently displayed a word that is described by one dictionary as “disparaging and offensive,” by another dictionary as “taboo.”

This is the legacy of Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington, D.C. football team called the Redskins who refuses to change the name of his team, even though Native Americans have stated clearly that they view the name as offensive. His reason?

We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love.

So you see, everyone, the name Redskins represents honor and tradition! No reason to be offended if you are Native American. And if I choose to call Dan Snyder by an ethnic slur, that would be honoring him also – it’s a slur with a long tradition, after all. Of course, I could get away with using it since I’m Jewish myself. But I wonder what Snyder would think if a group of non-Jewish fans chose to “honor” him by hanging a sign on the football stadium proudly proclaiming it the home of “The Washington Kikes”?

Marti Teitelbaum lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She is the mother of two high-energy girls (a twenty-something future radical social worker and a 13-year-old) and is married to a psychiatrist who devotes half his work life to a child mental health clinic. For almost 20 years, Marti used her degree in public health to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, producing most of their numbers on children’s health, disability, health insurance, Medicaid, and immunization. She has always been a political junkie and a fiber-holic and now, for the first time in her life, has the time to indulge in both of these addictions. Politics and weaving have a lot in common: both take a lot of thought and preparation and both have a lot of complicated entanglements. But the difference is that weaving calms the soul and produces something useful and potentially beautiful. Politics doesn’t.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/CC License

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