This summer, after six weeks of race-related agony, protests, riots, horrific acts of violence, a wildfire of iconoclasm, and a nationwide reckoning on matters of race, all of it whipped from one frenzy to another by a media that exists to exaggerate and profit from conflict, renaming the Washington Redskins seemed like a no-brainer. Surely this was the most obvious public step forward we could make as a culture, a small but significant indication that business as usual was no longer tolerable. The team name may have had no relationship whatsoever to the death of George Floyd, but it was the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree of racial re-evaluation. In the summer of 2020 we probably won’t be able to end systemic prejudice, rebalance economic inequalities, or reform policing behavior, but this was one thing we could do to start things off.
Yet the public shrugged. Only 29 percent say the name should be changed, because most people see no slight in the Redskins name. A 2016 poll found only nine percent of American Indians thought the name was offensive; 90 percent were not offended. A poll taken just last summer and published in the Post, the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper published in a city named after a slaveholder whose name National Review is withholding so as to express its opposition to racist nomenclature, showed that most Indians are “proud” of the Redskins name, which has in the past frequently been used by tribal members themselves. The [name of city redacted] Post didn’t publish the actual results of the survey, apparently because the data didn’t align with its staffers’ views on the matter, but this strangely elliptical story on the poll said respondents (500 American Indians) were given a slate of 40 different adjectives to describe how they felt about the name, and “most” of them said “proud.” (Other options included disappointed, empowered, embarrassed, appreciative, and hopeless.)
It is beyond obvious that the hubbub over the name Redskins was an obsession whipped up by politically correct white liberals for whom language is a sort of disgusting crumb-strewn carpet to which they daily take a magnifying glass, then ritually attack with the Roomba of good intentions in an effort to clear it of all specks of prejudice. We may not be able to solve the problems associated with the actual police, but it tickles the amour propre to deputize oneself as a member of the language police and to set about righting the most comically irrelevant alleged wrongs.
The Redskins name, accompanied as it is by a logo depicting a noble-looking warrior, should not cause anyone a moment’s worry about whether it is intended to malign a racial minority. America has celebrated our ties to Indian culture, back to the earliest European settlements, in places such as Massachusetts and Manhattan whose names were preserved. Sometimes celebration takes on a slightly goofy overtone, as with the Tomahawk Chop beloved by Atlanta Braves fans, but you’d be deeply silly to think the purpose of the Chop was to embarrass Indians rather than to express allegiance and enthusiasm for a team named in their honor. Even Chief Wahoo, the buck-toothed caricature used as the Cleveland Indians’ logo for decades, was obviously meant in the spirit of fun, not denigration. Nobody buys tickets to go to the ballpark to take up the colors and logos of some concept they hate. Chief Wahoo was no more meant as an insult than the Fighting Irish logo beloved by Notre Dame, where generations of Irish Americans have proudly matriculated and declined to feel insulted by the implication that they enjoy a good donnybrook.
The inability to take anything in a generous or light-hearted spirit — the mass personification of the “That’s not funny” meme — is a hallmark of that scowling, ill-tempered, mentally shriveled 29 percent whose cultural obsessions, no matter how irrelevant or weird, quickly become the country’s. If, after half a summer of relentless propagandizing, 29 percent opposition to the Redskins name is as much as the PC troops can rally to their side, the number at a more relaxed moment must be more like 25, or even 20, percent — the leftmost tranche of the left-wing party. From that minority, however, come the vast majority of our opinion journalists, news editors, museum curators, television talking heads, university administrators, and the rest of the generalship of the culture. That’s the problem with the 29 percent — their ideas are unpopular but they won’t shut up about them till they get what they want, and they control most of the megaphones.
Perhaps the loudest megaphone is Twitter, whose users have repeatedly demonstrated the power to overrule even the editors of major newspapers and make major institutions and corporations such as FedEx, which pushed the Redskins to rethink their name, quake with fear. The prospect of having an unwelcome hashtag attached to their brand for 48 hours is so terrifying to most organizations that they’ll quickly hurl themselves at the feet of the mob, offering whatever tribute is demanded. In a country ruled by the 29 percent, it ought not surprise anyone that the self-appointed cultural administrators become ever more despised. Nor should the NFL, which has repeatedly embarrassed itself this off-season by prostrating itself before the woke mob, be surprised when its ratings take a tumble this season.
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