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Our Undying Past

Is the "R-Word" Ever OK?


Thousands of American Indians and other activists have protested the team name.

The Huffington Post has just run a hard-hitting piece that looks at the continuing distress over the Washington pro football team’s refusal to change its name and drop that controversial American Indian logo. You know what we’re referring to.

It seems officials of a civil rights group recently met with team reps and were rudely shouted down. That, according to the opinion piece, is in keeping with the NFL’s apparent “playbook” for stiff-arming criticism of the team’s recalcitrance. Here’s how the writer, clinical psychologist Michael Friedman, analyzed the strategy’s apparent components:

“Reframe a dictionary- and government-defined racial slur as a term of ‘honor.’ ” The Washington team has actually done that, stating to fans that the R-word is really a “badge of honor.”

“Disregard protests of Native Americans and civil rights leaders.” As Friedman notes, “almost every major American Indian organization” has denounced  Read More 
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About that mascot ...

This weekend I’ll be heading off on a book tour along the New York-Pennsylvania border. Being on the fringe of Iroquois country, it’s the very territory that’s featured in my historical novel Visions of Teaoga. It’s also an area touched by a hot national debate – about the term “redskin” and its use as a sports nickname.

You no doubt know about the pressure on the pro football Washington Redskins to change its team name, and the organization’s refusal to do so. Critics call the term an anachronistic slur, while the other side argues that it's benign, even respectful.

Slur or not, the Redskins name is still in use by several dozen high schools around the country, most of them majority-white. And one of them is Sayre High School, located just four miles north of Tioga Point, the epicenter of the Indian-settler conflict zone that Visions of Teaoga captures.

North of Sayre, in upstate and western New York, seven other schools have mascots with Indian references: the Watkins Glen Senecas, the Southern Cayuga Chiefs, and the Indians of Candor, Groton, Odessa-Montour, Owego Free Academy and Stamford. This is according to an article two weeks ago in the Elmira Star-Gazette. Only one school in that region, Sayre High, keeps the R-word.

The Redskins nickname is a thing of the past now on the collegiate scene since the last two schools gave it up a few years.  Read More 
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