Sunday, June 15, 2014

Politically Correct = Political Club

I was going to continue with my article on Independence and Competence, but it's a long complicated subject and something else snagged my attention -- namely, the flap about the Washington Redskins.

Somebody has decided that the name of the Washington Redskins is "racist" and offensive to the "Native Americans", and he/she/it/they is hammering the team's owner to change its name (to what?  The "Natives"?).  This somebody has spent a lot of money on this campaign, even televising ads that feature supposedly-real Indians, piously claiming that they never called themselves Redskins -- and never mind the facts.  Go talk to the real Indians, and you'll get a very different story.

First off, my maternal great-grandmother was a Chippewa medicine-singer (probably where the family's musical talent comes from), who was also literate and left tales and letters with her descendants -- which plainly state that, in her day, Indians preferred being called "redskins" to the more vulgar term, which was "red niggers".  The Chippewa themselves had no qualms about calling Whites "white-eyes" or "fish-bellies".

Second, as Indian archeologists and anthropologists (yes, there are some) can tell you, despite the temptation to please guilty-patronizing Whites, no, the term "Native Americans" is not scientifically accurate, and "Indians" is actually a lot closer to the truth.  The first humans to visit the Americas were Neanderthals, soon followed by Java Man.  They didn't stay to settle because, in those days, most of the land was covered with glaciers and the rest was inhabited by very large and unfriendly animals: the mammoth, the mastodon, the giant sloth, the giant deer, the giant humpless camel, the giant short-faced bear, the giant dire-wolf, the rather large saber-toothed tiger, and so on.  The first people to stay and settle the Americas were the Clovis Point people, toward the end of the Ice Age -- and they, thank you, came from Europe: northwestern France, to be precise.  That's right;  the first Americans were White people.  Yes, as the Ice Age receded, another group of people from northern Asia (not actually India, but a little closer) came across the Bering Straits and mingled with the original settlers, producing the Folsom Point people who were the ancestors of the modern Indian tribes -- but they were Johnny-come-latelies as much as the later Whites.  Because the Asians came (and continued to come for centuries) in greater numbers than the original Clovis Point people, their genetics came to dominate the American population;  thus the name "Indians" (which, in Columbus' time, meant "Asian") is the more accurate term.  There's nothing "racist" about it.

Third, the Washington Redskins -- like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves -- originally were made up of Indians.  In the late 19th century the old hunting/gathering/fishing/small-farming Indian economies were in shambles, and a lot of the tribesfolk had to come to the Whites' cities for work.  (This was when the Michigan Indian tribes, with their excellent ears and superb sense of balance, came to dominate the high-iron construction trades.)  On their days off, since there wasn't much entertainment they could afford, they organized ball teams and played among themselves.  Eventually they came to play against other amateur urban ball teams, and won respectable numbers of games.  Sports fans in those cities came to respect those "Indian", "Redskin", "Braves" ballplayers.  In time, those teams became serious professionals.  They kept the names they'd started with as a point of pride, even after most of the players were no longer Indians.  It's a classic case of Yankee Doodling.

Side note: the term "Yankee Doodle" was originally British propaganda.  When the American colonies started grumbling toward revolution and British troops were sent in to "maintain order", the British governors launched a propaganda campaign intended to discredit the grumblers. These malcontents, the British claimed, weren't real Britons -- or else they'd never do something so disgraceful as to question and defy the divinely-ordained Crown.  No, these had to be resentful leftover Dutchmen: not John Bull, but John Cheese -- stupid John Cheese.  In the contemporary Dutch language, that was: Jaan Kees dudel -- pronounced: Yan Kees doodle.  The British commanders even made a song about it.  Now, is anybody going to tell the New York Yankees that they should change their name because it's an "offensive" term for a Dutchman?

  Finally, in case the Politically Correct crowd have forgotten this too, people tend to name their sports teams after things they admire: symbols of courage, fortitude, ferocity, beauty, or great skill.  They name teams for noble animals like lions, tigers, bears, bulls, mustangs, eagles or dolphins -- or skilled trades like steel-workers, or brewers, or meat-packers, or globe-trotters -- or not-so-respected but definitely fierce trades, like pirates, or raiders -- or fierce natural phenomena like cyclones, or sun-devils, or hurricanes -- or even respected ethnic groups, like 49ers, or metropolitans, or saints, or Vikings, or...yes, Indians.

The Braves, the Indians and the Redskins earned their names honestly, and are proud of them.  Let them keep those names, thank you.

Frankly, I'm wondering about the connection between this anti-Redskins campaign and the rather famous example of, hmm, a certain ball-team owner who made a few drunken racist remarks in what he thought was private, and the resulting storm of well-orchestrated outrage that forced him to sell his team.  If you researched just who's been paying for those anti-Redskin TV ads, and then see who's funding the group behind them, would you possibly find somebody who's made offers to buy that team?  Just a thought.

--Leslie <;)))><


ravenclaw-eric said...

Or like the Dartmouth Indians. As the Dartmouth Review has pointed out repeatedly, to no avail, Dartmouth was originally set up to educate Indians, and the name is a nod to that heritage even after the Animal House crowd took it over. But the Perennially Put-Upon prevailed, and the name was changed. If I were a Dartmouth alum and had done better in life than what I have, I wouldn't give the damn place a cent of wampum. (As it happens, I told my alma stepmater to take me off their mailing lists; I've never been able to get a foot in the door of a career-track job despite that fancy degree, and I INTENSELY DISLIKE finding begging letters from them in my mail. But I see I have digressed.)

These days, a lot of people have found that they can get their own way merely by howling "You hurt my FEELINGS!" long enough and loudly enough. Most people want to be nice (I am an outlier here) and will give in. My own reaction to someone using hurt feelings as a club and a weapon is a loud snarl and an urge to adjust their attitude, preferably with the buckle end of my belt across the seat of their trousers, until my arm gets tired.

Paradoctor said...

I regard PC as a kind of politesse, and therefore arbitrary, mutable and absurd; but somewhat well-intentioned, and useful in moderation.

A bit of respect for people's thin skin is part of the price of living in civilization. You might think it foolish or whingey, but if the terms were reversed, then you'd think otherwise. For instance, if anyone ever named their team the Kikes, then damn straight I'd raise holy hell.

Insult vigilance is rational for historically oppressed groups because verbal assault sometimes precedes physical assault. Casual slurs - or worse yet, unconscious slurs - are a sign of indifference; potentially depraved indifference.

Of course this is all assuming moderation. Whinging as a manipulation tactic is lame-o.

As for the Native Americans: they aren't from India; Columbus was geographically challenged, as well as a killer and a slaver. Sure their deep ancestors were from all over - ultimately from Africa, like the rest of us - but they were here when Leif Erikson landed; which makes them natives of this continent as far as I'm concerned. The Canadians call them the First Nations; not bad. I'd call them First Americans, but unfortunately that makes them sound like a bank.

Neandertals in America? Citation, please?

Neth Smiley said...

Mrs. Fish-

Excellent choice of topic for this week! However, I have an unrelated question for you: Do you still know or have the lyrics to the song [i]Soul Stealers[/i]? It is such a haunting tune...

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Raven. Agreed, too many people these days are raised to believe that their Pwecious Feewings weigh more than facts or logic. Such folk need to be dumped in the wilderness alone, with some basic survival gear and instructions, and NO PEOPLE AROUND to whine at. They'd learn to respect facts, logic and reality or they'd die. I've usually answered complaints of "You hurt my feewings!" by replying "Your emotional reactions are not my responsibility."

Hi, Nat. True, civilized behavior requires a certain level of politeness, but anyone who tries to exploit that for political purposes deserves a good solid experience of what happens when people stop being polite.

Hmmm, if I ever saw a sports team called the Kikes, I'd ask how many of them really are Jews, and how hard they play (especially if it were a soccer team: from "Kike" to "Kick" isn't much of a step).

True, the ancestors of the Folsom Point people came from northern Asia, not India, but since in Columbus' time "Indies" meant "Asia" (rather than just the land of Hindustan), he wasn't that far out. Probably the best general name for the Indians would be the First Settlers, but that's a bit vague.

I read that bit about Neanderthal bones and teeth being found along the northern west coast in a science blog, some years ago. I can't remember now if it was an archeology or anthropology site. You might check with Scientific American.

ravenclaw-eric said...

Part of my own objection to the whole phenomenon is that the other side is constantly and I mean constantly moving the goal posts. If they'd make up their stupid minds, and keep them made up, I could adjust my terminology accordingly, however much I thought their new terms were clunky.

Paradoctor said...

The primacy of feelings over reason is an ancient problem. So is the foolish mutability of what's called civil behavior.

For instance, the use of slur terms, by the slurred groups themselves, is nowadays considered PC. I think it was Carlin who first enunciated this rule. So yeah, Leslie, I could easily see the Tel Aviv Kikes as a soccer team. Slurs can be co-opted, but it's done selectively, just to keep the others guessing. Sorry, Ravenclaw.

The trouble is, once you define what's good, then people will compete in bad ways to prove themselves good, thus refuting the definition. Therefore the good is undefinable!

Paradoctor said...

Maybe I overstated that, and should refine the conclusion to:

Good cannot be defined in a way advantageous to the definer.

ravenclaw-eric said...

I have also been known to observe that apparently all the Indians' real problems have been so comprehensively solved that they can worry about a sports team's name.

For some reason, this observation is not always welcome. I can't imagine why...*innocent look*

Technomad said...

I saw a picture of surviving WWII Code Talkers very pointedly wearing Redskins jackets. If I can find it again, I'll post it somewhere; watching some people's minds melting down is always such fun.

And I'm not too surprised that you're part-Indian yourself; I always thought you had the look. I spent enough time in Minnesota (family ties and college) to be able to spot such things.