What’s In a Name?

9 Sep

The High School in which I was a teacher for 31 years always offered a course in the study of The Holocaust. The town in which the high school was located had a long and rich history that included many Jewish residents and visitors and so this particular course touched upon a subject that was both near and dear to the hearts of those who lived and worked and taught within the town.

But of course the importance of teaching such a course was to instruct all of the students and residents of the town that such a horrible atrocity could never be forgotten and that this monstrous injustice could occur somewhere else and at some other time to any group of people and anywhere within our world where people did not remain vigilant or were willing to forget or disbelieve that humans could ever treat other humans with such cold cruelty.

And of course the corner stone of the course, if you will, was always the phrase: “Never forget”. We must never forget what happened in the Germany of WWII lest an atrocity of similar horror happen again.

And so over the years the course was taught, and as fate would have it, over the years our classes, students and public school community gradually changed complexion until one day I was listening in when a young African American student, looking a bit bored with the lecture, raised his hand and said, “Who cares about this. What about slavery?” as many of the other students of color began to mutter their agreement.

And I will never forget what the teacher’s response was…and this is going to sound like I’m making it up although I swear to you, on my honor, that I am not…

The teacher’s response was: “Son, that was a long time ago. You’re going to have to forget about that and move on with your life or you’ll end up going nowhere.”

And that is why The Washington Redskins need to change their name! And Daniel Snyder, the Washington team’s owner, should know better…especially than to say to USA Today and the world…”We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Because Never is a word you use…when you forget.


6 Responses to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. carolahand September 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    This is such an important example of the challenges we face trying to raise awareness about discrimination in the U.S. The following story about attempts to change demeaning Native American stereotypes in a public high school may be relevant: http://carolahand.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/were-honoring-indians-2/

  2. momshieb September 10, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    My fifth grade students were discussing this very issue today; they all agree, “We’d never say, “The Georgia Niggers”, so we need to get rid of “Redskins”.
    From the mouths of babes.

  3. RAB September 10, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    Oh, well done!

  4. A Voice September 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    I’m of two particular minds with these two issues.

    To the first, about ‘never forgetting’, there comes a point when history is far enough behind that the weight of it should no longer be felt and to say that the weight of it is felt in a similar way is to do those tragedies a disservice. On the other hand, there are some things that should not be let go of, conceptually, for the good of people as a whole. Do the Jews need to let go of the Holocaust? Yes. Do the people of the world need to let go of the Holocaust? No and they shouldn’t, because what happened there is something that shouldn’t happen again and to any people.

    To the second, about names and particular connotations, there comes a point when we need to stop letting those particular connotations empower those names and the only way to do that is to actively use them in other ways. South Park did a fantastic job with the episode ‘The F Word’ to demonstrate the non-homophobic direction that the term ‘fag/faggot’ has taken over the years. On the other hand, there needs to be some real sensitivity with particular usage. Should you joking call someone you don’t know well enough a fag, nigger, or anything else with a particular connotation? No. Should you avoid all use of the word and let it retain inappropriate power? No and equally so.

    Political correctness isn’t terribly different from refusing to learn and that irrespective of whether or not someone is an uneducated, backwater fuckbag, hyper-liberal fuckbag or any other kind of fuckbag.

    But do the Redskins need to change their name? Yes. If one group in this country has been not only humiliated and cast aside but actively raped it’s the Native Americans. If they are saying it’s inappropriate, the least that anyone could do is change the fucking name out of respect for what happened to them and still happens to them in a way that homosexuals, black people and Jews could only just begin to appreciate. After all, Native Americans are still legislatively persecuted and, not able to have their land back, all they really want is to not be fucked with and left respectfully alone.

  5. womanseyeview September 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    As always I enjoyed being provoked into considering this issue more deeply – very thoughtful post.


  1. Freaky Friday all over again | HORROR REPORT - September 19, 2014

    […] The Redskins: A thought provoking post.. […]

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