Charles Krauthammer explains today that because words evolve over time, he thinks it’s time for Washington DC’s football team to change its name:
If you were detailing the racial composition of Congress, you wouldn’t say: “Well, to start with, there are 44 Negroes.” If you’d been asleep for 50 years, you might. But upon being informed how the word had changed in nuance, you would stop using it and choose another.
And here’s the key point: You would stop not because of the language police. Not because you might incur a Bob Costas harangue. Not because the president would wag a finger. But simply because the word was tainted, freighted with negative connotations with which you would not want to be associated.
….Similarly, regarding the further racial breakdown of Congress, you wouldn’t say: “And by my count, there are two redskins.” It’s inconceivable, because no matter how the word was used 80 years ago, it carries invidious connotations today.
This is perfectly sensible, as is the rest of what he says. So here’s my question: why does he feel the need to start the column with this little swipe?
I don’t like being lectured by sportscasters about ethnic sensitivity. Or advised by the president of the United States about changing team names. Or blackmailed by tribal leaders playing the race card.
Is he just establishing his conservative cred? Because as near as I can tell, he’s saying pretty much the same thing as Costas and Obama. So why is he annoyed when they say it, but thinks it’s OK when he says it? If Costas and Obama are right—and he seems to think they are—why is there anything wrong with what they said?
POSTSCRIPT: If you’re interested in seeing exactly how the usage of “redskin” has evolved over time, Ian Gordon has you covered here.