Suzan Harjo: Racism wins every time when put to the public

Suzan Shown Harjo, who was the lead plaintiff in the first trademark challenge to the Washington Redskins, tackles a poll that showed support for the controversial mascot:
The AP-GfK poll is a good example of why racism should never be put up to a popular vote, because racism will win every time. (Imagine a poll about the N-word in the 1960s.) Not that everyone polled is racist. Some probably answered out of ignorance or failure to appreciate that the topic is nuanced. Some may even have been surprised to hear that Native Peoples are still around.

The question itself is a product of racial bias. The AP, which keeps the style book for most of journalism, does not capitalize the N in Native, Native American or, as in the question above, “native American Indians,” while it does cap the R-word. One is a designation for nearly 600 Native American Peoples, but is lowercased in AP style, while the other is the name of a private sports club and is always capped.

Notice, too, that AP personalizes the R-word — “Should the Redskins change their team name, or not?” – when its is properly used in the first sentence. However, Native Peoples are not personalized or humanized – simply “native American Indians,” when people and/or nations would be respectful and accurate.

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Fighting Racist Stereotypes in Sports One Poll at a Time (Indian Country Today 5/14)

Related Stories:
New Yorker: Washington 'Redskins' appear to live on forever (5/13)
Poll shows overwhelming support for keeping 'Redskins' name (05/03)
D.C. Council to take up resolution against 'Redskins' mascot (05/01)

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