George Will and Charles Krauthammer debated the Redskins thing on Fox News’ “Special Report With Bret Baier” this week. Based on the contours of this debate in recent months — which has been increasingly left vs. right — I would have guessed both men would have labeled the issue political correctness run amok. I would have been incorrect.
“The normative question — should the name of the Redskins be changed? — surely depends on the answer to an empirical question — is a substantial portion of the Native American community offended by this?” Will began, in a segment prompted by Bob Costas’s halftime commentary Sunday night. “I don’t see the evidence for that, and I think there are reasons for doubting that.”
Will then discussed the purging of Native American symbolism at the University of Illinois, blaming the NCAA.
“It’s capricious action by the sensitivity police, and they ought to mind their own business,” Will concluded. “Bob [Costas] is a great broadcaster, and a good friend, and wrong in this case.”
“Well, I’m not able to achieve high dudgeon, like Costas, or like my friend George on the other side,” Krauthammer countered. “I’m in low dudgeon over this. I think this is not something that is sort of a matter of principle, and I respect the [Dan] Snyder position. I don’t think there’s any intent of malice, there’s no intent of a slur, and there is 80 years of history. But words have histories of their own, and they evolve. The word Negro, 50 years ago, was the most respected word in referring to an African American. It was used 15 times by Martin Luther King in the I Have a Dream speech. Fifty years later, because of its own history, having to do with Black Power and a complicated history, it’s become a word that is patronizing. You would never say there are 30 Negroes in the U.S. House. You wouldn’t say that.
“In the same way, Redskins has evolved,” Krauthammer continued. “And despite its history, it is now considered a slur. Growing up, I used to use the word gyp. I never knew until I became an adult that it was a shortening of Gypsy. And I didn’t take a poll of Gypsies at that point to see how many are offended. I stopped using it. It’s very easy to do. It has nothing to do with the sensitivities of a mass of people. It has to do with simple, elementary respect. You don’t use that word if you can avoid it.”
“This came to a rolling boil because the president was asked a question,” Will noted. “And like all presidents, he answered. Presidents are evidently expected to have opinions about absolutely everything. I hope to live long enough to have a president who, when asked a question about this, or Michael Jackson’s death, or anything else, says, you know, that’s really none of my business.”
“Well, we agree on the president’s loquacity,” Krauthammer noted. “But we disagree on the decency of using a term that has evolved into a slur….If you’re an American Indian, with high rates of unemployment, illiteracy and alcoholism, I think it ranks pretty low on your scale of concerns. And probably a lot of them will say, who cares. But it matters on the part of those who use it, and we shouldn’t, if we can avoid it.”
Krauthammer, as it turns out, also recently discussed the issue on WJLA’s “Inside Washington.” He took the same position.
“I think that the people who argue for keeping it are quite sincere,” he said. “It’s become sort of ingrained; you don’t actually think about its origins. And I’m not a guy who is usually politically correct. But if it were personally my choice, I think it’s over the line. I do think, because of its history, it’s something that if you can change, you would change. Although again, I do think there are arguments on both sides.”
Krauthammer was scheduled to further discuss the issue with Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night.