Remember when we were kids, and somebody called us names? Mom would always tell you “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
In this PC crazed society, many grown-ups were either never taught that lessen, or have long since forgotten in favor of litigation and legislation.
The Supreme Court recently declined to review the case of Harjo vs. Pro-Football inc. At issue for the highest court in the land was not whether or not the term “Redskin” is offensive, but whether or not the plaintiffs waited too long to bring the case. (Supreme Court rejects ‘Skins Logo Case)
Now I have argued the merits of whether or not the team name is offensive or not in an article I wrote a little over a year ago. (Redskins: Racism or Easy Target?)
Here’s the summary; I’m a nerd.
For the sake of this argument, that’s what I’m calling myself. I wear it with pride. I wear t-shirts with video game logos, and love to talk sports and video games with anybody that comes along. I will bore you to death with my opinions on which is the best racing game to come out for the Xbox 360 this year (Dirt 2) or what I think the Washington Capitals should do when facing their next opponent.
Now keep in mind; ”Nerd” is what I am choosing to call myself. I am not encouraging you to refer to anybody else by that connotation, but you can refer to me as one all you like.
Now you may be like me. You may think that Dirt 2 really is the best Xbox 360 racer to come out this year (it is, trust me), and you may agree with many of the things I think about when it comes to sports. You might not. You may have similar emotions but feel that Forza 3 is the best racer, and may hate the Capitals.
You wouldn’t automatically assume that because I call myself a nerd, that you are also a nerd by proxy, would you?
You may not like it when people call you a nerd; maybe that’s what the bullies called you in high school as they dunked your head into a flushing toilet. You may have deep rooted emotional distress over being called such a thing, but your automatic response isn’t to be insulted by what I call myself, is it?
Of course not; you don’t care how I refer to myself. Why would you? For that matter, you may even agree that yes, I am a nerd.
Now some people might say, well, why wouldn’t they be offended?
These people who think this way have probably never had their heads dunked into a flushing toilet. They may not know what it is like to have people say and do hurtful things to you based on your being different than they are.
The reason they wouldn’t care (for all you “dry-heads” out there) is because there is not intent to malign. I don’t call myself a nerd to be hateful of others. I don’t dunk my own head in the toilet while I call myself such things. I wear it with pride.
Nerds are generally considered “smart.” These brainacs may be socially inept, but they can put together electronic devices (computers, entertainment center components, etc.) in their sleep. They live to pwn noobs in online computer games where they live supreme; taking vengeance on the jocks and bullies who would, in real life, torment them physically.
As far as nerds go, I’m not even the biggest nerd. There are people far “nerdier” than I am. They are smarter, better with computers, and routinely pwn me while playing video games.
It would be ridiculous to conjure up some sort of “implied” offense meant on my part, by what I choose to call myself, because I wouldn’t intend to be derogatory in my own “self labeling”.
If Susan Harjo walked up to me and called herself a “cracker,” I wouldn’t be offended; I’d laugh, if I’m being honest. Even if it was obvious that she was indirectly trying to refer to me. I would think that was the most ridiculous way to attempt an insult I have ever heard, and trust me, I’ve heard them all.
The fact is that the team name “Redskins” was NEVER meant to disparage anyone, and Harjo knows it. She wants the court to conjur up images of brutally mangled bodies with the tops of their heads removed and exchanged for profit.
At no time does the team, or it’s fans re-enact, or attempt to imply that the name means any of that stuff. As a matter of fact, the team has a very negative opinion about “scalping” and strongly discourage it’s practice.
The logo isn’t showing a freshly scalped “injun” but a stoic, brave warrior. The fans and supporters of this team think of exactly what the original team owner thought of when he named the team; a group of fiercly devoted warriors to be respected and often feared.
Even if Mrs. Harjo get’s her day in court with her new barely-pubescent “plaintiffs” she’s going to lose.
She may have an argument that when used in a certain way, the term “redskin” can be very offensive. Such as if a bully were calling her that as he was dunking her head in a flushing toilet.
Unfortunately for her case, it can be found to mean other things that aren’t derogatory, much like shovels can still be called spades without intending offense to anyone because they refer to the shape of the shovel head. Those that are offended by such a thing choose to take offense.
The courts can’t control what people choose to be offended by. There is no way they can determine how, and to what level you were offended. What they can determine is the intent to offend by the perceived offender. You’ll notice there are no laws referring to “offensive smells” and that pornography laws define specifically what is pornographic without determining what is “offensive”.
The courts have danced around this issue because they know they cannot determine what is offensive. That’s why they referred to the statute of limitations on the recent case between Susan Harjo and Pro-Football Inc. Once you start regulating what is, or could be perceived as offensive, then you open up a whole new world where anybody can sue anybody for anything as long as they show that it was possible for them to be offended.
Some nerd could sue me for not conceding that Forza 3 is a much better Xbox game than Dirt 2 based on the fact that my loyalty to Dirt 2 offends his sensibilities. He could then sue me for referring to myself as a nerd, because he had a traumatic experience in high-school involving a restroom setting and has required years of therapy just to cope with hearing the word. Simultaneously, he could sue Willy Wonka, were he so inclined for their candies with the same name. He could certainly sue me for referring to him as a nerd; he could practically do that now.
He could then argue that Harjo vs. Pro-Football inc sets the precedence of allowing one to seek damages by showing how they could be so offended, even if no offense was intended.
The courts are already clogged up with enough senseless litigation; they will never open themselves up to the deluge of “perceived offense” cases.
Mrs. Harjo can continue her attempts, but in the end, it is only a matter of time before a court finally tells her she doesn’t have a case, and strikes out on appeal.
Would have been nice for all of us, if they had done so already…