Writerly Rant #1
The PC Extreme
As an author, I keep a watchful eye on how my characters express themselves to avoid volumes of angry emails from people who find themselves offended. Unless it was the intent of the character to affront, it’s best not to unnecessarily alienate readership. However, there is a point where the political correctness police are not only extreme, but ridiculous and confusing in their application of these principles.
As an avid American football fan, I am drawn to the resurgence of boisterous calls for the Washington Redskins to change their name as it is perceived as insensitive to at least a small percentage of Native Americans. I can at least see their point, to a degree, with that particular name, but what about the Fighting Sioux? How is that considered derogatory by any reasonable standard?
In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association identified nineteen schools potentially having names or mascots considered abusive by the governing body. These universities and colleges were ordered to either obtain permission to use the name from Native American tribes, or cease their use altogether. Failing to comply would result in various post-season bans and prohibitions.
Some schools like the Florida State Seminoles received such approvals; others like North Dakota University Fighting Sioux did not. What has been created is uneven application of the edict. If political correctness is to become a dominant force in our culture, should we not be asking the Irish whether Notre Dame can continue to use their moniker? How do the Scandinavians feel about the Minnesota Vikings? I am willing to bet both groups have no problem with them. Having both an Irish and Swedish decedents, I am certainly not bothered.
Sports organizations derive their names from cultures that inspire a sense of teamwork and camaraderie within their ranks. Native Americans should reevaluate their opinions as to why their name is being invoked and look at it as a source of pride. Names like the Spartans, Trojans, Aztecs and Vikings aren’t chosen because their cultures were soft and lacked historical respect. While groups can take umbrage with cartoonish and derogatory caricatures like Marquette’s “Willie Wampum,” team names themselves should inspire pride, not offense.
Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. Telling groups to “quit whining” or “suck it up” will never be deemed an appropriate response, and many sports organizations will sadly have to relinquish their long-treasured names. When they do, they are free to use the Fighting Mikaels. I won’t mind at all.
* * *
Mikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novel, The iCandidate. He is an eighteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.