Monday, February 28, 2005

American Indians and Nicknames: Dodging the Data

In a January 27 article in the Marquette Tribune, one Joshua Cronin took us to task for citing a representative national survey of American Indians that showed that 90 percent don’t find the name “Redskins” offensive. This after we had criticized a survey Marquette University fielded that had the clear intention (although it apparently didn’t work out that way) of getting students, alumni, faculty and staff to say that the nickname “Warriors” is offensive. He says:
I find it ironic that McAdams had such a critical eye for the Marquette survey, yet cited and accepted the University of Pennsylvania survey that found 90 percent of American Indians had no objection to the “Redskins” nickname. After performing a bit of research on the University’s survey, I found that there are many scholars and academics that are critical of the survey and its findings. These scholars and academics included professors from a number of notable universities and colleges who research and study issues facing American Indians, the relationship of race, and the media.
We, of course, provided a detailed critique of the very biased Marquette survey. Cronin provides no critique of the University of Pennsylvania survey. He just claims that “many scholars and academics” are “critical” of the survey. Of course they are. It’s very inconvenient, given their politically correct views. But they have no coherent explanation as to what’s wrong with it.

He doesn’t name any of these “professors,” but he apparently has in mind affirmative action hires who have “Multicultural” in their titles. One wonders whether Ward Churchill was one of the “scholars and academics.”

Cronin then changes tact and seems to admit that most Indians don’t object to Indian team names, but goes on to argue:
The fact is that some number of American Indians will be offended and it is up for debate whether the symbol is in fact racist. The question is whether we should take the risk of offending any number of American Indians?
He seems to be saying that if any Indians are offended that is good reason not to use “Warriors” as a nickname. But this argument gives huge power to tiny minorities, allowing them to shut up speech that they happen to dislike. Would Cronin ever say that we should not be willing to offend “any number of fundamentalist Christians?”

And suppose that the minority claiming to be “offended” is a group of hustlers who are clearly playing the “race card” and trying to intimidate people because it shows their political power?

Does it matter to Cronin that a large number of alumni are offended that the team isn’t called Warriors?

Finally, Cronin floats yet another argument, and says that surveys don’t matter:
Unfortunately, no survey will give the answer to any moral question. An act is either right or wrong independent of popular opinion.
The problem here is that Cronin has just argued that it’s immoral to “offend” Indians, and whether a group is offended is an empirical question, which one can answer with survey data.

And of course, American Indians are perfectly capable of making their own moral judgments. They have done so, and they don’t agree with the politically correct crowd on college campuses.

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