Slate published an enlightening piece on Wednesday in which journalist and author David Skinner revealed the true origin of the term “redskin,” which many liberal journalists have been crusading for NFL owner Dan Snyder to disavow.
According to Skinner, the word originated with Native Americans as a self-descriptive term. He explained:
The English term, in fact, derived from Native American phrases involving the color red in combination with terms for flesh, skin, and man. These phrases were part of a racial vocabulary that Indians often used to designate themselves in opposition to others whom they (like the Europeans) called black, white, and so on.
You don’t have to take Skinner’s word for it. His article was based on the research of Ives Goddard, a Native American language scholar at the Smithsonian Institution who published a study of the origin of the word “redskin” in 2005.
Skinner went on to mention a couple of times in the early 1800s when Indian chiefs used the term “red skins” to refer to their fellow Natives. He said the term soon became commonplace:
In the coming years, redskin became a key element of the English-language rhetoric used by Indians and Americans alike to speak about each other and to each other.
Will MSNBC invite Skinner on one of their programs to counter the network’s war against the Washington Redskins’ name? I doubt it, but they should if they are interested in providing a historical perspective rather than simply serving as a platform for critics of the team.