Yesterday, the US Patent Office canceled the trademark of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name disparages American Indians. Obviously, this is a case of political correctness run amok. The Redskins name celebrates first Americans in much the same way that the n-word only refers to certain African-Americans, which is to say according to white people. Consider the response of noted white person Rep. Steve King (R–IA):
Props to Fletch-Dogg for the tip. In related news, the offices of the Department of Hyperbole will be closed this weekend while a tightly coordinated squadron of illegal immigrants invades and sterilizes them.
Steve King is in the business of exaggerating the news for voters who don’t follow it, but he’s outdone himself here. First, the President probably did not personally rule on this case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Second, the Redskins logo is not “canceled.” The team can keep selling merchandise bearing the Redskins name to UVA sorority girls. It just no longer enjoys trademark protection, so anyone else foolish enough to think the term “Redskins” is good for their brand can use it, too. They can also sell cheap knockoff merchandise, which is a limited strategy because Redskins fans are rich.
Where were we on our list of absurd things about King’s tweet? Right—third, allowing the Patent Office to revoke the Redskins’ trademark may not put the Obama presidency on exactly the same level as the dictatorship of Kim Jong Un.
It’s hard to find a direct comparison here, because every pro sports team in North Korea is named the Kims. But if the Pyongyang Glorious Kims adopted a mascot that was offensive to one of the nation’s ethnic groups—I guess we choose “Koreans,” here, by default—it would probably not be an act of dictatorship for Kim Jong Un to ask them to change.
Here we encounter a fundamental problem in King’s attempt to present this news story as an instance of Obama’s dictatorial oppression. Over in North Korea, where I think we can agree shit is pretty thoroughly dictated, the majority ethnic identity is also a central theme in government rhetoric. North Korean propaganda insists that Koreans are “the cleanest race,” and minjok—the idea of a Korean race-nation—looms large in both North and South. Probably, neither country would demand that a sports team change its name to stop offending a minority group.
In fact, when you flip through history’s tyrants, very few of them exercised their power on behalf of ethnic minorities. Hitler, to whom King has also compared Obama, had a notoriously poor track record. Stalin attempted to “dissolve” national minorities through deportations and strategic starvation. You could argue that white South Africans constituted a dictatorship that advanced the position of a minority group, but it would be kind of perverse. As a general rule, tyrants don’t abuse their power by catering to oppressed minorities among their subjects.
What they do get up to, though, is telling majority ethnic groups they are under attack. In this area, Rep. King is an old hand—not nearly a dictator, but probably a demagogue. Last summer, for example, he opined that “For [every immigrant] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” He claimed that such people are “undermining our culture and civilization.”
When King says “our culture,” he means white people. But when he talks about the people undermining “our culture,” he generally makes sure to refer to immigrants. He’s a nationalist, not a racialist—or at least he carefully presents himself as such. With this Redskins thing, though, Rep. King screwed up.
The thing about American Indians is that they are in no way immigrants. I suppose you could chant “land bridge” when the Redskins came out of the tunnel, but Indians are still the first Americans. Compared to them, Rep. King is on the expansion team.
His instinct to side with the Redskins may be a product of his kneejerk opposition to Obama, but it can also be read as an expression of his true colors: white. King claims to hate immigrants because they immigrate, but the common feature of his positions on that issue and on the Redskins is that he is pro-caucasian. We also should not forget his penchant for Just Sayin’ Stuff, of course. But if you’re going to try to guess Steve King’s position on anything even tangentially related to ethnicity, always bet on white.