Bruni's avoiding Trump voters: Should the term "redskins" be regarded as an insult, a slur?
We wouldn't use the term ourselves. That said, the Washington Post recently conducted a survey of 504 Native Americans, seeking their views concerning the use of the term.
Many people found the survey's results surprising. This is the way the Post began its lengthy front-page report:
COX (5/20/16): Nine in 10 Native Americans say they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, according to a new Washington Post poll that shows how few ordinary Indians have been persuaded by a national movement to change the football team's moniker.Many people found those results surprising. The Washington Post and the New York Times have each responded in a sensible way.
The survey of 504 people across every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the exact same result...
Among the Native Americans reached over a five-month period ending in April, more than 7 in 10 said they did not feel the word "Redskin" was disrespectful to Indians. An even higher number—8 in 10—said they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name.
They've gone out to speak to more Native Americans. They're inquiring further about the way these questions are viewed.
In theory, it makes sense to talk to people if you want to know what they think about something. It seems obvious that this is the way a major news org should work.
That's why we were surprised by yesterday's column by the New York Times' Frank Bruni.
Might you have family or friends who are planning to vote for Donald J. Trump? "Don't ask them why and try not to know," the high-ranking Timesman advised:
BRUNI (5/25/16): I have many relatives who loyally vote Republican, regardless of their excitement about the particular nominee. There’s a definite chance that some of them back Trump. So I steer clear of talk about this election, though we’ve spoken plenty—and placidly—about every other election.Just this once, let's be fair. Bruni is discussing his relatives here. Presumably, many people avoid discussions of politics and elections for the sake of family comity.
One of these relatives routinely pushes back at any Trump-negative columns I write, and I’ve convinced myself that he’s just baiting me and playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never said to him, point blank, “Are you actually voting for Trump?” And I won’t. It’s my goal to get to and through Election Day without learning the truth.
That said, it's odd to see a major journalist praising the goal of "getting through Election Day without learning the truth." Bruni's paper is trying to learn what Native Americans think about some significant topics. Meanwhile, he praises the goal of avoiding knowledge about the outlooks and views of Trump voters.
As he continues, Bruni stresses the fact that this is not his normal approach. We see the outlines of a societal problem here:
BRUNI (continuing directly): There are various measures of the chilling singularity of Trump’s candidacy, including the last two Republican presidents’ announcement that they won’t be attending their party’s convention, all the prominent G.O.P. donors who have publicly rejected Trump and the stubborn drumbeat among some Republicans for a third-party challenger, if only as a means to assure Hillary Clinton’s victory. These are extraordinary developments. We mustn’t forget that.Now he's avoiding discussions with friends! Bruni has every right to adopt this approach, of course. But it's a strange approach for a journalist—or for a spirited citizen.
But another gauge of this freaky interlude is the number of us who are steadfastly avoiding conversations we’d normally have. We pride ourselves on not letting political arguments disrupt personal relationships. We have friends across the ideological spectrum. We esteem leaders from both parties. We value a healthy give-and-take.
But we can’t fit Trump into that. He’s a disagreement too far, an enthusiasm too bizarre. So we’re treading lightly and maneuvering around him. We’re Trumping on eggshells.
More and more, the liberal world is adopting simple-minded, insulting approaches to those who dare to be Other. We don't ask them what they think. Instead, we tell them they're bigots.
This is deeply unimaginative. We'll guess that it makes lousy politics.
Why do (some) Native Americans hold the views which emerged from that survey? We don't know. We'd like to hear what people have to say.
Why are people supporting Trump? "Don't ask, don't try to find out," one major scribe seems to say.
It's a strange approach from a journalist, perhaps worse from a mere human.