And they say “Washington Redskins” is offensive.
From Spain comes the news that the town of Castrillo Matajudios, which literally means “Camp Kill Jews,” has voted to change its name after 400 years. This appears to be part of Spain’s recent, rather belated, I would say, efforts to acknowledge and express regret to Jews for the persecution they endured during the Spanish Inquisition.
Strange as it seem, the current name probably came into being not to denigrate Jews, but to protect Jews in the town who had officially converted to Catholicism under threat of torture and death. As such, it is a piece of history, and the words convey information about the town, the country, and the people who lived there, not a slur….except to someone who knows nothing about the town.
I’m not aware of a perfect analogy for this situation. It has some similarities to the plight of the towns of Blue Ball, Pennsylvania, named for a famous and long-gone hotel in the area, and the Amish community of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, named when a common uses of that term conveyed “fellowship.” In a parallel universe where political correctness was dictated by social conservatives rather censorious progressives, these towns might be getting coercive signed letters from Republican Senators “suggesting” that they change their names to something less offensive, even though, as with the Redskins name, history and context would be lost.
“Camp Kill Jews” certainly stretches the limits of my belief that third party offense and political correctness power games shouldn’t force institutions to abandon tradition, images and symbolism. As with the Joe Paterno statue that was taken down at Penn State, I can see a valid argument that a little offensiveness is not too much of a price to pay to avoid the airbrushing of history. How many Spaniards, not to mention Americans, know what the Jews were subjected to during the 16th century? A town named “Camp Kill Jews” helps tell the story, just as the statue of Joe Pa, had it been allowed to stand, would have reminded the University of how its values were perverted in the name of sports.
I think I would vote to change the name of the town; as I said, this is an extreme example of the dilemma. I’d change Redskins, too, unless a bunch of position-abusing U.S. Senators demanded that I do so, Then I would vow to keep the name, and tell them to stop pandering to political correctness bullies, and to mind their own business.