CHICAGO (CBS) — Term of endearment or offensive label?
The letters on an Illinois Chicago Blackhawks license plate are INJN.
It caught the eye of a CBS 2 photojournalist because it looks to be a notable racial slur for Native Americans.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s office didn’t agree at first. But as CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, that’s changed.
On a busy Chicago street, CBS 2 photojournalist Allen Maniscalco saw it last week.
“I didn’t believe it at first, so I started following it,” said Maniscalco.
Janie Pochel spotted it two years ago.
“I definitely considered it offensive,” Pochel said.
An abbreviation for “injun” on a Blackhawks license plate issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
It is a term many Native Americans, like Pochel of the Chi-Nations Youth Council, call a slur, a sliver of broken English.
“And that’s something we see a lot of times when it comes to stereotypes, is that Native Americans don’t speak proper English.”
It hearkens back to a time when white actors played Native Americans in movies, when Native Americans were targets of ridicule.
In a 1945 cartoon the buffoonish “Injun Joe” falls off a cliff, and the land is transformed into something better.
A spokesperson for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White conceded Tuesday the license plate is offensive, that somehow it slipped through screeners in the office who have otherwise rejected requests for thousands of offensive license plates.
When asked if complaints over the license plate are a version of political correctness gone to far, Pochel said no.
“I think a lot of people my age and probably people older do not see this as a term of endearment.”
Late Tuesday, White himself decided to get involved. His office told CBS 2 White is pulling the license plate and will offer the driver a Blackhawks-related vanity plate that is not offensive.
The Chicago Blackhawks released a statement which states, in part:
“The Chicago Blackhawks do not condone the appearance of derogatory language on the state license plates.” and “we support their efforts to make sure their license plates avoid such language. It is our understanding that the Secretary of State has reviewed this particular case and taken the appropriate action.”