By: Alyssa Wilson
Democrats in Congress have introduced a bill to rename more than 1,000 places in the United States that feature offensive language and racial slurs in their names.
Last year, the bill was first introduced by Deb Haaland, a former Representative who now serves as the first Native American cabinet secretary in the country’s history. It was reintroduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey and Representative Al Green and featured 25 cosponsors from the House of Representatives, Business Insider reported.
“We need to immediately stop honoring the ugly legacy of racism and bigotry, and that’s why I’m introducing the Reconciliation in Place Names Act with my colleagues,” Warren said. “This is about ending egregious expressions of systemic racism and bigotry, and taking a step toward dismantling white supremacy in our economy and society. It’s about building an America that lives up to its highest ideals.”
Green agrees and said, “Derogatory terms (…) should not be included in the names of geographical places across the landscape of our nation. These terms are harmful relics from the era of invidious yet lawful discrimination that must be removed from public property.”
In 2015, 1,441 federally recognized places were identified with names that were deemed questionable, including national forests, streams, wilderness areas, bridges and monuments. Although the sites are open to everyone, the bill recognizes “their names often reflect bigoted intentions that do not represent American values.”
According to Business Insider, more than 600 places have the N-word in their name, including a body of water in Oklahoma referred to as “Dead N—– Spring”, named after a Black person was found dead there. Racial slurs against Mexicans and Native Americans are also prominent in landmarks.
The Reconciliation in Place Names Act aims to create an advisory board full of individuals with backgrounds in civil rights, tribal citizens, and opportunities for public comment. It will also require the board to make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names on geographic features to be renamed.
“I have been an outspoken proponent of reconciliation for the vestiges of our nation’s seminal sin— slavery. Racism, even in geography, cannot be tolerated in a country that strives for liberty and justice for all. We must pass and enact the Reconciliation in Place Names Act,” Green said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.