A federal board on Thursday authorised the renaming of 16 websites in Texas whose names embrace the phrase “Negro,” a change lengthy sought by politicians and activists within the state, however one that can have an effect on solely a small fraction of the a whole bunch of racist names of cities and geographical options that stay in the US.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a committee of the Division of the Inside, signed off on the identify adjustments weeks after lawmakers in Texas unanimously handed a invoice urging the board to approve them.
The board additionally authorised substitute names, together with a creek northwest of Austin renamed for Ada Simond, a Black instructor, historian and activist who died in 1989. A hill in Burnet County was renamed in honor of Invoice Pickett, a Black cowboy and actor.
“It was a very long time coming,” stated Rodney Ellis, a Harris County commissioner, who practically 30 years in the past sponsored a Texas regulation demanding renaming. “Simply as we are saying ‘Black lives matter,’ names matter. They matter loads.”
The USA has a protracted historical past of cities and geographical options with racist names, and up to date many years are dotted with efforts to vary them. Many have been renamed, however different efforts have been met with resistance, usually by locals who take pleasure of their historical past and see no motive to vary.
See, as one instance, White Settlement, Texas.
“Folks selected to provide these offensive names to roads and rivers and creeks as a result of they needed to make an announcement, an announcement that will transcend their voice, past that era,” Mr. Ellis stated. “If it’s an announcement that’s not one thing we wish folks to emulate, we should always acknowledge that.”
There have been no opposing votes from lawmakers in Texas in Could, once they handed the invoice urging the motion.
“The perpetuation of racially offensive language is a stain on the Lone Star State, and it’s important that the names of those geographic options be modified as a way to replicate and honor the range of the inhabitants,” the textual content of the invoice included.
It was the second time Texas lawmakers had voted to vary the names. In 1991, after a regulation was handed demanding the renaming, the federal board blocked the adjustments, saying there had not been sufficient native assist, Mr. Ellis stated.
However Mr. Ellis hadn’t realized that the hassle had been blocked, he recalled lately, and had thought for years the names had been modified till a Nationwide Public Radio reporter requested about it final yr.
“I stated, ‘That’s executed, that’s over with,’” Mr. Ellis recalled telling the reporter. “He stated, ‘No, sir, it’s not.’”
There stay a number of hundred geographic websites in the US whose names embrace “Negro,” in line with a authorities database. Tons of of these — and others which were modified in previous many years — used an analogous, extra offensive racial slur till 1963, when the federal government ordered that phrase’s elimination from remaining websites.
Final yr, Secretary of the Inside Deb Haaland, then a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, launched the Reconciliation in Place Names Act, which might create a course of for the Board on Geographic Names to overview and revise offensive names of federal lands and websites.
Mr. Ellis stated that whereas the renaming of the 16 Texas websites is a step ahead, there stays extra work to be executed, together with altering different names which are racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant.
“I hope it results in altering the insurance policies at that board,” Mr. Ellis stated. “There are a variety of issues all of us need to go to Congress for. This must not be one.”