Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pejorative Place Names

I fished below the surface for a worthy motive in the current flap about a former pejorative name of the Texas hunting lease of Governor Rick Perry. I didn't discover a worthy motive, but I discovered that the flap is eclipsing a deeper, broader issue about the use of the "n-word".

The disfavored word "Negro" and often its hated n-word variant, are part of place names across the United States - not only in Texas.

A few searches of the U.S. Geological Survey database brought me this sample of states with place names that include the word Negro and/or the n-word":

California, 61 places
Texas, 42 places
New York, 25 places
Illinois, 15 places
Georgia, 11 places
Maryland, 8 places
Massachusetts, 2 places

It seems possible, therefore, that the owners of the land which Governor Perry leased for hunting, may have been calling the place by its traditional name, and not coining a racial epithet. After all, nearby in Shackleford County is a place called "Negro Creek."

All Americans - not only Governor Perry and other political leaders - need to insist on changing pejorative place names, to names that add something good to our land. Many people - black, white, Hispanic, and others - have given their lives for this land, and there is no shortage of good names to display on our maps.

P.S.: When I submitted the above as a comment to an article on the Dallas Morning News website, I got an error message that read: "We will not add your comment until you remove the following words: negro."

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