One Cool Thing: Changing Names of Species and Places In the Name of Justice

Townsend’s Warbler Photo: Slodocent, Flickr

There is a growing movement to rename certain species in order to ensure racial justice and equity, John Platt writes in the Revelator. An organization called Bird Names for Birds is working to change eponyms (a person after whom a discovered species is named) and honorific common names, which can be problematic if they honor a person associated with racism or colonialism. For example, the Townsend’s Warbler was named by American naturalist John Kirk Townsend, who was motivated by racism to steal human remains from Native American gravesites. (VILE!) It’s not just animals and plants — place names need makeovers too.  Secretary of Interior nominee Representative Deb Haaland had introduced a bill to reexamine geographic places or features currently known by offensive or racist names. We have a lot of re-naming to do — there are apparently more than 1,400 of these questionably named locations in the United States alone.

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