Let’s start off today with a short news item from OregonLive. A Portland-area school named after the family who donated the school’s land (as well as two other schools with the family’s name) will be renamed because that name, “Lynch”, has racial connotations:
The national movement to change racially offensive names of buildings, sports teams and landmarks will soon touch a group of schools in southeast Portland. Lynch Meadows, Lynch Wood and Lynch View elementary schools will shed their “Lynch” before the upcoming school year in response to growing concern about the word’s racial connotations.
The schools, part of the Centennial School District, were named for the Lynch family, which donated land over a century ago to build the first of the schools. But Centennial Superintendent Paul Coakley says many newer families coming into the district associate the name with America’s violent racial history.
The upcoming change is a new step in a movement that, in Oregon, has focused primarily on names insensitive to Native Americans. Several geographic landmarks whose names included the term ‘squaw’, now considered a slur against Native American women, have been renamed in recent years. And in 2015, the Oregon Board of Education backed advocates in a controversial move that pushed 14 Oregon high schools to change their Native American-themed mascots.
Now that movement, most prominent on college campuses, with professional sports teams and among state geography boards, has reached the elementary school level.
The News Tribune adds this:
Centennial Superintendent Paul Coakley told reporter Janaki Chadhasays while there is no connection between the Lynch family and the often racially motivated, murderous practice associated with the word, it’s still been, “a disruption for some students.“There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name,” Coakley said.
While I agree that some mascots are ethnically insensitive and should be ditched, and that the word “squaw” is offensive, I can’t agree that a school named “Lynch” should be renamed because it could offend or disrupt some students.
If we’re going to eliminate some words because they’re homonyms or contain sounds or allusions that resemble, but have nothing to do with, ethnic slurs or terms like “lynch”, then we’ll never stop renaming stuff. Anything named “White,” for instance, could be and probably is disruptive to some.
There are limits to how much we should cater to people’s sensitivities, and this is beyond those limits. Although the word “Hebe” is a slur on Jews, and I’ve been called that, I have no objection to the word “hebephrenia,” or “hebephrenic”, a form of mental illness. And I can’t be bothered to stop using the word “niggardly”, which antedates the “n-word” by several centuries and has a completely different root.
This is a symptom of the fulminating Offense Culture, and while some complaints are justified, this one isn’t. It’s not our job to cater to the sentiments of the most easily offended, though we should always consider claims that have real merit. Sometimes you just suck it up and move on—or change your reactions.