Committee tells epithet should be kept owing to lack of consensus on whether it is offensive in latest twist in long-running debate
A panel of experts in Utah has recommended retaining the name of a popular hiking place called Negro Bill canyon after receiving conflicting rulings about whether it is offensive.
The Utah committee on geographic epithets said on Friday that a lack of consensus from minority groups led to its 8-2 vote on Thursday about a canyon in the eastern metropoli of Moab, the gateway to stunning massive red boulder formations.
The local and national branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( em> NAACP) told the commission the epithet was not offensive and preserved the history of a canyon named for black rancher and prospector William Grandstaff, whose kine grazed there in the 1870 s.
Jeanetta Williams, the local president of the NAACP, said the word negro may make some people feeling uncomfortable but there was nothing wrong with it. Other groups still use negro in their epithets, she said, citing the National Council of Negro Women.
To clean it destroys the history and the background of what it is, Williams told. Its a word we often use in history, its in titles … Its no more uncomfortable mentioning the word negro than it is saying African-American or black.
But the decision drew a strong reprimand from the states members of the Utah Martin Luther King Jr Commission, which mailed a letter proposing a epithet change to relegate such blatant racism to the annals of history.
It is inexplicable to me that today in the 21 st century that reasonably intelligent people who I know have kindness in their hearts find it acceptable to allow this name to continue to exist, told Jasen Lee, who said he was speaking for himself and not the entire commission.
The commission said in its letter that the word negro was a racially offensive descriptor and that it was time to finally stimulate the change.
To remove the racially offensive descriptor from the official title of the popular geographic feature would express to the world that Utah has progressed to a place where such egregious insensitivity is no longer tolerated or acceptable in our community, it wrote.
After the decision was issued, the commission said in a statement it was disappointed by the move.
The canyon south-east of Salt Lake City and the unique red-rock landscapes in nearby national park lure sightseers from around the world.
Its name has long been debated and a proposed change in 1999 failed after receiving no assistance from Utah counties and state and federal land management bureaux, the nation geographic epithets committee said in a statement.
Spurred by complaints concerning sightseers, the Grand county council voted in January to change the canyons name after refusing to do so in 2013 and 2015, told council member Mary McGann.
In September last year, the federal Bureau of Land Management administratively changed the signs at the Negro Bill trailhead to read instead Grandstaff Trailhead.
The the actions of the district council and the land management inspired the geographical epithets committee to take up the epithet change issue. It was difficult for the members of the commission to reach a decision because of the conflicting rulings, said member Dina Blaes.
Its genuinely not the committees job to pick wins and losers, its not our job to decide Oh, youre more credible or youre less believable, said Blaes, the CEO of the Exoro Group, a public affairs firm and also chair of the state history committee. We did not come to this decision easily.
Lee, a reporter for the Deseret News and KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, called the lack-of-consensus justification a lame apologize. He said he remembered when he was a boy in the 1970 s and people stopped calling black people negroes. You cant name something use that descriptor today, mentioned Lee, 51. Its hurtful to people like myself who are of a certain age that they know what this intends. It speaks poorly of our country, of which Im a proud resident.
The committees recommendation next goes to the US board on geographic names, which is expected to make a final decision on valleys name afterwards this year.