Posted on July 25, 2011

Offensive Environment

Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2011

In the remote meadows and forests of upstate New York, state environmental scientists have made a disturbing discovery: a road, a stream and a lake all bearing names using the most offensive racial word in the English language.

A vestige of a long-ago past, the n-word–fully spelled out–still lingers in environmental conservation laws classifying bodies of water.

“It was a shock to us. The term is very offensive,” said Scott Stoner, a research scientist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “These are not regulations that get looked at often, but somebody discovered it.”

Mr. Stoner said a regional researcher alerted the agency about the racial epithet two years ago. Officials, he said, then did a computer search and found three other examples buried in regulatory indexes and a map.

This week, the state quietly moved to correct the problem. While it can’t rename local roads and water bodies, the agency is finally scrubbing the n-word from its regulations.


The required public-comment period still stands, which means the regulations won’t officially be amended for another month and a half.


Since few people outside the agency ever noticed the slur, it never generated public outrage. {snip}