Francois Picard, Agence France-Presse, May 7, 2021
Racist and offensive Texas place names are holdovers from a dark past, but they are poised to finally change as a reckoning on how white America treats Black people washes over the United States.
Though state lawmakers sought to officially rename a series of features in 1991, that change was stymied, and decades later places like “Negrohead Lake” or “Negro Creek” still carry their derogatory monikers.
Yet the murder last year of African American George Floyd under a white police officer’s knee has brought new impetus to confronting racism, including place names or statues honoring Confederate war generals.
While Texas fought on the side of the slavery-supporting Confederacy during the nation’s civil war, today it is a state where non-Hispanic white people are in the minority.
A vote by a federal panel that is set for next month could finally officially rebaptize 16 Texas places whose names include the word “negro”, a once common description that many now see as outdated and offensive.
Under the proposal, Negrohead Lake, which is near Houston, would be rebaptized Lake Henry Doyle for the first African American law student to attend a public university in Texas.
Runyon said they have “definitely seen an increased interest in the matter”, primarily via media queries into the process of changing offensive names.
At the same time, the panel is under the Department of Interior, which is led by Deb Haaland, the first Native American to be a US cabinet secretary.
She served peviously in Congress, where she proposed a bill in September to “review and revise offensive names” of federal government properties.
Legislation aside, the panel is expected to soon look at whether “squaw”, a pejorative word for Native American women, should still be part of the name of two mountain peaks and a valley in the state of Oregon.