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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

What's In a Name?

There were many interesting local elections around the country last Tuesday, and it’s been fascinating to watch the results. They frequently provided a surprising view into the real issues at the heart of America. Among these was the (re)naming of a small town in Texas: White Settlement.

Obviously, some town names incorporating the word “white” were the result of the founders. White is a legitimate surname, after all. But White Settlement was not named after its founder. It was named for the “race” of its original settlers, who were… well… white.

From Houston’s abcnews.com:

The city got its name because it was the lone village of white pioneers amid several American Indian encampments in the Fort Worth area in the Texas Republic territory in the 1840s.
This is a sad story, actually. It seems that the town is in an economic decline, and city officials are concerned that investors or potential residents are being “put off” by the name itself, with its presumed racial baggage. Perhaps (they hoped) over-writing the name would change perceptions.

Yet it appears the town is not some exclusive “white” enclave, filled with white supremacists. The NY Times article says:

The town's population is now about 85 percent white, according to the most recent census figures.
Do the demographics of a town 160+ years ago make it racist today? No. The name is an artifact of the historical demographics of the area – a direct result of Texas and American history, warts and all.

"But today our name keeps us from having a meaningful discussion with potential partners," said Mr. Jackson, a Choctaw Indian who grew up in Oklahoma before moving here in 1972. "It doesn't mean there's any racial strife here, but something like West Settlement would go down a lot easier."
Why is this? Everything is not “black and white”. Why do we, as Americans, insist on seeing everything this way? Maybe we need a mass counseling session.

Is the town’s decline really a result of its name? Maybe – but if it is, then a more accurate way to think of the problem is “death by political correctness”.

It’s said that in war, the winner gets to write the history. When is America going to stop fighting this war, in which we are all losers?