It is difficult to think of a name that white people would react to with the same distaste many African-Americans feel for Jim Crow: Osama Bin Laden? Adolf Hitler? Vladimir Lenin? Even some lesser villains like Joe McCarthy and Benedict Arnold are still controversial. How would we feel about having anything around with one of these names attached to it?
For most of the nation and especially in the states of the old Confederacy, Jim Crow is code for a set of racist attitudes and formal laws that were designed to enforce a regressive racial caste system. It encompasses obnoxious stereotypes and American apartheid — the whole hateful pattern of separate and unequal facilities for whites and non-whites that finally began to be dismantled in the 1960s.
A Washington state senator has initiated a campaign to strip Jim Crow and other racially derisive names from geographical features in the state, including three instances of Jim Crow in Wahkiakum County.
Local leaders appear to have no intention of joining the renaming campaign, and are dismissive of concerns. It is cringe-inducing to hear any contemporary elected official refer to African-Americans as “colored.”
The time has passed for this naming issue to be a local option. Residents are free to think of Jim Crow Creek/Point/Hill however they wish. But as far as official maps and nautical charts are concerned, change is overdue. The simplest solution would be to just strip off “Jim.”
This isn’t “political correctness.” It’s simple good manners and good sense.