By: Roy Douglas Malonson
The late-great comedian and activist Paul Mooney said, “the Black man in America is the most copied man on this planet, bar none. Everybody wants to be a nigger, but nobody wants to be a nigger.” He’s damn right. We Black people know this all too well. And even though the Black man is the “most copied” man in the world, he is also the “most disrespected,” and it starts with one damn word.
The “politically correct” reference these days is to say “N-word,” but everyone knows they say it loud and proud as often as they can – NIGGER – a word White Supremacist racists derived from a word originally used to classify our race – NEGRO.
Negro is not an ugly word, but because of the way that racists have turned it into a negative, Black folks have been moving away from it so much that we have gotten confused with who the hell we are.
We were once Africans, then we were Negroes, then we were colored, then Black, then African Americans, and I think – since they claim our LIVES MATTER – we are now Black again.
And what about the “negro?” Well, some people want to remove the word altogether, just to remove the negative “nigger” associated with it. Can you believe, there are still plenty of public places that bear the name, starting right here in the Lone Star State.
The word “Negro” appears in dozens of places across Texas. Although the Texas Legislature passed a law three decades earlier that would rename the locations after prominent Black Americans, it was blocked by the U.S. Board for Geographic Names. The reasoning given was that there was a lack of support for renaming these places and lack of opposition for the current names.
Many of the bill’s supporters were unaware that the legislation had no effect. Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner and former state lawmaker that supported the bill in 1991, said that he did not know the name changes hadn’t been made until he was contacted by NPR last year.
Ellis began reaching out to other state agencies. Lawmakers drafted the Senate Concurrent Resolution 29, a display of the unity between Texas lawmakers to challenge the Board of Geographic names to take action.
“The perpetuation of racially offensive language is a stain on the Lone Star State, and it is vital that the names of these geographic features be changed in order to reflect and honor the diversity of the population,” Sen. Borris Miles, wrote in the resolution. “The word Negro is derivative of [the N word], which is a very offensive word to people of color,” he said.
There are at least 25 places in Texas that contain the word “Negro” in its name, not including places with the Spanish word for “Negro.”
“Negrohead,” “Negro Hollow,” and “Negro Creek” are just a few examples of places that use the derogatory term. There’s even a small community named Nigton in northeastern Trinity County.
The Nigton community was founded by freed enslaved African Americans where many stayed close to their old plantations to sharecrop or own their own farms and ranches.
The community began to thrive from agriculture and civic landscape in the 1880s. Nigton was known for its well-planned farms, cattle, produce, and high standard of living. Education was prominent in Nigton and in 1988, land was donated to form the Pine Island School which served elementary to high school students.
“Despite efforts to change these names, our processes and systems have failed,” Ellis told the U.S. geographic board during a virtual meeting on May 13. “These names have stood, even as the times have changed… We cannot take a passive approach and let the localities wait until they can find a replacement name, [it] is unacceptable. During this moment of racial reckoning in our nation,” he added, “we must take concrete action to ensure that these offensive, racist names are finally erased from the public domain.”
While we are not ashamed of the word NEGRO – we agree it is long overdue to rename the places that have the word because we all know what they really want to call us.