The American Cultural Revolution continues apace:
The mayor and city council in Duluth, Minnesota, are considering renaming any position containing the word “chief” because they believe it is a “microaggression” for Native Americans.
Job positions within the city’s government, including chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, would be renamed under the new policy as part of the city’s efforts to be more inclusive.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said the city will vote next week to remove the word “chief” from city job titles “so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt and offensive, intentional marginalization.”
Alicia Kozlowski, Duluth’s community relations officer and a member of the Grand Portage and Fond du Lac bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, told the Star Tribune that the city is being proactive in working to remove these titles even before protesters have made the request. She said she finds the city’s use of the word “chief” to be “a racial epithet, and it turns into a microaggression.” (emphasis added)
First of all, I detest the word “microaggression,” which in reality means “I have such thin skin and a chip on my shoulder that I chose to take offense at something you said, regardless of any actual intent to offend.” And it’s telling that now cities are actively looking for things to do to look virtuous to various groups without anyone actually saying they’re offended in the first place. Nice to know Duluth is so well-run that they can devote such effort to incremental improvements towards paradise. I’m sure whatever will be spent on changing signage, stationery and such to reflect the new titles is worth some potholes not getting repaired.
As is the case with most fussing these days, this issue completely ignores history:
chief (n.) – from about 1300 A.D., “head, leader, captain; the principal or most important part of anything;” from Old French chief “leader, ruler, head” of something, “capital city” (10c., Modern French), from Vulgar Latin *capum, caput “head,” also “leader, chief person; summit; capital city” (from PIE root *kaput- “head”). Meaning “head of a clan” is from 1570s; later extended to headmen of American Indian tribes (by 1713; William Penn, 1680s, called them kings. Commander-in-chief attested from 1660s. (emphasis added)
In other words, the term “chief” was used to refer to people in positions in Europe THREE CENTURIES before any indigenous Native American officials were bestowed the title by Europeans trying to approximate their position in familiar language. The application of the term acknowledged the leadership of the tribes being encountered. But the term was not appropriated from the tribes’ own languages. Duluth (or any other city) has no business attempting to eradicate its usage.
Where does this end? In the U.S. Air Force, the top enlisted rank (E-9) is called a Chief Master Sergeant. Achieving that rank is a career pinnacle, and much of the trappings associated with it uses imagery of Native American “chiefs.” The Navy has a similar term: “Master Chief Petty Officer” (also the service’s highest enlisted rank). Such modern usage it titles should be recognized as simply acknowledging authority, but today’s Red Guards refuse to see any history, reason or nuance in their efforts to pull down all of the present in favor of the latest “Year Zero.”
History is important. Language is important. Culture and tradition are important. That’s not to say that change isn’t sometimes needed. But in the effort to pull up weeds, we need to avoid killing vital roots that sustain our way of life. Slashing and burning the past never yields much in the way of good fruit.
“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within” – Ariel Durant
Does anyone doubt we’re doing a good job of that these days?