America’s Maps Are Full of Racial Slurs—and That Needs to Change

Meghana Ranganathan, Julia Wilcots, Rohini Shivamoggi, Diana Dumit | Scientific American
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Place names in the U.S. betray a disturbing legacy of white supremacy. EAPS Graduate students Meghana Ranganathan, Julia Wilcots, Rohini Shivamoggi, and Diana Dumit call for the removal of racist language from the more than 1,400 geographic features in the United States that still have official names containing racial slurs and racist terminology. “We cannot have a just society when racist names are officially sanctioned,” they write.

"We are geoscientists. We have dedicated our lives to studying the Earth, its natural processes and its features. Our days are spent poring over maps, trekking out to ice sheets, mountains and coral reefs, and using satellites to gain some insight into what the Earth is doing around us.

We are also women of color. This defines much of our experience in the world. In many situations, we carry burdens that many of our peers do not. But when it is just us and the Earth, we can put down some of those burdens and focus on being a scientist. We can comb through satellite data, hike to collect samples, and chart out new field sites on maps.

And then, on those maps, we find the n-word."

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Story Image: This prominent canyon near Moab Utah was originally known by a racist slur, referring to the African American rancher, William Grandstaff, who grazed cattle there in the 1800s, before ultimately being renamed Grandstaff Canyon in 2017. Credit: Shutterstock