The General Assembly recently gave final approval to legislation that would lay out a method to eliminate geographic place names considered a racial slur, or offensive. I have no problem with the racial slur part. A hundred-or-so years ago, Wilmingtonians used to refer to what is now U-S 421 North out of town as “‘N’-wordhead Road.” It referred to a slaughter of black people by white people in an insurrection near the end of the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. That was not only a racial slur, but was used as a tacit threat to black people not to get “uppity” (which description, itself, became a racial slur, although the dictionary doesn’t agree.)
But, in using the generality “offensive,” the lawmakers have opened up a can of worms. And, to make matters worse, they intend to use Federal guidelines to set up the criteria as to what is “offensive.” Some people tend to take offense at a whole list of things, actions, and words. Others, of course, are hardly offended by anything.
So, how can the Legislature determine what is “offensive,” and what is not? In reality, they can’t. And, if they declare a place name to be “offensive,” might that not offend someone? It will be offense-by-committee. They will probably wind up using some basis in religion in determining what is offensive and what is lame—a clear conjoining of church and state. And I find that not only offensive but unconstitutional.