Editor’s note: This Sunday’s L.A. Times is featuring an article on the “dispute over the N-word” that we’ve written about here. It is not the kind of out-of-town press we might want — but it is newsworthy to other Californians. I couldn’t help but notice that the online feature included a map of our county, as well as a reference to another article titled “Rural Kentucky church revisits ban on interracial couples.” Ouch.
“Reporting from Rough and Ready, Calif.— This onetime mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills — with its tawny autumn leaves, a place where neighbors gather over breakfast and the Fruit Jar Pickers play a gig every Sunday — is enmeshed in a dispute over the N-word.
“Not the hateful pejorative, although it started there.
“To Gail Smith, her creek’s name had gone ‘from 1860s hate to 1960s racism.’
“Emily Bernard, a professor at the University of Vermont who wrote an essay titled: “Teaching the N-Word,” said that “Negro” has — at the very least — fallen from fashion. To many people, it is offensive.
“‘It’s not the N-word, but it hearkens back to a time of segregation,’ said Bernard, who is black. ‘To say keeping it as the name of a place is to honor history is ignoring the history at the heart of this word.’
And the dirt road where they live, Smith pointed out, wasn’t named Empty Diggins for nothing.
Whenever Gold Rush prospectors hit pay dirt, black miners in the area would get pushed farther away, toward less-promising creeks.
“They had it hard,” Smith said. “I like the idea that one of the whitest counties in California could set a precedent by showing them respect.”
The rest of the article is here.