I’m sending this letter to express my deep disappointment with our local representatives’ actions with respect to the “Chinaman Gulch” resolution. I was shocked to see that our local representatives unanimously agreed, according to The Mountain Mail, to send “a strongly worded letter to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names against the name change.”
So, in turn, I have decided to respond with a strongly worded letter of my own.
It takes a five-second search of the internet to understand that the rest of the English-speaking world overwhelmingly considers the term “Chinaman” to be offensive and derogatory. Every modern dictionary and online language resource I was able to find, including Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia, Google Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Dictionary.com, all unequivocally state that the term Chinaman is now considered offensive.
That the three white men who serve as county commissioners here should decide otherwise, when the consensus in the rest of the English-speaking world is so convincingly to the contrary, seems woefully obtuse, at best. It is racist and offensive, at worst.
Perhaps their decision is a political calculation that the local consensus is at odds with the rest of the world – namely, that modern-day Chaffee County wants to hold onto this name, even though the outside world so clearly finds it offensive.
I think they’re wrong. I think most people who live in this county prefer not to have local landmarks with names that are also racial epithets.
It’s not about political correctness; it’s about basic human decency. The Asian-American community has resoundingly condemned the use of “Chinaman” as a descriptive term because of its derogatory historical connotations. If we, as citizens of Chaffee County, disregard that wish, then we’re being rude and disrespectful. Not just to the people in our own county but to everyone who might visit our beautiful county from around the country and around the world.
The year is 2019, not 1879. We can and should do better in the nomenclature we use to describe our local landmarks. It is entirely possible to be proud of the history of this county while evolving to embrace modern standards of decency and propriety.
In responding as they have to this issue, our local representatives have failed us in this task.
I expect better from our elected local representatives.