Woke science! Dozens of animals and plants to be renamed in ‘racial stereotype’ review

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The long list up for review includes the Scott’s oriole, which is named after Winfield Scott, a US military commander who drove native Americans from their land in the 19th century. The journey killed over 4,000 Cherokee and is said to have displaced as many as 100,000 people in the end. Advocates for change see some names as barriers to inclusion and distractions from the organisms themselves.

Now they want a full review.

Jessica Ware, president-elect of the Entomological Society of America, or ESA, said: “We can choose language that reflects our shared values.”

In July, the ESA removed the term “gypsy,” that many consider to be a slur for Romani people, from its common name list for two insects, the moth Lymantria dispar and the ant Aphaenogaster araneoides.

It has invited the public to come up with new names.

Margareta Matache, a scholar at Harvard University, said: “This is a moral, necessary and long-overdue change.”

She added that it’s a “small yet historic” step to rectify portrayals where “Roma have been denied humanity or depicted as less than human”.

So far over 80 “insensitive names” have been noted by the Better Common Names Project.

Ms Ware says the goal is to have “everybody included” in the new naming system and remove offensive names from the list.

Species have a given scientific name, stylised in Latin, but from the early 20th century scientists started giving plants, insects and animals a common name.

This was done to make it easier for the public.

But ESA says that “not all common names accepted over the past 120 years align with the goal of better communication”.

Some of the names given to species have already been changed, like the jewfish, renamed to the Goliath grouper in 2001 after a petition citing its offensiveness.

ESA says their library includes names that contain derogative terms, names for invasive species with inappropriate geographic references and names that “inappropriately disregard what the insect might be called by native communities”.

A spokesman said: “These problematic names perpetuate harm against people of various ethnicities and races.”

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For example, a number of scorpion, fish, birds and flowers have the label Hottentot, which is a term of abuse for the Khoikhoi people of southern Africa.

Bird names are said to be among the most problematic, with a campaign called ‘Bird Names for Birds’ launching in 2020 to switch to more descriptive common names.

The fight for change is said to have been spurred on following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests.

The American Ornithological Society is now considering someone’s role in ‘reprehensible events’ a valid reason to revise the name of a bird.

Mike Webster, Cornell University ornithologist and president of the society said they were “committed to changing these harmful and exclusionary names”.

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