We apologize for having missed this when it was originally published in the Washington Post on June 3, but now that we’ve been made aware of its existence, we’d like to share it with all of you.
Because the country — nay, the world — needs to know about the highly problematic nature of … bird names:
They’re just bird names. But it’s not well known that those honored with them, heroes of conservation, were enslavers, grave robbers, murderers. Read about the racist legacy of #ornithology and a movement to change the names. https://t.co/LKlO6GOPvX w/ @leohdear @olivierclaurent
— Darryl Fears (@bydarrylfears) June 4, 2021
“The racist legacy of ornithology.” The study of birds is racist now.
But overcoming those barriers will be daunting. As with the wider field of conservation, racism and colonialism are in ornithology’s DNA, indelibly linked to its origin story. The challenge of how to move forward is roiling White ornithologists as they debate whether to change as many as 150 eponyms, names of birds that honor people with connections to slavery and supremacy.
“Conservation has been driven by white patriarchy,” said J. Drew Lanham, a Black ornithologist and professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, “this whole idea of calling something a wilderness after you move people off it or exterminate them and that you get to take ownership.”
“[Honorific bird names] are a reminder that this field that I work in was primarily developed and shaped by people not like me, who probably would have viewed me as lesser,” said [ornithologist Olivia Wang], an Asian American graduate student at the University of Hawaii. “They are also a reminder of how Western ornithology, and natural exploration in general, was often tied to a colonialist mind-set of conquering and exploiting and claiming ownership of things rather than learning from the humans who were already part of the ecosystem and had been living alongside these birds for lifetimes.”
The piece even manages to invoke the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, which have literally nothing to do with ornithology. Black Birding Week happened to take place during the George Floyd protests, and Ahmaud Arbery was killed across the water from where a black ornithologist is observing birds.
The author of the piece seems really, really desperate to inextricably link ornithology with racism, which seems really, really, well, desperate.
This has to be satire.
— independent seeking truth not lies (@medianotshamed) June 5, 2021
This is an embarrassment. I’m not sure how u can even look urself in the mirror and claim to be a journalist. Taking the race battle that is being waged in the media and injecting birds is both comical and ridiculous. Grow up and start acting like a man for Christ’s sake.
— StopCallingMeABotCuzUDontLikeMyPoints (@jojo37650305) June 5, 2021
I read the entire piece. This is just too much PC. I’m over it. This #BlackBirdersWeek is over the top. I’m done with renaming rice, cancelling books, attacking football teams and now renaming birds. My ancestry includes Iroquois and Africans from slave rolls. Time to get a grip!
— BigDog9010 (@22aspen36) June 5, 2021
As Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon points out, the fact that the Washington Post even published this article might actually be a pretty good indicator that things aren’t as problematic as some would like others to believe:
If you want evidence of just how far we’ve come in terms of putting racism behind us, just look at how far we have to reach to find it now. pic.twitter.com/rNg1Cblknh
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) June 14, 2021