Earlier this week a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was melted down in order to be used for a “more inclusive art installation.” This past summer veterans and servicemembers saw many of their iconic military installation entrance signs replaced in an effort made by the Department of Defense to remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases.
By now, most Americans know that these efforts were a bait-and-switch, with non-Confederates like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson getting the same treatment.
But racism runs deep. Next up on the chopping block are our fine feathered friends: birds. The American Ornithological Society has announced that starting next year they will rename all birds in the United States and Canada that have English names.
While all birds with names associated with people will be renamed, the desire for this exercise was born out of the same as those mentioned above – a misplaced need to erase history in the name of progress. Will this decision prove beneficial for the birds, or is it an exercise in human fragility?
The Year Zero Revolution continues
Every bit of history, entertainment, and science will be purged and purified until it conforms to the new religion pic.twitter.com/r1Y2f0DpDZ
— Auron MacIntyre (@AuronMacintyre) November 1, 2023
The American Ornithological Society (AOS) announced that they will be changing the names of birds named after people in Canada and North America, to include those considered “offensive or exclusionary.”
President of the AOS Colleen Handel explained:
“Names have power and power can be for the good or it can be for the bad. We want these names to be powerful in a really good way.”
Ms. Handel goes on to say:
“We’ve come to understand that there are certain names that have offensive or derogatory connotations that cause pain to people, and that it is important to change those, to remove those as barriers to their participation in the world of birds.”
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The power isn’t in the names of the birds, it’s in the allegations by social justice activists more concerned with virtue signaling than with the animals they profess to study. Just as Fort Bragg – now Fort Liberty – didn’t cause any real injury to Army soldiers, the Wilson Warbler harms no serious bird watcher.
Crazed leftists plan to start renaming birds in an attack on history, memory, and science. https://t.co/lmbwuOrz2f
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) November 1, 2023
White people ruin everything
The movement to change the names of birds hit its stride in 2020 when black birdwatcher Christian Cooper had the cops called on him by a white woman who claimed he was engaging in threatening behavior. That same year marked the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter riots that rocked every major city from coast to coast.
A petition was created to change the monikers of birds named after former Confederates and slave owners, saying that the names were:
“…isolating and demeaning reminders of oppression, slavery and genocide.”
Jordan Rutter, who helped organize the petition, said:
“White people are credited for discovering the birds. White people are the ones to name the birds after other White people. And White people are still the folks that are perpetuating these names.”
Indeed, that is generally how the discovery of things works.
She won. She devoted years of her life to making bird names problematic, and she won. They’re renaming them.
All she had to do was wait for the world to get stupid enough. https://t.co/naaNc3nW0y
— Oilfield Rando (@Oilfield_Rando) November 1, 2023
The above argument touches on the fact that before white men started bird watching, Native Americans had been naming birds for years prior, so to name birds after white men who claim to have discovered these creatures is inaccurate and puts a misplaced sense of ownership over the birds.
What the argument misses is that if it wasn’t for these white people documenting the birds in an official capacity, the birds wouldn’t be as widely known and enjoyed today.
The bird wagon
The changing of bird names has technically already occurred. In 2021 the McCown’s Longspur was renamed to the Thick-billed Longspur.
The bird was originally named after Confederate General John McCown. AOS President Colleen Handel said of the change:
“Because of those associations with racism and slavery, it was decided that this name needed to be changed.”
The McCown Longspur isn’t associated with racism or slavery. In fact the McCown Longspur isn’t aware of slavery or racism or General McCown. It’s not General McCown who even associates racism or slavery to this bird, it’s humans today in the 2020s that are associating racism and slavery… to a bird.
This tiny little bird:
— Malcolm Pollack (@mtpollack) November 2, 2023
Ms. Handel has extolled the importance of changing the names of birds as a way to help birds themselves:
“Everyone who loves and cares about birds should be able to enjoy and study them freely – and birds need our help now more than ever.”
Birds aren’t suffering because they are named after Confederate Generals and slave owners. If anything, they are suffering because of the delicate sensibilities of those who claim to want to watch and study them.
The idea that BIRD NAMES cause people pain is such an obvious, stupid lie. But the American Ornithological Society is asking you to believe it anyway.
— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) November 1, 2023
One for the birds
Not everyone in the science community is thrilled with this announcement. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne says it’s “injurious to science” and went on to state:
“We cannot go back through the history of science and wipe out everybody who was not a perfect human being.”
And yet that is exactly what is happening in science and every other field today. Ornithologist Jeff Marks said of the changes:
“We’ll lose a little bit of knowledge about some key people in the history of ornithology, and that saddens me.”
Mr. Marks went on to say:
“But maybe in the scheme of things that’s just not that big of a deal.”
Unfortunately, it’s that kind of mentality that is allowing for what was a slow march that has now turned into a breakneck sprint to erase history at all costs. The costs are steep, to erase history to include those from our past who had sketchy backgrounds or even abhorrent ideals is to erase who we are and is an injustice to the other aspects of these individuals that we are rewarded with today.
— The Rabbit Hole (@TheRabbitHole84) March 24, 2023
Breckenridge Chair of Ornithology at the University of Minnesota Sushma Reddy said in defense of the changes:
“Birds are for everybody. Science is for everybody.”
But that statement no longer rings true, because if it was that would mean those who paved the way in the field of bird watching and science at large wouldn’t be erased, but would be celebrated. Thanks to John Audubon and other white men like him bird watching and cataloguing exists.
A society that claims names inflict pain and opts to remove history in the name of comfort is a society doomed to not just fall but repeat the mistakes of the past. The United States may very well be destined for destruction from within, but I have a feeling long after we are all gone the McCown Longspur will still be flying.
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