Duluth Mayor: The Word “Chief” Is Racist, Should Be Removed

The word "chief" may soon be removed from Duluth because the mayor thinks it's racist.

Emily Larson, elected 2016, is Duluth's first female mayor.
Emily Larson, elected 2016, is Duluth's first female mayor.

The word chief is “a racial epithet” and “a microaggression” and should be removed from the public lexicon according to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

Larson leaned on the Duluth Council to rename city positions that involve the word “chief” via a change to the city’s charter, earlier this week. The names of the fire chief, police chief, chief financial officer and more should be rebranded “so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt and offensive, intentional marginalization,” Larson says.

The specific item which will be voted on by the City Council on Monday will only seek to change the titles “chief administrative officer” to “city administrator,” and the “chief financial officer” to “finance director,” per the Star Tribune.

However, Larson seems to also have broader social justice agenda that also includes plans for future moves to increase the use of “gender-neutral language” in her city, per the Tribune.

Opponents the mayor’s ideas about names say that removing the designation “chief” from heads of various governmental divisions could complicate communication between Duluth and the rest of the world. Finding a universally recognizable alternate term for “police chief” is a specifically challenging task.

In addition to speaking out at an official press conference, the mayor of Minnesota’s third largest metro area has also advocated the name changes on social media.

“In #Duluth we see & understand that language matters. We’re changing our charter. Because leadership requires us to be about who we are now and who we are capable of becoming,” she wrote on Twitter. This statement apparently assumes that the city council will vote to affirm her wishes comes next week.

Larson also mocked a California man who voiced his displeasure with her new agenda.

Regulation of language isn’t the only way Duluth seeks to become a more progressive city.

Last August, the city adopted a new flag that came with a statement. Now Duluth has partnered with the NAACP to rewrite the statement so that it more explicitly includes black people. On Monday, the City Council will vote to change the flag statement to embrace “the word Umoja, an African principle meaning unity of family, community, nation and our unique ancestries,” per city officials reports the Tribune.