The mayor of Duluth was recently quoted by local and national news outlets saying that she wanted to eliminate “chief” from job titles like chief of police, fire chief, chief financial officer, etc. She said she wanted to do so because “chief” might be — not is — offensive to Native Americans and a racial epithet (“Council tables title change,” June 23).
The mayor should have first resorted to a dictionary. The word “chief” entered the Middle English lexicon around 1250-1300 C.E., from the Old French word “chef,” which was a vulgarization of the Latin word “caput,” for head. The word “chief” was in widespread usage before any European even knew of the New World. So to eliminate this word from a title because it is potentially offensive to a Native Americans would be absurd.
The Ojibwe-English dictionary online gives several words for "chief." The mayor might have a point if a city employee's title were "Fire Niigaanizim" or "Ogimaa Financial Officer." Since those are not the titles being used, her attempt to change time-honored, inoffensive titles was inane. It was political correctness run askew.
Perhaps the mayor should be more concerned about preventing macro-aggressions like crimes, pollution, or something else that actually harms the residents of Duluth.
The writer is a former resident of Minnesota.