The City Council of Duluth, Minnesota, is considering removing the word “chief” from the job titles of top administrators at the urging of the mayor, who says the term is offensive to indigenous people.
What are the details?
The StarTribune reported that during a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Emily Larson “implored City Council members to vote to approve the change next week ‘so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt and offensive, intentional marginalization.'”
Alicia Kozlowski, the city’s community relations officer and a member of the Grand Portage and Fond du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, is on board with the initiative. She told the outlet, “I think there are other titles that we have the opportunity to use to steer away from language that may put people down based off their race or culture.”
Kozlowski said the term “chief” is used as “a racial epithet, and it turns into a microaggression.”
The specific measure up for consideration before the council on Monday would change the title of the city’s chief administrative officer to “City Administrator,” and the title of the chief financial officer would become “finance director.”
Mayor Larson said the city is also looking at changing the titles of their police and fire chiefs.
Fox News reported that “Larson who was elected the city’s first female mayor in 2015, called for the city’s legal foundation to be tweaked with more ‘gender-neutral language to better reflect that the mayor is not going to be a man.”
There has been a movement for years to change the mascots of sports teams named after Native Americans for the same concerns over cultural sensitivity and several high schools have made such a switch across the country.
But professional teams such as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, and MLB’s Cleveland Indians have resisted calls to start over with their brands.
One concern about removing the word “chief” from certain professional job titles incrementally is that it could cause confusion regarding positions, as Larson noted in her press conference.
The StarTribune reported that the title of “police chief,” for instance, “is used by professional law enforcement associations and to refer to those in comparable public safety roles elsewhere, which makes finding a suitable replacement more challenging” since applicants may not be familiar with the seniority level of the new title.