Monday, February 27, 2017

The Power of Naming

This article addresses the effects of racial commemoration on segregation. This study discusses how whiteness permeates into every seemingly colorblind facet of life. When places are named after African-American leaders, the neighborhoods around those monuments or areas tend to be more racialized. Since individuals are typically commemorated in the areas where they lived and died, those areas tend to be minority communities already. Unfortunately, these places tend to receive derogatory names and associations with violence and poverty, making them less desirable for individuals who associate these qualities with race to move to the areas. The article uses mapping technology to study places named after African-Americans and the result of unintentional segregation. Furthermore, places and things named after African-American leaders tend to be located in already majority minority places, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of segregation in neighborhoods, regardless of colorblind policy. 

These figures showcase the positive correlation between commemorating African-Americans and the percentage of African-Americans in counties. States where there is a high  African-American population, tend to have more commemorations for African-Americans as well, however, the counties tend to be highly segregated, with a correlation to the commemoration policy. 

Tretter, E. M. (2011). The power of naming: The toponymic geographies of commemorated African Americans. The Professional Geographer63(1), 34-54.


  1. This is so interesting to see. This article is very true for Houston. Seeing this idea broken down is very interesting because it shows a problem and maybe someone can come up with a solution.

  2. Honestly I don't see a solution for this problem. If, for example, a monument of a White leader was put in a predominantly African American area there would be outrage over that. So, I don't see how putting a monument of African American in a African American area is a problem. I think the true underlying problem of segregation in neighborhoods is due to the redlining in the 60's and 70's. While redlining was a terrible thing, it for the most part does not happen anymore. Today's "segregation" comes from old redlined neighborhoods, obviously if you look at older neighborhoods they will still tend to be oriented to the race that lived there during the times of redlining. If you look at newer areas, like where I'm from (Houston), they tend to be more integrated.

  3. I think this map is so interesting in understanding the way people tend to (willingly or unwillingly) group together. Similarly, I would be curious to see a statistical analysis of people who could afford to move out of low-income, typically minority areas, but choose not to for the security of likeness. (sidebar: I don't imagine that number is high, but I think that would also be relevant to the discussion.)

  4. Very interesting! I am curious if monuments and street names of minority people were erected in higher income, white neighborhoods, if the effects would carry over.