Pramila Jayapal: “Language and names matter in signaling that our public lands are for everyone.”

Over at Slog, Washington state Senator (and Civic Skunk Works contributor) Pramila Jayapal notes that today, finally, the National Parks Service is expected to approve a very important name change. For eight years, Washington state residents have fought to change the offensive names of Coon Lake and Coon Creek in the North Cascades National Park to Howard Lake and Howard Creek. She applauds the change to the new names, which honors the history of the land, but she acknowledges that this isn’t enough. She calls for…

…the National Park Service to use its [centennial] anniversary as an opportunity to unveil a new platform for inclusion. Data show that just 22 percent of NPS’s annual visitors are minorities, where almost 37 percent of America’s population is now minority. The NPS platform for inclusion should lay out plans to increase representation of people of color within the park service employees and to have targeted outreach to communities of color to encourage their usage of our natural treasures. Diverse representation creates a bridge to communities who might not otherwise see themselves in certain environments or feel culturally understood.

The thing about inclusion is that it can be hard work. It involves scouring institutions for unwelcoming or exclusionary policies and features. It means reaching out to communities that you may not know. But once you’ve successfully created a diverse environment, the rewards that diversity bring more than make up for the effort. Please go read the essay and think about ways you can make your world a little more inclusive.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.