Irving Berlin’s Christmas song “White Christmas” is a classic – Bing Crosby’s version remains the best-selling single of all time. And yet, if the logic of a special interest group in Winnipeg is to prevail, the name of the song would have to be changed to something like “Grey Christmas.” The group demands that the name of Winnipeg’s popular “Whiteout” event be changed – the ‘white’ bit offends them. Just like the “white” in “White Christmas” – today’s Jets Whiteout has nothing to do with race or skin colour. Nonetheless the group want it changed anyway.
And, judging by how things are going in our name-changing, statue hiding and toppling times they might get their way. After all, Winnipeg’s mayor recently mused about taking down a modest plaque honoring Donald Smith, the ‘Smith’ that was responsible for the CPR, (which virtually made this country). And, McGill University is changing the name of their famous “Redmen” teams because the name offends a self-appointed grievance group, despite knowing that the name has no connection to anything Indigenous. If perfectly innocent names are to be exorcised because they offend one of a multitude of self-appointed special interest groups, should not many other statues, plaques and ‘names’ also have to be go?
What about Winnipeg Blue Bombers? I come from Mennonite stock. Mennonites are pacifists. “Bombers” sounds distinctly warlike. Why can’t I demand a change? “Winnipeg Blue Peacelovers” – would be a more sensitive name. Or the Winnipeg Jets. Those passionate about ridding carbon emissions might well seek a change of the hockey club’s name. Would the “Winnipeg Solars” be a better choice and prevent possible hurt feelings? While, so far, the “Winnipeg Goldeyes” seem to be on safe ground, given the number of possibilities for teams named after smoked fish is somewhat limited, the “Sudbury Sardines” just doesn’t cut it.
And what about ‘offending’ words that have nothing to do with team names, or celebratory events? Take “white bread”, for instance. Perhaps it could be “grey bread” instead? Should flags all be beige so as not to offend people fixated on skin colour? But even the colours “grey” or “blue” might cause a problem. Perhaps your ancestor was a “Blue” in the American Civil War and had been killed by a “Grey.” “Blue Peacelovers” might well rush to wound your sensitive feelings.
So, maybe once this name changing based on hurt feelings thing really gets going we might need government appointed committees to sort out all of the complexities. This “Hurt Feelings” committee would certainly have a job on their hands. In actual fact, the people from various racial and ethnic groups I talk to are rather embarrassed by these earnest busybody groups who are demanding that all of these names be changed, and these statues and monuments removed.
I am more inclined to look to examples of heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – that is, people who spent their lives fighting to make race and ethnic identity irrelevant – as opposed to listening to race-obsessed special interest groups involved in seeking the destruction of reputations along with plaques and statues.