Cult of Outrage: Minnesota State Senator Sponsors Bill to Change “Offensive Name” of Asian Carp
There’s a problem in America, according to Minnesota state Senator John Hoffman, with Asian carp. Yes, these are the fish that have dominated American waterways, violently flinging themselves out of the water at times. If they make their way into the Great Lakes, according to National Journal, “the species could overwhelm the waterways and destroy the fishing industry.”
None of that is the problem according to Hoffman, who says that their very name is offensive to Asian people and their culture. “Caucasians brought them to America,” Hoff said to the Star-Tribune, “Should we call them ‘Caucasian carp?’” The term Asian Carp has been applied to two invasive species: the bighead and the silver carp that originated from (you guessed it) Asia.
Jean Lee, executive director of the Children’s Hope International Minnesota chapter, testified in the state Senate that she “became upset by the term as it was used during a round-table meeting she attended with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials.”
Lee said officials “were referring to Asian people in terms of being invasive species” and she took offense. While people should be sensitive to those concerns, the answer is not to change the name of these fish, who present a far bigger problem regardless of what they are called.
The National Journal essay lists the myriad species who are identified by geography, such as the Asian long-horned beetle, Russian knapweed, and the Burmese Python (whose namesake Burma is referred to internationally as Myanmar).
The problem is not that referring to flora and fauna this way (usually done by an apolitical science community) is offensive, but that people shouldn’t see it as such. I can already hear the accusations that my “privilege” is showing (and perhaps it is) but this does not mean that I am wrong.
The suggested replacement name “Invasive Carp” is bad for a number of reasons. First, it showcases the underlying scientific ignorance of the American population. The term “invasive species” does not suggest that a species of animal is “bad” but simply that it is overpopulating because of a lack of natural predators. They throw off the ecosystem of the area where they’ve either migrated or been introduced by humans.
The second reason the name change is ill-advised is because it simply isn’t specific enough and could potentially confuse the historical record. Neither “Asian carp” nor “invasive carp” are names given with any sort of judgment attached. They are simply biological classifications of animals that are meant to convey information.
Invasive carp sound like animals that are trouble, just because it is in their nature to be. Asian carp sound like a species of fish that, anywhere but Asia, aren’t part of the local eco-system.
Photo by Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee via Flickr