Leaders of Duluth, Minn., are pushing to remove the word “chief” from city job titles, saying the term could be offensive to Native Americans.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson told City Council members on Wednesday to approve the change in a vote next week “so that we have more inclusive leadership and less language that is rooted in hurt and offensive, intentional marginalization.”
Duluth community relations officer Alicia Kozlowski, a member of the Lake Superior Chippewa, supported the move.
“I think that 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 told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Kozlowski said the word “chief” is “a racial epithet, and it turns into a microaggression.”
If approved, the city would change the offices of Chief Administrative Officer to “city administrator” and Chief Financial Officer to “finance director.”
Larson said the city is also considering renaming the offices of Police and Fire Chiefs. The mayor is attempting to redraft the city charter to include language that is “more inclusive, more reflective, more accurate and more modern.”
At the same time, Duluth has seen protests for racial equality following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during arrest by Minneapolis police officers. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said that civil unrest on the night of May 31 was like nothing he had seen in 28 years with the department. While protests since have been relatively calm, May 31 marked the first time in years that Duluth police used tear gas to disperse crowds.