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Will discuss 'negro' names

Origins: Negerpynten at Edgeøya got its name specifically because of its black color. FOTO: Anders Skoglund/Norsk Polarinstitutt

Will discuss 'negro' names

The Norwegian Polar Institute's names committee is planning to review the names of three Svalbard locations with names some might consider racist.

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07.08.2015 kl 09:58

Two weeks ago, Svalbardposten wrote about a section of southern Edgeøya where three places have names that are rather…special. The question raised was whether Negro Mountain, Negro Vale and Negro Point might be considered by some to be racist.

Similar water cooler debates have emerged in Norway in recent years about numerous words and locations that by modern standards may be seen discriminatory or racist.

"We have not received any complaints about the names after the article was published," said Oddveig Øien Ørvoll, head Norwegian Polar Institute's names committee. "There have been some questions from other media, but we have not received any inquiries from anyone wishing the names changed."


Discussion
She said the issue will likely be taken up for discussion by committee when it meets sometime between September and December.

"It is quite likely that we will be discussing the matter in the next meeting of the names committee," Ørvoll said. "But I'm unsure if we will take up formally considering changing the names. That has not been decided."

"If we receive one or more proposals for change," she added. "Then it will, of course, have to be reconsidered."

International headlines
The situation has also received a surprising amount of attention outside the country. One of the largest newspapers in the United States, The Washington Post, published an article on its website during the past week. BBC Radio also broadcast a segment about Negerfjellet on the radio program "Newsday".

"I'm surprised it got as much media attention as it did," Ørvoll said. "I see the issue relating to these names, but had not thought it would arouse so much attention abroad."

"I think that there are probably similar names elsewhere which may also be discriminatory, so I do not think this is the only case."

Social media
The issue has also been debated on social media, including Svalbardposten's Facebook page. A clear majority there assert the names should not be perceived as racist.

"I've seen a little from the debate, and the replies that have come there show that this is not important as an issue in relation to discrimination," Ørvoll said. "Most seem to think that there are more important things to deal with."

Se bildet større

Oddveig Øien Ørvoll is the leader of the names committee at the Norwegian Polar Institute. FOTO: Jan Roald/Norsk Polarinstitutt

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