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Oh COME ON! Now Insect Names Are Racist?

The Entomological Society of America is working overtime to remove some of the names of certain insects because they are deeming them as “racist.” Currently, the names of one particular moth and an ant are currently on the chopping block from their master list of the Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List because one of the species includes a word that a certain group of people views as a racial slur.

The insects in question would be the “gypsy moth” and the “gypsy ant.”

They are making this effort due in part to a crackdown on the ESA on various names of insects that they think might be offensive to different people groups. They want to change these names simply because they might evoke negative ethnic or racial stereotypes.

“The purpose of common names is to make communication easier between scientists and the public audiences they serve,” ESA president Michelle S. Smith in a public statement last Wednesday.

“By and large, ESA’s list of recognized insect common names succeeds in this regard, but names that are unwelcoming to marginalized communities run directly counter to that goal,” she added. “That’s why we’re working to ensure all ESA-approved insect common names meet our standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The ESA’s Governing Board voted last June to remove the common names of the ant Aphaenogaster araneoides and the moth Lymantria dispar because the word “gypsy” is considered a racial slur against Romani people.

“It’s an ethnic slur to begin with that’s been rejected by the Romani people a long time ago,” Smith noted. “Second, nobody wants to be associated with a harmful invasive pest.”

The society is now on the lookout for names for these insect varieties that would be less offensive. They say the process is going to take some time to accomplish, probably even months. In the meantime, these individuals are recommending that people simply use the Latin names for these insects. Other offensive insect names that the society feels should be changed include the Large Faggotworm and the rape bug.

“There is no room for racism in science,” herpetologist Earyn McGee said when she signed a 2020 statement against offensive animal and insect names. The statement identified about 60 different names that had issues and needed to be changed.

“There is no amount of scientific contributions that can make unabashed racism and bigotry OK,” she added.

 



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