Fear of Being Thought ‘Racist’ Actually Matters to Swedish, Who Changed Names of Some Bird Species

Bird, racist
This may just look like a Black bird to some, but others were offended when it was named “Negro” and even “Kaffer”


*OK, you may have never thought anything having to do with birds would in any way contribute to claims of racism, but once again you’d be wrong. And Swedes are so not wanting this to be the case, and was so shocked by the number of claims of racism they received following the recent publishing of their global list of names given to birds that they formally changed names that were considered racially insensitive to certain groups.

For example, the name “gypsy bird,” was given to one species; while another, a black bird, was named “negro.” Now in all fairness, Black in the Spanish language was always “Negro” but when another bird species went so far as to carry the name “kaffer,” a term used by whites against blacks in apartheid South Africa…

Well, apparently, ‘dem’s’ fightin’ words…

These were among other offensive bird names such as “Hottentot” — apparently inspired by the name of the language of an indigenous southwest African tribe called Khoikhoi, and considered a derogatory term for that tribe.

The potential for ‘racist claims’ after the country’s centuries-old love for bird-watching may have remained undetected had it not been for the recent publishing of Sweden’s Ornithological Society first-ever global list of all 10,709 Swedish bird names two weeks ago, where the organization also announced some awkward name changes.


Apparently, more people than the organization suspected, had the time to go through the extensive list and spot the offensive names.

 “We had expected a few responses, but certainly not the flood of comments that followed the publication,” Anders Wirdheim, Communications Officer at the Swedish Ornithological Society said.

In the process of categorizing the names, staffers had raised concerns over some that had a potentially offensive nature. As a result, several of them have now been changed: “negro” bird, for instance, will now be called “black” bird. “When working on the list, it became obvious that some older names no longer were appropriate,” Wirdheim told The Washington Post.

Wirdheim hopes that the bird names won’t be used to draw broader conclusions about the Swedish society and states, “Out of thousands of names, there were only 10 which could be understood as condescending or even racist.” Nevertheless, Sweden’s Ornithological Society was surprised by how serious some have taken the racism allegations.

“Here in Sweden, an overwhelming majority is for the changes we have implemented. However, the news has reached far beyond our borders and most outraged reactions have come from abroad,” he concluded.

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