Since the request was put forward, many have questioned why the word Negro is such a big deal, since the NAACP uses it as a descriptor, since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. himself used that term.
There are those who have been annoyed by what they consider a censorship of history, claiming that there is no negative charge around the word, and that it should remain as a part of our story of place and culture.
Proponents to keep the name also argue that Negro Bill is what William Grandstaff called himself. This bit has been proven false, but it wouldn’t matter to me, even if it were what he called himself in the age of routine racism.
It doesn’t matter that Negro is a culturally accepted improvement on the word “nigger.” The slur, the damage, isn’t in the word itself. It is in the application.
If the argument that naming a place after a person’s color were valid, that the name Negro Bill Canyon is no big deal, then how does it feel, for instance, to rename the local neighborhood known as Steenville as ‘Whitey Charlie’s Acres”?
The big deal is that we can do a lot of good with very little effort. It’s a big deal because we can impart dignity. If we intend to associate William Grandstaff with the canyon, to name it after him, then the effort, the canyon, our culture and the man himself all deserve the full measure of respect by using his full name, not his color as if it were his name.
We signal and encourage growth as a community, as a world-class destination and can preserve the truth of our history in all its colors by telling his/our story as fully as can be on a historical plaque.