In San Francisco, they’re chiefly concerned about language.
Therefore, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Unified School District will stop using the word “chief” in job descriptions.
The reason: respect for American Indians.
In an administrative decision released on Wednesday, the school district decided to retire the term among its 10,000 employees, said spokesperson Gentle Blythe.
What if high-ranking officers complain about having their superior-sounding titles stripped? Gentle tried to gently bat that down:
“By changing how we refer to our division heads, we are in no way diminishing the indispensable contributions of our district central service leaders.”
It’s a curious move, as “chief” originated in 14th-century France.
c. 1300, “head, leader, captain; the principal or most important part of anything;” from Old French chief “leader, ruler, head” of something, “capital city” (10c., Modern French chef), from Vulgar Latin *capum, from Latin caput “head,” also “leader, chief person; summit; capital city” (from PIE root *kaput- “head”). Meaning “head of a clan” is from 1570s; later extended to headmen of Native American tribes (by 1713; William Penn, 1680s, called them kings). Commander-in-chief is attested from 1660s.
So English speakers employed an old French word to refer to heads of things. In an unrelated story, it was noticed that tribes had heads. Fast-forward to modern times, when those in power decide that the word primarily describes tribal principals; and, therefore, it must be cast out.
And somehow, nixing a non-negative allusion to someone constitutes consideration — not erasure.
The best I can tell, our cultural commanders are quick to think on behalf of all but the palest Americans. For instance, they tell minorities what they love or hate to be called. They’re currently doing so with the promotion of “Latinx,” a term used by only three percent of actual Hispanics as of 2020. They’ve done the same with “Native Americans,” a title pushed despite its erroneous use of “native” (similar to the error of “‘Indigenous’ People”).
Reportedly, tribe members identify largely according to their clans. But as for any notion that the Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa and the like recoil at “American Indian,” consider the following organizations:
- American Indian Business Leaders
- American Indian Science & Engineering Society
- American Indian College Fund
- American Indian Graduate Center
- IDRS, Inc. – Indian Dispute Resolution Services
- National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
- National Indian Justice Center (NIJC)
- National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC)
- National Center for American Indian Economic Development (NCAIED)
Another message to tribes from the Powers That Be: “We’re going to remove references to you that confer authority, bravery, strength, or power.”
There’s a lot of non-erasure goin’ ’round:
And now San Francisco announces that American Indians are personally harmed by its bigwigs being championed as “chiefs.”
To be clear, Gentle said concerns had been expressed among tribal residents:
“While there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team agreed that, given that Native American members of our community have expressed concerns over the use of the title, we are no longer going to use it.”
Who, and how many, felt maligned? We’ll certainly never know.
Regardless, as for the district’s 13 officials who lost their labels, surely the new descriptions will be absolutely acceptable. And anyway, we may be moving away from such apple-pie-sounding designations as “chief”…