‘Asian carp’ face rebranding over ‘horrible connotation’ some see as racist, xenophobic

The campaign to control language and alter history that makes folks uncomfortable appears to have a new ally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Back in April, the agency quietly changed the “Asian carp” name to “invasive carp,” the Associated Press reported. This being the name of four imported fish species that have disrupted the ecology in many American waterways and have proven to be detrimental to native fish.

The four species, bighead, silver, grass and black carp were imported from China about 50 years ago to rid Southern sewage and aquaculture ponds of algae, weeds and parasites, according to the AP. They escaped into the wild and have migrated up the Mississippi River and other major waterways. Silvers often hurtle from the water like missiles.

The call to change the name came amid reports of a surge of anti-Asian hate crimes — media interest here has since waned likely because most newsworthy attacks have generally involved black suspects.

“We wanted to move away from any terms that cast Asian culture and people in a negative light,” said Charlie Wooley, director of the FWS Great Lakes regional office.

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., commented on the species in a tweet last year when President Trump was in office:

Considered an invasive population, Wooley explained that the name had “horrible connotations” from a xenophobic standpoint.

“This could be referring to Asian people as being an invasive species, which is just a horrible connotation,” he said.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which represents agencies in the U.S. and Canada that are trying to contain the carp, looks to follow suit next month, the AP reported.

With the fish turning up more and more in commercial nets and impacting sport fishing, there’s a hope that a new name will make it more palatable for consumers — the fish is currently used primarily for bait, pet food, and a few other uses.

“We hope it will be new and refreshing and better represent these fish for consumers,” said Kevin Irons, assistant fisheries chief with the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, of a new name.

The Entomological Society of America just dropped “gypsy moth” and “gypsy ant” from its list of insects, because “gypsy” is now considered an ethnic slur.

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

The Society has yet to come up with a new name for the moths, but the eventual choice will surely prove to be interesting.

Here’s a sampling of reactions to the story from Twitter:


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