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Monday, October 26, 2020

N.Y. Town Votes to Keep ‘Swastika’ Name

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An unincorporated community in upstate New York will keep its name as “Swastika” after a unanimous vote by officials on Sept. 14.

The proposal to change the name stemmed from a visitor from New York City, Michael Alcamo, saw the town sign while he was riding his bicycle in the area this past summer.

“I think it should be obvious that the town should update its name and should pick a name that is not so offensive to so many Americans and so emblematic of intolerance, hate and tyranny,” Alcamo told National Public Radio (NPR).

The four members of the town of Black Brook’s board, which has jurisdiction over the hamlet, rejected a proposal to change the name. The town’s supervisor, Jon Douglass, told CNN: “We regret that individuals, for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community, become offended when they see the name. To the members of our community, that the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose.”

The town was named Swastika in 1913 after the name appeared on the hamlet’s post office at the time, according to the Associated Press (AP). Douglass told the AP that there have been numerous efforts to change the hamlet’s name and they have all failed; he pointed out that the hamlet’s World War II veterans have in the past opposed changing the name.

“There’s a long history there,” he told NPR. “For the uneducated that immediately assume it’s connected to Germans and Hitler, it’s not. Swastika means ‘to prosper.’ ”

According to CNN, the word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit word svastika, which is defined as good fortune. The Nazis appropriated the symbol in 1920; before that, the symbol commonly had been used among Hindus and Buddhists.

In 2019, a town in Colorado just outside of Denver was renamed from Swastika Acres to Old Cherry Hills. The town had been named after the Denver Land Swastika Co. in 1908.

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