If you know Chicago, you know the iconic Lake Shore Drive that snakes along the shores of Lake Michigan through the heart of downtown. So, if you were a city council member who wanted to bestow recognition on someone, renaming that particular road would be among the highest honors you could bestow.

And the City Council proposed doing just that: renaming Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point DuSable to acknowledge the Haitian settler who opened a trading post in the city and is considered to be the first permanent, non-indigenous resident. So far, so good.

But in what is being reported as “a compromise”, council members voted to rename the road Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive instead. To me, that isn’t a compromise, it is a cop-out. By leaving Lake Shore Drive as part of the name, it almost guarantees that that reference will remain the common vernacular. Including the entire name of the honored settler (vs. making it DuSable Drive) also complicates the ease of use, even for those enthusiastic about the change.

As your organization grapples with how to recognize its history, work hard to achieve a worthy end. Not everything needs to be all-or-nothing, but compromise recognition rings hollow to me. Better to have followed the mayor’s suggestion to rename the Riverwalk, name a park in his honor, or provide some acknowledgement that may actually serve to raise awareness about DuSable and his legacy than to settle on an unwieldy name that will be overshadowed by its attachment to the current designation.

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