Berlin drops derogatory name for metro station after protests

BERLIN (Reuters) – Berlin’s public transport company BVG said it would rename a city centre metro station that has become notorious for bearing a name based on a derogatory word for Black people.

The announcement comes amid a worldwide reckoning with buried legacies of racism and colonial crimes underpinning many western societies that was sparked by the death in the United States of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a police officer.

Berlin’s BVG said that the “Mohrenstrasse” metro station – literally Moor Street, using the medieval term for people from North Africa, would be renamed after another nearby street, the Glinkastrasse, named after 19th century Russian composer Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka.

The station, a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate at the very centre of Berlin, has born a string of names since it was opened in 1908. It acquired its present name in 1991.

Though the word “mohr” is no longer used in modern German, its history – linguists say it had acquired a derogatory flavour by the 18th century – have caused complaints over its use in some street names.

Last month, unidentified activists taped over the station’s entrance, temporarily naming it “George Floyd Street”.

“Out of respect for the sometimes controversial debate about the street name, BVG has decided not to use it to name the metro station any longer,” it said. “BVG rejects all forms of racism and discrimination.”

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