A rose by any other name
Mike Madison picks up on efforts to rename East Liberty--now that the city is trying to transform it into a yuppie enclave--"Eastside", after the development company that is working to revitalize the area. I've discussed such silliness recently, as has Sam over at AntiRust. Mike asks the right questions:
Does East Liberty need a "reverse" branding initiative so that it remains, proudly, "East Liberty"? Or does the apparent naming confusion follow from a deliberate effort to distance the current neighborhood from what some might think are the negative associations of the past (and to associate the neighborhood with the more upscale Shadyside)? On the one hand, my relative lack of local historical knowledge means that I don't carry around any negative associations for East Liberty. On the other hand, why should I? Is this even worth caring about?
It seems to me that if we've really done such a great job of revitalizing East Liberty, then keeping the name in place provides an even greater contrast between what's there now and what was there before. Imagine someone driving through the neighborhood who hasn't seen it in 20 years. "Wow, this is East Liberty? Things have really changed."
And to whom is this re-labeling supposed to appeal? As Mike notes, if you are not a native, or haven't lived here for a long time, then you probably don't hold any negative associations with East Liberty. If you are a native, then it doesn't matter what you call East Liberty, or the Hill District, or the North Side, or any other troubled neighborhood. If a person is so inclined, they'll give the neighborhood another chance. But I doubt a new name will play any role in their decision. ("East Liberty? There's no way I'm going to live in that cesspool. What, they changed the name to Eastside? Why didn't you say so in the first place?")
As Pittsburghers, we need to stop clinging too tightly to our past. We also need to stop being ashamed of it.