By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A local nonprofit is leading a debate over whether to change the name of a well-known Minnesota city.

The group Transformative Circle put up a survey online asking residents and workers in Coon Rapids if they would support changing the city’s name. Part of that city name is a racial slur and often used as a degrading caricature of Black people.

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In the 1800s, Coon Rapids was known as a place where land owners would hunt raccoons. Historians assume that is where where the city’s name derives from, but in more recent times, the name has been criticized.

The nonprofit Transformative Circle surveyed more than 460 people who live, work or have a connection to the city. About a third supported changing the name, and two-thirds do not want to change it. Some say they were unaware the word had a negative racial connotation.

“They’re embarrassed by having to say the name out loud,” Transformative Circle’s Lori Anderson said.

Frederick Otu-Biney Jr. lived in Coon Rapids for three years until he moved in December.

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“I don’t like the name because, again, I know what it represents,” he said. “There are some people that are just like, ‘Why would you move to a city that you don’t like the name?’, things of that nature, and it’s jut like, if you gotta find a good apartment, find a good house, it doesn’t really matter what the name is.”

He says he felt like he had to constantly explain the history of the name and admits on its own, one word is a racial slur, and can be triggering.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a debate over changing the name. The issue was brought up in 1968, in 1986 and most recently in 2006. But nothing ever changed.

“We’re in the middle of a worldwide movement to become more racially aware, more equitable, learn more about each other,” Anderson said. “It’s just time.”

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Transformative Circle will be having conversations with community members about the history of the name to see if they can continue to move forward with changing the name. The group says River Rapids has been brought up in the past as a name alternative.

Kate Raddatz