Archive for the ‘Discrimination’ Category

How Far We Must Go

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

In 1675, the first and one of the deadliest wars ever fought on what is now American soil began. Fifty-six years after the sailing of the Mayflower, the tenuous Native American-Puritan bonds, built with careful distrust, burst asunder with disastrous results for everyone.

In 1616, European traders had brought yellow fever to Wampanoag territory, which covered present day Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. The epidemic wiped out two-thirds of the entire Wampanoag Nation (estimated at 45,000 at the time). So, when the first batch of Puritans landed in 1619, Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags, was on high alert. He waited until 1621 to meet the new immigrants, and then forged a guarded relationship between his people and theirs. In late-March, 1621, he and Governor John Carver signed the Wampanoag-Pilgrim Treaty. In the Treaty the two peoples agreed to do no harm to each other, to come to each other’s aid if attacked by third parties and to have equal jurisdiction over offenders: if a Wampanoag broke the peace, he would be sent to Plymouth for punishment; if a colonist broke the law, he would be sent to the Wampanoags. In addition, the Wampanoag leaders agreed to tell neighboring indigenous nations about the treaty.

For fifty years, the entente, occasionally fraying, held. But as more and more English immigrants arrived with weapons native Americans had never seen, and as the new immigrants began asserting themselves more and more over the indigenous nations, it became a when, not an if, a war would break out.

When Massasoit died in 1665, his son Philip became Sachem. Philip had few of his father’s diplomatic skills, and his people were becoming more and more angry at the dictatorial actions taken by the white people. After three of his trusted lieutenants were executed by the pilgrims in a woeful miscarriage of justice, Philip had no choice but to go to war if he wished to remain in power. In 1675, he did just that.

King Philip’s war brought tragic consequences for all. As so often happens, the white settlers of Plymouth Colony grossly underestimated the tactical skill of the warring indigenous nations, but in the end European firepower won out. Before the war, historians estimate about 80,000 people lived in New England. Nine-thousand died during the fourteen months of King Philip’s War, more than 10% of the total population. Proportionately, that’s more than in both the Civil War and the Revolution. One-third of the towns in New England lay in ashes, farms were abandoned and the fields lay fallow. Philip was hunted down in Rhode Island’s Misery Swamp and killed. His body was quartered and pieces hung from trees. The man who killed him, John Alderman, sold his severed head to Plymouth Colony authorities for 30 shillings.

And so we come to war’s end in 1676, and Josiah Winslow, the governor of Plymouth Colony, had a problem. Namely, what to do with hundreds of native Americans—surviving leaders of King Philip’s War and their families.

Winslow decided to get rid of them by loading them all, including Philip’s wife and nine-year-old son, onto several ships bound for the Caribbean, one of which, ironically, named Seaflower.

As Nathaniel Philbrick writes in his masterful Mayflower (Viking Penguin, 2007):

In a certificate bearing his official seal, Winslow explained that these Native men, women and children had joined in an uprising against the colony and were guilty of “many notorious and execrable murders, killings and outrages.” As a consequence, these “heathen malefactors” had been condemned to “perpetual slavery.”

Thus, joining Rome and other ancient societies, our white ancestor enslaved a conquered people.

Yesterday, 345 years after the Seaflower sailed from Plymouth harbor, a jury of his peers, a diverse jury, convicted Derek Chauvin on all three counts of murder in the death of George Floyd. What struck me most, the image that cannot be unseen, is the smirk on Chauvin’s face as he kneeled the life out of a man who did not look like him. I imagine it to be the same look Governor Winslow had on his face as he signed the certificate condemning hundreds of indigenous people, who did not look like him, into perpetual slavery.

How far we’ve come. How much, much farther we must go.

 

If Not For The Water: Georgia’s Stick In The Eye Of Democracy

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Major League Baseball and Major League Corporations are turning on the state of Georgia. The baseball All-Star game, originally scheduled for Atlanta’s Truist Park in July, is picking up its bats, balls and gloves and heading somewhere else, depriving the stadium of more than 43,000 fans and all the money they bring with them.

This, of course, is due to the Georgia Election Integrity Act, a 98-page, nearly 2,500-line piece of legislation signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp a week ago Friday behind locked doors in the presence of nobody but six older white guys and a painting of Calloway Plantation. None of the more than 100 people the Calloways enslaved are pictured in the painting. In addition to MLB, the Coca Cola and Delta Airlines corporations, headquartered in Georgia, sharply criticized what they considered terrible voter suppression by the majority Republican legislature.

Coca Cola and Delta did not stand alone. The following major corporations have issued sharply condemnatory statements: Merck, Porsche’s North American operations, headquartered in Georgia, Georgia-based UPS, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft President Brad Smith, Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, Home Depot, headquartered in Georgia, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, American Express, Facebook, and Viacom CBS.

Texas, a few states to the west of Georgia, appears ready to pass similar legislation, prompting American Airlines and Dell, both based there, to issue similar strongly worded rebukes before any legislation has been voted and enacted. Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he will sign the legislation when, not if, it reaches his desk. And Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the powerful Senate leader, slamming the corporations’ criticism, said, “Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy.”

As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states, according the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks voting legislation around the country. Arizona, alone, has 23 in the hopper.

It seems that the irresistible force is about to meet the immovable object as corporate America issues a ringing indictment of what it considers perfidious attempts by red states to restrict voting rights. What caused this immediate and strong opposition? MLB traditionally takes a long time to decide anything, let alone a law about voting.

I submit it has everything to do with water.

More than half of the Georgia Election Integrity Act deals with absentee and early voting. Reading those parts is like trying to negotiate the Labyrinth without Theseus’s ball of twine. However, there is one, immediately understandable sentence found on page 73, a section of which reads:

No person shall…offer to give…any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector…within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.

Violation of this section is a crime, albeit a misdemeanor.

The state of Georgia holds primary elections during or near summer. Summer is hot in Georgia, and the state is the seventh most humid in the country. Voting lines can be long in Georgia, and will be longer now due to the new law decreasing voting places and limiting drop boxes to either one per county or one per 100,000 people, whichever is smaller. People standing in long lines in the summer heat will get thirsty. Perhaps they will not have brought water with them. The urge to give a drink of water to a thirsty person in a long line in the Georgia heat is something very human, very Christian. What is neither human nor Christian is having to do so by putting the drink on a 26 foot pole.

This is the one thing that got America’s immediate attention, one person in particular: the President of the United States, who, during his first press conference, called it “sick.” Nielson reports 32 million people watched him live.

Biden calling out the provisions dealing with absentee ballots or early voting would have left many saying, “Well that’s a matter of opinion. He’s a Democrat, so, of course, he’ll criticize a new law Republicans wrote.”

But there’s no “matter of opinion” about the water. It’s a Black and White thing (the whole law is, but this part is special). If Georgia’s Republican legislators had told the genius who came up with it, “Now, hold on, son, we can get what we want without this,” it would have been ever so much harder to get corporate America to go full out in opposition.

Republicans in Georgia, especially Governor Kemp, are not backing down. No, they’re doubling down. But they’ve now set something in motion that will be hard to stop. And former friends in high places are aligned against them. In the long run, the Georgia Election Integrity Act may prove to be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party in Georgia — and beyond.