July 2, 2009

Anti-'Plantations' Campaign Ramping Up

Marc Comtois

Still talking about 'Plantations':

Supporters of a plan that would give voters in next year’s general election the opportunity to strike the phrase “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s formal name, launched a public awareness and education campaign Wednesday....Backers say there is much work to be done if they are to persuade Rhode Island voters that the word “plantations” conjures up enough negative images of the state’s involvement in the slave trade to warrant a name change.

“When I see that word ‘plantations,’ I start thinking about slavery. I start thinking about the injustices,” said Sen. Harold M. Metts, a Providence Democrat and a bill sponsor. “… It’s not about guilt. For me, it’s about healing.”

Does a top-of-the front page placement signify anything about the ProJo's willingness to help persuade the public about the proposed State name change? I won't recount the history again. I suspect many, like Justin, while ambivalent about it don't buy the reasoning behind the proposal (the ProJo poll on the matter is running 8-1 against the name change). I also think the Phoenix's David Scharfenberg asks a good question: What happens if (when?) the ballot question fails?:
"The big issue is, what happens if it fails?" said Maureen Moakley, political science professor at the University of Rhode Island. "Where does it leave our notion of coming together and understanding? It could be divisive."

There is no polling data on the issue. But there is reason for proponents to be concerned.

When Rhode Island settled on its official name in 1636, the word "plantation" did not have the connotation it would pick up some two centuries later — it referred, more benignly, to the farms on the state's mainland. And there are early indications that a tradition-bound state could resist calls to change a name that was not intended to invoke bondage....Fear of rejection is already percolating in the state's small black activist community. "I don't want the people of Rhode Island to insult the advocates of racial justice — and that's what a 'no' vote would be," said Ray Rickman, a consultant who once served as a state representative and deputy secretary of state.

The reaction from Rickman is unfortunate, to say the least. That the majority of Rhode Islanders voted for a black President trumps any such talk. If a majority of Rhode Islanders rejects the removal of 'Plantations' it won't be because they want to "insult the advocates of racial justice." It will because they recognize an exercise in political sophistry when they see it.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

And so the campaign begins. This has nothing to do with racial justice. But will see how long it takes before you and I are labeled racists. I suspect it won't take long.

Posted by: mikeinri at July 2, 2009 10:38 AM

Dear Anchor Rising Contributors and Readers -

Here's an attempt to have an honest conversation about this.

A few questions.

1. Do you acknowledge the central role of Rhode Island in the slave trade?

2. Do you acknowledge the role of "plantations" in the slave trade?

3. Do you acknowledge the pain of a group of Rhode Islanders whose ancestors were stolen from their homes, trapped like animals in ships and families raped, murdered and forever separated on plantations?

If, as I hope you would, answer "yes" to these 3 questions, then why not vote yes?

I think sympathy, empathy and compassion are much needed in our society and even though your families was likely not a victim of the slave trade, that shouldn't stop you from supporting those who were.

And, even if you assert that the "plantation" in the Rhode Island name is not the same "plantation" as in the slave trade, then why not just vote "yes" and thereby acknowledge the real pain felt by some. In other words, what is the import of keeping "plantation" and why does it overcome the pain felt by a real group of Rhode Islanders?


Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at July 2, 2009 10:46 AM

If this focus on a linguistic appendage to the State name is what minorities in Rhode Island have to focus on, then they've nothing to complain about - the issues of poverty and discrimination are already solved.

Instead of a propaganda campaign to keep kindling racial / class resentment, may I humbly suggest that the minority "advocates" direct their attention to current issues that actually have an impact upon their lives and futures and those of the people that they purportedly are "advocating" for?

Such as high illegitimacy rates fostered by government welfare programs that serves as enablers of the breakdown of the nuclear family and so increase poverty?

Such as the "progressives" insistence that we not be "judgmental" regarding illegitimacy and its promotion of poverty and developmentally troubled youth?

Such as minority children trapped in poor performing urban schools that have been hijacked to serve the interests of teachers unions rather than serving as the great equalizer enabling "disadvantaged" youth to grasp that first rung of the ladder of upward mobility, and thus pursue that (now considered quaint) concept of "the American Dream?"

Such as decrying the cultural influences (both internal to the "minority community" and external from Hollywood / the media) that diminish the role of work, ambition, self-reliance, deference of instant gratification in pursuit of longer term goals and upward mobility ... and instead promote celebrity (sports / entertainment) which for all but a very few are pipe dreams, and promote personally destructive / dysfunctional behavior (hip-hop / rap music)?

Would it be cynical to suggest the indeed the progressives / Democrats really intend to divert attention and manipulate minorities with faux issues like the word "plantations" in the state name, all while counting on those diversions to preempt dealing with real issues, the resolution of which would actually help free minorities from that 'ole Democrat welfare plantation ... afraid that once freed and enjoying upward mobility they'd start to join the middle class and become the modern iteration of "Reagan Democrats" or even, gasp, full-blown Republicans?

Posted by: Tom W at July 2, 2009 11:14 AM

"Here's an attempt to have an honest conversation about this."
Whenever I hear something like that, it makes me suspect. Sort of like - "the more he spoke of his honesty, the faster we counted the silverware" And here, coming from ultra-liberal Jerzyk, it is advice well heeded.

An honest conversation would include the fact that Jerzyk availed himself of the riches of the Brown family - riches attained as one of the primary slave traders in the country - in attending Brown University. Didn't have a problem with that - did you Matty?? I get it, Matty - do as I say, not as I do.

As far as I am concerned, this is mere window dressing, a head fake of sorts, which does nothing for anybody - except of course, for relieving the guilt of the idiot hypocrital liberals in using those they profess to be helping as mere pawns in their quest for power.
And it will certainly be seen as that by going down big, as it should.

As far as I am concerned, I am sick and tired of hearing what I should be doing because of slavery. My ancestors weren't in this country when Jerzyk and his friends were trading slaves.

This is pure stupid liberal nonsense!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 2, 2009 11:42 AM


Quick answers, which are not meant to be a thourough explanation.

"1. Do you acknowledge the central role of Rhode Island in the slave trade?"

I acknowedge that certain prominent individuals, such as John Brown, had an important role in the transatlantic slave triangle trade. Whether it was "central" is certainly open to interpretation, as there were only 13 colonies at the time. Instead of trying to erase history, perhaps encourage that it be taught.

2. Do you acknowledge the role of "plantations" in the slave trade?

No. A plantation is an old word for a farm, which is what it's intended meaning in the 1600s was. Same as Plymouth Plantations up in Massachusetts. Certainly, there were "plantations" formed in the South that used slave labor, but that doesn't make the word plantation inherently bad, only the practice of what occured on some of them bad.

3. Do you acknowledge the pain of a group of Rhode Islanders whose ancestors were stolen from their homes, trapped like animals in ships and families raped, murdered and forever separated on plantations?

I acknowledge the pain of those who were actually enslaved. Whether their descendents choose to feel pain which wasn't actually inflicted upon them is totally up to them. I'm sure that some of my Italian ancestors were serfs, but that doesn't keep me up at night. I would rather that they focus on improving their present-day circumstances, rather than rehashing old grievences with people who have no culpability in what happened 300 years ago. I really think this type of thing is an excuse for inaction in the present, meant to stir up people, to distract them from improving their lot in life.

BTW It's hard for me to imagine that unless provoked to anger by certainly individuals who like to stir anger and resentment, that any present-day member of a minority group spends their days and nights ruminating over what an English king decidedly to charter the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations as three and a half centuries ago.

PS Perhaps you should devote you time to changing the name of your Alma Mater. I was thinking that Brown should be renamed "East Side University." Sounds nice and non-offensive, right?

Posted by: Will at July 2, 2009 12:22 PM

The thing I find amusing about the proposed name change is that it is completely backwards. The plantations referred to had nothing to do with Rhode Island's role in slavery; the local center of the slave trade was Newport, which is, of course, part of Rhode Island. If their goal is to erase any sign of the state's past sins, the state's name should be changed to Providence Plantations.

Posted by: Mario at July 2, 2009 12:42 PM

Let's put ol' Harold on some truth serum and find out if he'll be "healed" for past injustices if the name "Plantations" is dropped from the official name. I gotta think that answer is "no". I don't know how it causes him pain or injury, so I don't know how removing it can heal him.

We're in a country now where an African-American was just elected President. The commander in chief of the United States. Leader of the free world. But some people still think we need to do things like change the name of a state.

Then again, if you are really offended by the inaccuracy in our state name and want to change it, go for it. After all it's not an "Island" at all, so let's change it to something more fitting, like Westconnaugh.

Posted by: Patrick at July 2, 2009 1:20 PM

Hey, if "the tribe" gets the Navy land on Aquidneck Island, we can chuck the "Providence Plantations" and rename it: The State of Rhode Island and Narragansett Casinos.

Posted by: Tom W at July 2, 2009 1:29 PM

These legislators don't have anything better to do? What about more jobs, better education, lower crime rates for their constituents.

This reminds me of all the history and art lost when the Taliban went nuts in Afganistan a while back. I can see them blowing up and destroying anything that says plantations on it.

The gutless wonders in the House think this a good move, hopefully the Senate thinks better of it. I won't count on it. I think the people of RI and Providence Plantations will vote to preserve the original name of this state.

Posted by: kathy at July 2, 2009 3:40 PM

Matt, it's only that simple if history is irrelevant. We should work to educate those who don't understand the meaning of plantation as used in the state name, rather than simply cave to their claimed offense and suffering.

It reminds me how some claim great offense when others have used the word niggardly, despite it having no relation to the other N word that rightfully offends. Do we oust the word from our language because of the ignorance of others?

When a group of Native Americans comes forward to say that white Europeans caused them great pain and suffering, and therefore is offended that our country is named after explorer Amerigo Vespucci, will you support changing our nation's name? Or are you without "sympathy, empathy, and compassion" for Native Americans?

Posted by: mikeinri at July 2, 2009 4:39 PM


I can answer yes to your first two questions but no to the third. Maybe that will change as more people weigh in on these topic. I don't know anyone for whom the name of the state is important. The word plantation does indeed have an association with the large slave worked farms of the time as much as the ancient symbol, the swastika, is associated with Hitler's Germany. I wonder if the Anger Rising historic purists would want to resurrect that too.
I don't which way I would vote right now

Posted by: Phil at July 3, 2009 5:51 AM

Phil-I live here 25 years,and it had to be a good 10 years before I ever noticed the whole long name of the state.
And keep in mind I handled a lot of state court records in that time period as part of my job.
I know some states are actually "commonwealths",but no one uses those terms too often,unless it's some formal occasion.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 3, 2009 6:36 AM

If you let the lunatics get away with this nonsense, it's only a matter of time when they'll be calling you a racist for wanting your sandwich on white bread.
To hell with these stupid liberals.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 3, 2009 10:19 AM

Wow, matt jerzyk got burned by the great observations of mike cappelli. Sick of the brown liberal crowd saying one thing, and then doing the flip when convient for themselves. The limo liberal/rich phony liberal are a disgusting breed. I am a liberal with no shame, hard working, and given nothing in this world. This name change is a disgrace of a conversation to be having. For the left, why not actively fight for racial justice and equality? Can you go back to your eastside townhouses feeling better about yourselves by fighting an "unjust name"? The name has NOTHING to do with slavery, even if RI had a role in the slave trade (which all colonies and most nations did in the course of history). Instead of looking back, why not look forward trying to create legislation that actually will make a difference in the lives of actual living human beings. Maybe if you actually saw the lives of hard working blacks, instead of simply viewing them from afar and listening to the distorted views of the criminaly inept general assembly, you would realize a name is not important to them. I know this wont go over well on this blog, but we do face racial inequality and justices in this state and nation as a whole. We need a real solution, not some politically correct garbage in an attempt to gain voters support. I have seen first hand how race plays a role in this state, changing the name would be foolish and an attempt to take rhode islanders away from real racial change. Its easy for the liberal elite and brown univ. crowd to grandstand, however they fail to realize how they damage the progressive/pragmatic cause.

Posted by: Stedman at July 3, 2009 11:18 AM

Dear Mike Capelli -

Listen. We all know why have you have been banned by other local blogs. You will criticize me for being a Brown graduate, but not do the same for Don Carcieri, a proud Brown grad. As far as my family, let me tell you 2 things. First, one side of my family had a heroic man fight for the Union at the Battle of Shiloh and lose his arm. The other side of my family came to this country after the Civil War. Neither side, as far as my mom's research has shown, were engaged in the slave trade. But anyone who grew up "white" in America should readily admit that "whiteness" has benefitted them. If you can't admit that, then you are not being an honest arbiter of American history.

Therefore, you are left with your inaccurate ad hominem attacks and nothing more. When you are ready to engage in real intellectual debates, the world - as are I - am waiting.


Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at July 3, 2009 10:30 PM

"Here's an attempt to have an honest conversation about this.
A few questions."

You are joking with these, right? LOL!

"1. Do you acknowledge the central role of Rhode Island in the slave trade?"

I will acknowledge that RI was involved in slave trading. I do not see what this has to do with our States name and/or being a reason to change it. Other than a few individuals who through some strange comparison find offense between the states name and where slaves were sent, each being at completely different points in history, from everything I've read (including the actual meaning of the word "Plantation") it has NOTHING to do with that slave trading or the reason to have the name of the state changed. I'm thinking it's those individuals that need to get over it!

"2. Do you acknowledge the role of "plantations" in the slave trade?"

Sure! And maybe we should stop using words like "boat" and "ship" as those are the vessles used to bring the salves here! I mean really, if we don't want to offend ANYONE let's go through the dictionary and pretty much rewrite the entire thing so NOBODY is EVER offended again!

"3. Do you acknowledge the pain of a group of Rhode Islanders whose ancestors were stolen from their homes, trapped like animals in ships and families raped, murdered and forever separated on plantations?"

I guess if your going to try and sell your point you may as well make as many assinine points as you can. I'll take it, the lawyer in you is coming out. What a stupid question number 3 is!
So here we go again ... remove some other words too ... "road" the way to get those slaves into the "plantations". "Sun" the thing that was shining above as they were inside those "plantations" ... wait, maybe it was "raining" on those days? Let's not take any chances ... remove the word "water" because that's probably what they had to drink while on those "plantations" And Matt, you yourself bring up a number of other words to be removed ... "stole" (just think how many criminals find offense with this word!), "home", "animals"

"And, even if you assert that the "plantation" in the Rhode Island name is not the same "plantation" as in the slave trade, then why not just vote "yes" and thereby acknowledge the real pain felt by some."

Because that is the WRONG reason to change the name, period! EVERYONE finds offense with something! Is today the day we start changing EVERYTHING so no one ever becomes offended by anything, ever again? Or is it time for all of us to get over all those silly little things that offend us as individuals?

Here's a question I would like to ask those that favor (or don't favor) a name change ...

When you first heard the real name was "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations", was your first thought "OH MY! It's reference to slavery?"

For me, NO! Didn't then, doesn't now! Even with all this assinine "make this an issue" coverage by a few!

Posted by: Johno at July 4, 2009 2:06 PM

Historic variations of 'Rhode Island' include:
Acquedneck Island, Acquettinck, Acquidneck Island, Acquidneset, Adquidnenecke Island, Aquedneck, Aquednecke Island, Aquedney, Aquethneck, Aquetneck, Aquetnet, Aquiday Island, Aquidneck Island, Aquidnick Island, Aquidy Island, Ile of Aquethnec, Isle of Aquiday, Isle of Rhodes, Red Island, Rhoade Island, Road Island, Roade Island, Roode Iland, Roodt Eylandt

Newport - Rhode Island - was the center of slave trade.

Posted by: Robert Balliot at July 4, 2009 4:53 PM

Just a little rant here. I am descended from a "plantation family". During, and after, the Civil War our home was burned and my family impoverished. Can I escape with "we gave at the office"?

As someone else has observed here, sometime after my Germanic ancestors stopped painting themselves blue and living in caves; I am sure that they were "serfs". As readers of Ivanhoe will recall, this often included wearing a tag with your owners name. I have never lost a wink of sleep over this. Rather, I marvel at the progress of society.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 5, 2009 2:10 PM

Good God, Matt,
You have got to be kidding me. You are pathetic. Oh boy, where to start..

a. "you've been banned by other local blogs.."
Huh??? I have no clue what you are talking about. But, let's say I have been. What might this have to do with you being a hypcrite?? Oh, I see, you've been banned by blogs, so I am not a hypocrite. Wow! I can't wait to see you in a courtroom, Matt.

b. "You will criticize me for being a Brown graduate, but not do the same for Don Carcieri.."
Again, huh?!?! I guess I didn't realize Don Carcieri was involved in promoting this stupid bulls*** name change. Is he? If not, just what are you talking about.

c. "As far as my family, let me tell you 2 things..."
No, no no! Stop right there. The little I know about you makes puke, so I don't need to know any more.

d. "But anyone who grew up "white" in America should readily admit ..."
Unlike you, Matt, who obviously has some deep seated guilt regarding your upbringing, I have none. My family and I, apparently unlike you and yours, haven't taken advantage of anybody in our lives. No repenting is necessary on my part, so I don't need some snot-faced liberal [snip] telling me what I should be admitting.

e. "When you are ready to engage in real intellectual debates..."
This is not possible with stupid liberals, Matt.

Hope you had a good 4th!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 5, 2009 7:07 PM

Mike Cappelli -

Are you capable of having an argument without throwing out profanity and words like "pathetic" or "bulls**t" or is this your not-so-subtle attempt at enacting revenge on all of those schoolyard bullies who left you bloodied and crying in elementary school?

Until you show that you are a big boy, I will stop my attempts at a decent dialogue right here.


PS. And you wonder why Republicans can't win in Rhode Island!?!?

Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at July 7, 2009 12:49 PM
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