Current Event Friday #73

Incidents of racism are making the rounds in the news

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race. We all like to believe that this is true and so many others believe that in our country. While it’s true that at our founding as a nation we had an untenable relationship between White Europeans and people of color, but we have progressed since that time. Sadly, some insensitive people have proven we could do better. Three such incidents of racism in the news recently are today’s topic of #CurrentEventFriday.

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Locally, the most obvious incident was the Ku Klux Klan’s Labor Day Kookout in Madison, IN. A quaint little small town famous for the Independence Day regatta attracts several dozen Klansmen who dare to proclaim the superiority of the white race. As the group has waned in influence, the numbers have dwindled while the counter-protestors have grown significantly. This is a promising sign that more are opposed to racism and refuting it. Madison overlooks Trimble County, KY so there is at least some historical tendencies of ‘copperheads’ in the area. During the Civil War, ‘copperheads’ were Southern loyalists living in Union states in the North. Hopefully there will come a time when the Kookout gets cancelled from lack of interest.

Not as local, but somewhat nearby is an arrest of a University of Illinois student. The alleged perpetrator is a sophomore at the campus. After this student and another left a noose in an elevator in a residence hall, the other student came forward and confessed that their friend had indeed placed a noose in the elevator. After the student was arrested and charged with a hate crime for leaving the noose, the university dismissed the student. A similar story occurred during my own undergrad when parts of a pig carcass were found near an African-American fraternity house because another fraternity discarded the carcass carelessly after a hog roast. No hate crime charges were filed since no malicious intent was able to be assigned to the guilty parties.

I posted a short blurb and a news story that followed on my Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s still worth discussing. A couple in Mississippi looked into renting an outdoor event space for their wedding but were refused as the groom was African-American while the bride is white. When the owners of the event space were questioned about the refusal, they argued that both gay marriages and interracial marriages were against their Christian race, or Christian belief. As word broke about the event space and Social Media critics attacked the ratings of the venue and commented on the Facebook page, the owners quickly deleted the business page. I know that gay marriage is a hot-button issue and religious freedom bills allow business owners not to violate their conscience, the argument for these bills is seemingly about endorsing behavior not natural traits. That’s at least my interpretation of homosexuality, and I would suspect many others. Sadly, the argument about a Christian Race alludes to rhetoric of Klansmen that the White Christian Race is under attack. It’s also not completely surprising that Mississippi is still struggling with racism. The site of the Emmitt Till Murder as well as the 1963 Civil Rights murders the state is seemingly the poster child for racism. The state is making at least some progress as the mayor and town council in the town where the venue is located condemned the venue and distanced themselves with the racist undertones. Yet, the state representative for the district including the town of Boonville where the venue is located has not issued a statement. This same representative co-sponsored the latest religious freedom act in Mississippi that protects business owners from being penalized for refusing gay marriage ceremonies. Pretty safe to assume that pressure will be brought to bear on the state representative, and he’ll have to make some sort of statement.

I for one think that we have made progress as a nation since the Civil Rights Era, but we are still divided by race. Electing an African-American man as president not once but twice is to me fruit of diversity appreciation in our country following the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. Seemingly, groups like Black Lives Matter that notice a racist devil around every corner tend to undermine progress while alt-right and White pride folks also give fuel to those determined to promote unity of will with diversity of thought and race.

Hopefully, as everyone can recognize actual acts of racism perpetrated with evil intent rather than naivete about race relations that leads to misunderstanding will move us where we should be as a country. If we are a nation where all people are created equal regardless of race, gender, age, or religion then we need to be able to agree on what is prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Even more hopefully acts of racism also fade away and we do become the nation we aspired to be from our founding.

Are we improving with race relations in America?

History Monday #64

An important town in Illinois goes underwater

Water, water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Today’s #HistoryMonday deals with a somewhat more recent event in history, but reminders of it occur even today and informed people adjust accordingly.

The city of Kaskaskia, Illinois during the Great Flood of 1993

On this day in 1993, levees in the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois fell apart and the residents of the small but historically important town were evacuated. These residents were likely unsurprised by the deluge and followed the orders of the Army Corp of Engineers who helped to evacuate the town.

The city of Kaskaskia has historical significance in the Mississippi River basin and in Illinois specifically. Kaskaskia was platted as the first territorial capital of Illinois and maintained significance for years before official statehood.

As the state of Illinois grew and Springfield became the capital, residents left Kaskaskia. By the late 19th Century, the waters of the Upper Mississippi River shifted during the spring rains. As the river continued to shift its path, the city was eventually formed into an island separate from the state of Illinois and eventually became grafted onto Missouri territory as alluvial deposits changed the boundaries of the Mississippi River through and around the city.

Eventually, the town was reduced to less than a hundred people. As the Great Flood of 1993 inundated the city and others with water, more people left leaving it to only a few households. Water heights during the Great Flood of 1993 reached nine feet in the town.

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As mentioned earlier, the levees breaking in Kaskaskia reduced the population to only 9 people. This population is the smallest population for any incorporated community in Illinois. Of course, its place in Illinois history is what keeps anyone living there and encourages visitors rather than becoming a Census Designated Place (CDP) or other unincorporated territory in the state.

In Kaskaskia, the levees are part of The Mississippi levee system. This system is one of the largest in the world, comprising over 3,500 miles stretching from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Mississippi Delta. The system was begun by French settlers in Louisiana in the 18th Century near New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, along with the Mississippi River Commission, added to the original French system in 1882 near Cairo, Illinois to the mouth of the Mississippi delta in Louisiana.

We’ve seen other levee failures and accomplishments in years following. The most notable example of this is in New Orleans, Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. Meteorologists and other experts admit that the force of Katrina was not as substantial as other damaging storms in recent memory. The duration of the rains from Katrina outlasts many of those storms. So, it’s not the wind that damaged property and land, but floods from rainwater. This rain was too massive for levees built in the town and estuary canal projects connecting the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Living in Kentuckiana most of my life, and near to the Ohio River we observe flooding often during rainy seasons in the Spring. I’ve written about that in an earlier post when I began the blog, and we’ve seen record highs in floodwaters this year that outdid the water levels I wrote about in the earlier post. While living near rivers provided access to receive or transport goods and people, the threat of flood is always there. So, city planners use more natural means like levees and dikes or artificial means like floodwalls and dams. These flood contingencies hopefully prevent damage to property and loss of life.

Do you remember the Great Flood of 1993 and did it affect you or loved ones?

An Honestly Good Birthday

Hey Blinken, it’s the birthday of Abe Lincoln!

It’s an important birthday today (no, mine is almost two weeks away). It is the 219th birthday of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Pres. Lincoln was born on this day in modern-day Hodgenville, Kentucky. The holiday is usually co-branded with Pres. George Washington’s Birthday as a singular holiday known as Presidents’ Day.

The day is marked by wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Memorial wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States an act afforded to every deceased U.S. president on their birthday.

Besides the ceremonies in Kentucky and Washington D.C., recognition of the holiday occurs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, California, Missouri, and New York. The first observance of Lincoln’s birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York, in either 1873 or 1874 thanks to efforts from Julius Francis. Francis was an avid promoter of memorializing Pres. Lincoln after Pres. Lincoln’s assassination. Francis petitioned the U.S. Congress to recognize the birthday as an official federal holiday, but to no avail. The holiday is an official state holiday in Illinois, Connecticut, and Missouri.

Lincoln’s birthday is also important in regards to Pres. Lincoln’s efforts made on behalf of African-Americans. The creation of Negro History Week [sic] due to the historic birthdays of Frederick Douglass as well as Pres. Lincoln. This week-long celebration of African-American culture and history eventually  expanded to Black History Month.

The holiday is also celebrated in many local Republican Party precincts to kick off early campaign season. The choice of Lincoln’s Birthday is owed to Pres. Lincoln being the first Republican President. The party was founded just six years prior to Lincoln’s first victory and was noted for its strong abolitionist stance.

Luckily at least for me, Pres. Lincoln’s Birthplace and Boyhood Home are within an hour and half drive from my location. Although, I’m unlikely to make a road-trip to either site.

 

How will you celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday?