Taking a Break

Here’s why my blog posting has been sporadic lately

Thought I’d hop on here after taking yesterday off. If you follow me regularly, you’ve noticed that my #HistoryMonday & #CurrentEventFriday posts are more sporadic lately. I wanted to try and explain that phenomenon and share some reflections I’ve had lately.

No doubt, your social media feeds are filled with new information about Covid-19 and protests about race in addition to the usual distractions. My feed is no different, and as I skim through the feeds my brain is overwhelmed by opinions from all sides and I’m about to have a breakdown. What’s particularly frustrating is that I’m getting upset at posts from friends and other personalities on both sides of the political spectrum. I believe that Black lives have not always mattered and that we have work to do on race relations, but some of the ideas are ridiculous. I also believe that law enforcement is a challenging profession, but reform needs to happen to add accountability for malfeasance and/or bias with certain individuals. As far as the Coronavirus, I’m getting frustrated that the WHO, CDC, and other medical experts are seemingly taking a stab in the dark every other week on how the virus behaves—masks are necessary for healthcare workers, everybody should wear them, only symptomatic folks should wear them. Besides that, lockdowns didn’t happen soon enough, they were necessary, they were harmful, or protests might be safe as the virus is sleeping. Particularly galling is that funerals with hundreds of people for slain black folk are okay but not for your grandmother because…reasons.

While I might normally agree or ‘like’ posts from friends, family, or other posters on posts that may have political undertones, I’m trying to maintain more radio silence and avoid reacting or commenting publicly. I may add a quip on Twitter since it doesn’t affect my vocation as negatively as if I posted on Facebook. This isn’t to say that I don’t have internal comments and reactions, I just don’t share them publicly. Plus, there’s enough arguing and commenting from everybody else that my voice would get lost.

Many times, I’ll fast Facebook during Lent, and that’s healthy for the 40 days I’m off the site. I probably should fast other social media during that time too. With the hatefulness and insanity on social media, I’m about ready for 2nd Lent so I could get off social media for a while. Even public pages for businesses and organizations have quite a few hateful and terrible comments. As I read comments on a post from NASCAR recently, the racist and mean comments about how a young boy sang the National Anthem were shocking and infuriating.  Unfortunately, since I’m not fasting social media and I see all the crap on it, my brain isn’t in the mood to process writing about history, social issues, and current events. Besides, there’s enough history (or is it histrionics?) and current events going on in your feed, that you can get your fix from others besides myself.

Luckily, my creative side is not as affected by the social media outrage and I can still do my Poetry Wednesday posts. I may also try to put together some travel guides for the next few weeks since that’s generally a positive post and if you’re like me, going on vacation sounds great right about now. Hopefully, social media and the outrage culture that’s dominating the news cycle right now will calm down or my brain gets a reset from vacation that my usual posting for Mondays and Fridays will be back soon. Stay tuned!

Is your brain struggling to function lately?

Current Event Friday #102

Problems in Georgia that aren’t related to their re-opening

Another week is in the books, and that means another edition of #CurrentEventFriday. Normally, I try to stay above the fray, but an event making the rounds the last couple of days is worth discussing regardless of my aversion to controversy.

Earlier this week, a video was circulated throughout social media that showed a confrontation between two white guys and an African-American man. As the video unfolds, one of the white men fires the gun he had on his person at the African-American man, killing him. Of course, this drew criticism from the African-American community.

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I saw a few posts like this one about the deceased gentlemen as the video began making the rounds and didn’t pay attention at first. Then, more news outlets and more accounts I follow on social media began sharing about it and the story is tragic. The events that led up to the death of Ahmad Arbery in the video seemingly point out an indefensible act of racism and vigilantism. Arbery was out jogging in a white neighborhood of Brunswick, GA when he was spotted by Gregory McMichael who believed Arbery was a suspect in a recent series of robberies. Gregory McMichael called for his son Travis McMichael to get their guns, a .357 Magnum and a shotgun. The pair then got in their pickup to confront Arbery. While the McMichaels chased Arbery, their friend William “Roddie” Bryan followed behind their truck and videotaped the encounter including the fatal shooting. In the video, Arbery attempts to evade the pickup and the McMichaels. Unable to do so, Arbery then tried to catch his breath. Gregory McMichael exited the truck and aimed the shotgun at Arbery. Fearing what could happen, Arbery tried to wrestle the gun away from the elder McMichael but in the struggle, the trigger was pulled three times and Arbery fell to the ground almost immediately.

Even more shocking, is the event in question happened in late February and the local prosecutor decided not to bring charges against the McMichaels as the event was only described by the McMichaels. The prosecutor also chose not to prosecute given his previous relationship with Gregory McMichael who is a retired law enforcement officer. The prosecutor recused himself and asked another local prosecutor to look into the case. With the new video being released by a friend of the McMichael family, the case has been re-opened, and charges of aggravated assault and murder have been filed against both McMichaels. They have also been arrested for those charges, and a charge for the friend who video-taped the encounter is also expected soon.

As the video made the rounds, notable activists with Black Lives Matter pounced on the event, calling out the white shooters. Everyone’s favorite NBA star and race-relations expert LeBron James even weighed in tweeting, “We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” Presidential Candidate Joe Biden excoriated the McMichaels as well for their racist tendencies and cold-blooded execution of Arbery. Many also pointed out that the date of the shooting in February was eerily close to the date of the Travon Martin shooting.

In memory of Arbery, mini-marathons are being organized nationwide to honor Arbery’s favorite activity—jogging. Hashtags promoting the name of Arbery have also been a means of support and solidarity for the family in the midst of the re-living of the traumatic event.

Normally, I’m skeptical of events like this, that usually involve on-duty officers and citizens. Even just this week, a shooting in Indianapolis involved a handful of officers and an African-American man driving at excessive speeds on the interstate. As the driver got out of the car and attempted to flee on foot, he was shot by officers and killed. So, naturally I look at that and am not entirely surprised at the tragic consequence. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the Arbery incident. It seems purely that the two white guys can’t tell black people apart and were suspicious of any black man in their neighborhood. Many skeptics have also found that Arbery has a criminal record and point to that as proof that he was up to no good, and that the McMichaels might have observed Arbery committing a crime. Sadly, without evidence to prove Arbery’s activities or his ability to give a statement, those are only hypothetical at best. Assuming the McMichaels saw Arbery committing a crime, there should’ve been no reason to shoot him, as securing him and detaining him might have been the better option as citizens rather that law enforcement detaining him.

It will be interesting to see how the trial plays out for Gregory and Travis McMichael as well as William Bryan. Given that we’re just five months into what has certainly been a wild and unpredictable year, the attention to this case won’t likely go way overnight. Be sure to stay tuned to next month’s episode of “What in the world is happening in 2020?” to see what new characters and storylines are added for your attention.

Should the McMichaels have called 911 and waited for officers to respond?

Current Event Friday #99

Inappropriate language during video games is a no-no

Another week is ending, and for one NASCAR racer their employment has ended. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday is all about what led to their firing and other consequences stemming from an unwise decision earlier this week.

Kyle Larson, NASCAR driver, fired from racing team - CNN
Kyle Larson, former driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing #42 Car

Kyle Larson has been a top driver in NASCAR’s highest series the Monster Energy Cup Series since he joined the circuit. After finding success in the Xfinity & Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Larson earned a spot with Chip Ganassi Racing at the highest level in 2014. He earned Rookie of the Year awards in 2013 in the Xfinity Series and 2014 Rookie of the Year in the Monster Energy Series. Sadly, all that wasn’t enough for Chip Ganassi Racing to continue employing him after a mistake Sunday evening.

While virtual racing in the iRacing race on Sunday, Larson’s virtual car made contact with another car. Larson became frustrated with his spotter who had failed to inform him of the nearby car. Venting his frustration, he then yelled at the spotter while using a 6-letter racial slur beginning with ‘N’ which was heard by everyone watching the race. Another driver reminded him that the communications were not on a private team channel.

Larson apologized after the race for his language, but it was not enough. NASCAR announced Monday they would be pursuing action against Larson for the error. Several of his sponsors in the next days terminated their relationship with him including Target, Chevrolet, and Clover Financial. NASCAR suspended Larson indefinitely on Monday along with Chip Ganassi Racing. Tuesday, Chip Ganassi then announced that they had terminated Larson’s employment with the team.

Obviously, this was a dumb mistake for Larson. What’s interesting is that Larson is half Asian and earned a spot in NASCAR through its Drive for Diversity Campaign. So, obviously Larson has to know that NASCAR values racial and gender diversity. Besides that, you shouldn’t utter racial slurs anyways. Some have tried to soften Larson’s language arguing that rappers use the word often in their songs, other athletes use language in games, and other drivers use similar or worse language on their radios. That’s a logical fallacy called ‘what-aboutism’ that tries to deflect responsibility away from the guilty party because someone else does similar negative things.

The fallout has also brought attention to fans who aren’t exactly thrilled with the iRacing format that NASCAR is promoting while dealing with social distancing restrictions. Last week, Bubba Wallace quit the race after wrecking and was fined for his failure to continue the race. Critics of the virtual races point out that these are not official NASCAR events, so NASCAR has little to no authority for what happens during these races.

I would guess that Larson will eventually be reinstated by NASCAR and join with another team, and the suspension might overlap with the same time that NASCAR is not holding physical races since the timing would be comparable. I’m also surprised that the punishment has been this serious. Even drivers who have been arrested for DUI weren’t fired by their team or suspended indefinitely by NASCAR like Larson. Considering DUI and other acts are criminal and don’t result in such punishments, Larson’s is surprising. Chip Ganassi Racing will be able to weather the changeover as well thanks to the physical racing hiatus. This will afford them time to reach out to veteran or development drivers to finish the season in the car. One possible replacement is Ross Chastain who has filled in for Ryan Newman after the Daytona 500 crash that resulted in Newman’s hospitalization. Chastain has already had success with Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series and has driven for teams with affiliations to Chip Ganassi Racing. With Larson having had success at all levels, I could see Hendrick Motorsports offering him a ride after this season when Jimmie Johnson retires at the end of the season. Other drivers have stated that they believe Larson deserves a second chance. Bubba Wallace, an African-American driver has acknowledged that he didn’t appreciate the language Larson used, but that Larson deserves a second chance. With his talent, Larson will likely receive that opportunity sooner than later.

Did the punishment fit for Kyle Larson’s conduct?

Current Event Friday #98

Racists and pandemics are a bad combo

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t discriminate about who it affects or infects. Sadly, some humans are discriminating towards others in the midst of this pandemic. The racism and discriminatory practices tied to those thoughts are today’s #CurrentEventFriday topic.

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Photo by Skye Dingle on Pexels.com

While the origin of the virus has been linked to China since early Winter, this origin has provided cause for racism. Many in the mainstream media harangued Pres. Trump for his usage of ‘Chinese Virus’ in his tweets to label the disease. Many have argued that this inflames tensions and is an approval of racist practices. Those who defend usage of this label point out that during the onset of this disease prior to its widespread effect in the United States, that the term ‘China virus’ was commonplace. Specifically, the media personalities condemning Pres. Trump were using ‘Chinese virus’ themselves until the pandemic became so prevalent in the United States. Further, that by calling it a Chinese virus, Pres. Trump and others are pointing out China’s totalitarian government contributed to a lack of information and allowing the disease to run rampant when they tried to control the spread of information and punished those who spoke out about it.

In the midst of the kerfuffle of how exactly to label it, a doctor of Korean descent was refused service at a gas station near Indianapolis this last week. Even worse, a man in Texas stabbed several members of an Asian family at a local supermarket including two young children. Others of Asian descent in California and New York have been assaulted in the last two months by people fearful they will be infected while using racial slurs.

Obviously, Chinese people are not guilty of spreading the disease. There are enough problems with lost wages and widespread infections without adding discrimination efforts based on race. The problems with the disease’s origin can be linked to a totalitarian government not protecting its citizens and under-reporting the severity of its disease, not the citizens themselves.

Racism will not solve this pandemic crisis, and in fact the United States by some statistics is the largest affected nation. Arguably, Americans who are strongly independent have allowed the disease to spread counter to the spread in China. Too many Americans are suspicious of government and resist grand-scale government intervention as a result of these suspicions. I’m waiting to see if a federal law is enacted to force people to stay home but I don’t expect compliance by everyone. I’m hopeful that with warmer weather and people taking this seriously we can see the disease reach its high point and taper off soon (so I can return to #CurrentEventFriday that isn’t linked to Coronavirus). Time will tell of course

Have you observed anyone being racist in the midst of this pandemic?

Current Event Friday #83

Just because an actress is popular doesn’t mean she’s qualified for an important role

“It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.” Thankfully, screenwriters and other executives challenged this short-sighted assumption in a recent box office film. The potential mistake and the outrage that has followed as news broke about the casting is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Many moviegoers have recently seen Harriet a biopic about noted abolitionist Harriet Tubman. If a studio head had his way in the preliminary stages of the film, Julia Roberts could have played the titular role. Yes, you read that right, Julia Roberts of Pretty Woman fame who is in no way African-American could have played the part of Harriet Tubman.

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One of these is not like the other. Can you spot the difference?

The odd choice of Julia Roberts first was presented to the film’s screenwriter over two decades earlier when the film was still being marketed to various studios. Gregory Allen Howard, who wrote the screenplay didn’t mention the studio head by name, so it’s left for speculation.

Admittedly, I’m critical of casting directors choosing actors to play parts for the sake of gender equivalence like the recent Captain Marvel and Ghostbusters films.  Other woke choices have suggested that characters need to become LGBTQ+ in order to represent the population when the characters are not necessarily dependent or known for those sexual identities, the most notable choice has been to make Captain America gay.

Casting actors in roles of historical figures even though they don’t always bear a close resemblance can happen and the actors tend to play the essence of the real-life person rather than trying to physically resemble the person. Robin Williams’ portrayal as Pres. Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum franchise is one such example of an actor portraying the essence of the character rather than resembling him. Obviously, the studio head thought Julia Roberts could play the essence of Harriet Tubman and the audience would suspend disbelief that a white person was playing an African-American. Audiences are willing to suspend disbelief to some degree, but this instance would’ve been a stretch. Thankfully, the studio head didn’t suggest Julia Roberts play the part in blackface which would have been even more inappropriate.

Notwithstanding this surprising news about the film, Harriet seems like a film worth watching in theaters. Several on my timeline have praised the film for its portrayal of an important abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor. If you’re interested in a film featuring a well-known and beloved actor portraying a real-life figure in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which opens in theaters today. This film stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood fame. With Thanksgiving break coming up, a movie outing sounds like a fun idea.

What are some dumb/strange casting choices that you’d like to recast?

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 #57

Los Angeles race riots based on clothing? Yes it happened

“All of those Mexicans are bad people. They’re not the best people for America. They’re not loyal to the country that lets them live here.” No, these aren’t recent statements about Latinx people in America. These are statements that were basically made during the events covered in today’s #HistoryMonday.

On this day in 1943, late that evening nearly a dozen soldiers encountered a group of young Mexicans near the Naval Reserve Armory where they were stationed in Los Angeles. City planners and military advisors allowed the naval base to be in a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood thanks to the low cost for building in the area.

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The Zoot Suit

 

Many of the Mexican-American citizens dressed in zoot suits, the fashion of the time. The zoot suit required higher amounts of fabric including wool, precious and rationed materials during World War II The suits were defined by baggy pant legs and were accented with gaudy shoes and pocket watches. The apparel worn by the Latinx citizens gave the event the name we know it by today—The Zoot Suit Riots.

The naval reservists and other Americans resented the fashion of these self-named pachuchos. By failing to abide by the wartime rations, these citizens were being unpatriotic and therefore untrustworthy.

As the sailors began arguing with these pachucos, the verbal arguments escalated into physical violence.  Statements to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the sailors alleged that the Mexican-Americans attacked them first. As the LAPD responded to the emergency calls to end the violence, many either joined in with the sailors or stood idly by and allowed the violence to continue.

During the next few days, many more zoot suit wearing Mexican-Americans were attacked by other soldiers and civilians. Some of those attacked for wearing zoot suits were stripped of the clothing. As the suits were removed from the Mexican-Americans rioters defaced the suits and outright burned the wasteful clothing in protest. More than 150 people had been injured, and the police had arrested more than 500 Latinx civilians on charges ranging from “rioting” to “vagrancy” in the following days. In addition to the Latinx civilians attacked, a handful of African-Americans and Filipinos were also attacked presumably as part of mistaken ethnic identity on the part of the Caucasian rioters.

Media coverage further inflamed the situation, encouraging others to join the effort. Local press described the attacks as “cleansing” Los Angeles of “miscreants” and “hoodlums” who caused violence around their neighborhoods.

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No doubt, much of the problems stemmed from racism more than a fashion faux pas. Even today, some of the same attitudes persist today. While the focus now has shifted to African-Americans, there are still subtle accusations about Black culture including the apparel.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the perceived ridiculous clothing and music of African-Americans but I know that not everyone listening to that music or wearing those clothes is a “thug” or “gangsta” just as not every White person is a “nerd” or “pure” either.

Besides the parallel with African-American and Whites, there are still problems that exist with Latinx people and Whites that didn’t immediately end after the zoot suit riots. While much of the anger now is directed towards Latinx people with questionable citizenship status.

Tensions were also still unresolved by the Angelenos which saw riots in Watts and predominant African-American neighborhoods during the Civil Rights era of the 60’s and riots in those same neighborhoods three decades later in the aftermath of the acquittal of LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King. Los Angeles’s population explosion in the early decades of the 20th Century created potential for issues as city planners couldn’t accommodate for the population boom in a timely manner. Seemingly, the issues are at bay right now but there’s always potential in large cities with pockets of certain races and ethnicities in various neighborhoods rather than a healthy heterogeneous population.

What do you know about the Zoot Suit Riots?

History Monday 2

Today in History Executive Order 9066 was signed.

 

It’s time for History Monday again. So, welcome back to Mr. Stroud’s History classroom. 😉 You can find the noteworthy events that happened today in history on http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history. Today we’re talking about Executive Order 9066.

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This Executive Order was signed by our 32nd President of the United States — Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Executive Order 9066 was enacted just a little over two months after the ambush by the Japanese armed forces on Pearl Harbor. While the next day response on Dec. 8, 1941 to declare war on Japan was expected and logical, sadly Executive Order 9066 was not.

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Executive Order 9066 was enacted by FDR to “protect” vital areas for the US Military. The vital areas included most of the West Coast and provided the path for the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. The first half of the 20th century was marked by the political idea of Progressivism. One of the hallmarks of this political philosophy was segregation. FDR like his distant cousin Teddy served in the War Department of the cabinet for other Presidents before their own election.

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The later Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. During World War I, the War Department of the United States sought to segregate the US military by race and additionally, to warn good Americans about what the Germans could do. In the years of US involvement in WWI, Americans were urged to refer to Sauerkraut as Liberty Cabbage as one of the milder examples. It was during these years, FDR learned about the power of winning hearts and minds of Americans against the bad guys.

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Pres. F. Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 to help Americans know that the Japanese in America would not be a threat to them. As the order was enforced, Japanese Americans were relocated all over the united states to ensure American safety. Thankfully, the order was suspended in 1944 and allowed the Japanese to return to their homes. Eventually the camps were shut down in 1946.

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The order was thankfully rescinded by President Gerald Ford in 1976 exactly 54 years to the day. This paved the way for the eventual remedy for this sad episode in our history as a nation.

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The remedy for this unfortunate series of events was made in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. Pres. Reagan signed a bill guaranteeing $20,000 tax-free and an official apology to anyone surviving the camps.

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So, what does this mean for today? I’m hopeful that we won’t repeat this mistake. I know some who disagree with my political stance and worry that our current administration may have designs to achieve this. While I agree sometimes his tone is often harsh, I really don’t expect him to do so. I’m also thankful that we are in a much better place as far as race relations. We may not be completely a utopia of race relations, but we are getting closer. I think we also have learned the dangers of segregation as part of the Progressive era.

 

Let’s hope you pass the test I have afterwards. Just kidding, hope you learned something again.