Protests as pandering

My son Mike and I had breakfast Saturday morning, June 6, 2020, and then went over to the Palmer, Alaska visitor center.  I wanted to see their museum, housed in an exact floor plan of the house I grew up in in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  I had concluded that the architect of the Palmer Project had designed both houses.

The visitor center had a nice garden area with all kinds of plants.  The visitor center itself was closed, but there was a bench by the door, so we sat for a while, contemplating our next move.

Mike said, "Hey, look across the street."  There were probably 30–40 people gathered under an awning, milling around.  I looked and said, "Hey, some of them have signs; in fact, several people are making signs.  Whoa, you don't suppose we are in the midst of a protest...?"  Sure enough, after a while, a big (huge) bearded guy comes over and says, "You guys here for the protest?"  Mike says, "No, we're just here to make fun of them."  The guy smiled and said, "Well, I'm with Patriots for Peace.  I'm just here to make sure the protest remains peaceful."  I said, "And to make sure they socially distance, ay."  He said, "Why don't you go over there and remind them?  I said, "Ya, I'm sure they would appreciate it."

It was mostly, almost entirely young people.  They kept streaming in, most with signs, from all directions.  Soon the crowd had grown to 200–300. They started chanting the old "no justice, no peace" dukey.  Mike said, "Maybe we should get the hell out of here.  Before the news cameras show up and the violence begins."  We did.

It seems to me that the protests around the nation these days (and nights) are nothing more than a giant pander.  It also seems that the opportunity to achieve sought by the class being pandered to doesn't and shouldn't depend on the largess of the pandering class.

For example, you can't find a TV commercial that doesn't include a black person. You can't find a sitcom that doesn't include a black person.  You can't find a opinion panel that doesn't include a black person.  I'm fine with that.  But it's pandering — of the same kind Joe Biden and his gang have served up for 80 years.

If I was a black person, I would be offended.  The idea that I can't get anywhere in life unless white people open the way for me is offensive — even to white people.  At least it should be.

Well, Greg, you just haven't experienced what black people go through.  Pardon me: I grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  I was in the minority.  Some of the Indian kids were my friends — at least until they were in a group of other Indian kids, and then I was treated like...well, the way Elizabeth Peratrovich, a Tlingit Indian woman, put it in her speech to Alaska's legislators in 1945:

"I would not have expected," Elizabeth said in a quiet steady voice, "that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill or Rights.  When my husband and I came to Juneau and sought a home in a nice neighborhood where our children could play happily with our neighbors' children, we found such a house and had arranged to lease it.  When the owners learned that we were Indians, they said 'no.'  Her intelligence was obvious, her composure faultless."  After giving a potent, neatly worded picture of discrimination against the Indians and other native people, Mrs. Peratrovich said, "There are three kinds of persons who practice discrimination.  First, the politician who wants to maintain an inferior minority group so that he can always promise them something.  Second, the Mr. and Mrs. Jones who aren't quite sure of their social position and who are nice to you on one occasion and can't see you on others, depending on who they are with.  Third, the great superman who believes in the superiority of the white race."

There was an awesome silence in the packed hall.  You could hear a pin drop.

Asked by Senator Shattuck if she thought the proposed bill would eliminate discrimination, Elizabeth Peratrovich queried in rebuttal, "Do your laws against larceny and even murder prevent those crimes?  No law will eliminate crimes, but at least you as legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination."

When she finished, there was a wild burst of applause from the gallery and Senate floor alike.  There were tears, crying.  Her plea could not have been more effective.  Opposition that had appeared to speak with a strong voice was forced to a defensive whisper at the close of that Senate hearing by a five-foot, five-inch Tlingit woman.  The Senate passed the bill 11 to 5 on February 8, 1945.

A new era in Alaska's racial relations had begun.  The first civil rights legislation in the United States had been put into law.

Image: Steve Snodgrass via Flickr.