2021-06-06 – Intransigence

People are often set in their ways, institutions, almost by definition, are even more resistant to change. When faced with removing a tradition because of racist origins people often resort to convoluted logic or simply rewrite history to create a different reason for the practice, but that does not cause its victims to lose their memory.

Nevada just passed a law banning racially discriminatory school mascots and place names, and banning town sirens marking sundown.

Nevada no longer allows sirens to mark sundown; a practice that indicates it’s time for non-whites to leave a “sundown town” for the night. This measure is specifically aimed at the town of Minden, which still blasts a siren at 6 pm. The town had a law requiring that members of the Washoe tribe leave town by 6:30. Miden is saying the law doesn’t apply to them since they removed the ordinance from their books in 1974 and the siren now honors firefighters. They may even believe what they say; it is easier to convince yourself what you do is good than to admit you are doing it to harm someone else.

There are members of the Washoe tribe alive today who know exactly what that siren means. No amount of gaslighting by the residents of Minden will cause them to forget.

As we examine our own practices we must be honest about their origins; we must be willing to accept that we do some things we should not even attempt to defend and we must be willing to change those things.