The Newport Democratic City Committee supports passage of Question One on the November 3, Election Ballot, which would permanently remove “Providence Plantations” as part of the official name of the State of Rhode Island. Such action is long overdue.
Even though some people will say that the word “plantations” did not have a sinister meaning when associated with our state in its formative stages, we have to be mindful of what it conveys now. This is a day and age of tremendous racial unrest. And, it is very important to recognize that both White and Black people are expressing profound concern about the injustice visited upon African Americans and other enslaved people who lived and worked on plantations both in the North and South years ago.
It is equally important to recognize that Black people, in disproportionate numbers, have been subjected to harsh and uneven treatment in our criminal justice system for centuries. We have seen an increase in the number of Black people who have been killed in the last 2 to 3 years, sometimes in interaction with law enforcement personnel.
As a result, we are experiencing a higher level of tension and mistrust among people of all colors this year. At the same time, there is evidence of a lot of these same people earnestly want to resolve these long-standing problems once and for all. The racial prejudice that has been so ingrained in our society is finally being understood as fundamentally unfair to one another as human beings and as American citizens, but also as undermining the foundations of our democratic system of government.
We believe that most Black people in RI want “plantations” removed from the state’s name because it serves as a painful reminder when their ancestors were cruelly treated, both physically and mentally. They were beaten, separated from family members, placed in unhealthy living conditions, and deprived of all rights.
There is a need for an ongoing healing process. We must all do our part in support of such a process. We can demonstrate our genuine concern by voting to approve this ballot question. Sure, a lot more must be done, but this is a forward step.
J. Clement Cicilline, Chair