Your comparison of Irish indentured servitude and African American
slavery in this country, is ridiculous (Random Thoughts, April 4). Although I am not particularly pro reparations, I think a better case can be made for it than against
it, using the half assed reasoning you use.
When was the last time you were called a mick? And yet I have heard the
word nigger almost as much since I moved to Northern Michigan as I heard
in the thoroughly integrated, but seethingly racist, high school I
attended in the sixties.
When was the last time you stood waiting for too long for a seat in a
restaurant? When was the last time you were prevented from purchasing a
home because of your Irish heritage? Or moving into an apartment?
These are things that still take place and are documentable through
first hand experiences even here in Northern Michigan.
Only an apologist interested in protecting the racist status quo would
find and try to draw out comparisons between African American slavery
and indentured servitude. In the first place, as bad as indentured
servitude was, Irish people, and others, VOLUNTEERED, to do it. No one
chained them into the hold of a cargo ship and dragged them over here.
Please see the movie “Amistad“ if you would like a truly horrific and
realistic depiction of a slave ship and then compare and contrast to
most immigrant Irish travails: none of those tiny crude drawings which
were our only lesson in our high school history texts on how slavery was
I also suggest you do some reading about how, during the Civil War, the
Irish used vehement racism to propel themselves out of their lowly
station in the U.S. social order. There were race riots started by Irish
against blacks in New York City which permanently fractured what had
been a relatively friendly relationship between the two groups. Start
with sections on the subject in Howard Zinn‘s “Peoples History of the United States.“ Are you sure you want to continue THAT heritage?
In addition, indentured servitude for blacks in America only began AFTER
the Emancipation Proclamation and, in parts of the south, still exists
in one form or another as it did through the Jim Crow era. And it ain‘t
the shanty Irish who are living in the shacks in Mississippi.
So while reparations may not be an ideal way, and perhaps in the long
run an ineffective way, of healing racism and preventing the
perpetuation of racist habits in this country, I believe there is
justifiable reasoning behind reparations being presented as an option to
be considered. After all, we discuss the cost of every other social
malady, from homelessness, to disease, to the arts, to welfare. Why not
the cost of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and racism?
If, as in the African American community now, one third of all the men
of Irish heritage spent time in prison, I do believe the Irish would
think that something more was going on besides men of Irish background
being bad and natural law breakers. They might even consider that, in
containing one third of their male population, the prisons start looking
more like concentration or work camps. The Irish would certainly believe
there was a problem of crisis proportions. Hell, in the 1860s they
rioted about what might be considered a comparable situation.
Unfortunately, as is the case in most acts of violence, even for a
justifiable cause, the wrong people were targeted and hurt.
What kind of reparations do you think are owed for terrorizing a whole
population of people through lynchings and other terrorism during the
100 years after the war that supposedly freed them? Is there
anything comparable to that in Irish American history?
Bob Vance via email
What is an athlete?
“...three most accomplished athletes ever to have origins in northern Michigan.“ (Random Thoughts, March 28) How can you make such a biased, subjective statement? What is an athlete? Was Cary Adgate of Boyne City an “accomplished athlete?“ I would think eight years on the U.S. Ski and Olympic teams would qualify. What about Jeff Drenth from Charlevoix? Five years (before he died) on the U.S. Cross Country team (a team of the seven best cross country runners in the U.S.) would also qualify. And the McMullen runner from Cadillac who has competed in Olympic trials, world events, etc.
Being an athlete is specific to the sport. Lance Armstrong is one of the best endurance athletes in the world. There is not a single basketball, football, baseball or hockey (the BIG FOUR) player good enough to carry his shoes in terms of endurance. The BIG FOUR are the “chosen“ sports in America. To be called an “athlete“ in America one has to be an athlete in the BIG FOUR. This is outright biased, subjective bullcrap.
Do you really think Michael Jordan, A Rod, Shaq, etc. could outrun Jeff Drenth, out-ski Cary Adgate, or out bicycle Lance Armstrong even if they started early in life? The answer is a big NO. Athleticism is sport specific. Each sport has specific athletic/body variables and requirements to attain world class status.
The only honest, correct thing to say is that each athlete is good at his/her sport. To say one athlete is the best is only accurate when discussing that specific sport. So please don‘t make such biased, global statements again. It shows lack of critical thought. It‘s more indicative of “random thoughts.“
Gerry Brindel via email
Elk Rapids disaster
Thanks so much for printing the article about the wetlands fill in Elk Rapids (April 18).
Six members of the Traverse Group of the Sierra Club, including myself, visited the Elk Rapids Preserve on Sunday, and were horrified at what we saw. 20 acres of wetlands have been filled with tons of clay. There are no trees left; no habitat for the wildlife that once depended on this area for their food and shelter. There is, in fact, nothing left whatsoever except clay, mud, run-off and the “for sale“ signs that line the road, most of them half-covered by water that is accumulating in large pools.
The fact that developers didn‘t pursue the proper permits and circumvented the environmental laws that were supposed to protect this wetland is outrageous and should not be tolerated. We question how this situation got as far as it did, and are looking to not only the DEQ and the developers for answers to our questions, but to Antrim County officials who allowed this to happen.
As the article points out, this is the largest wetland fill in over 20 years. Residents of Northern Michigan should be outraged. In a region where wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate, where ground water is being contaminated and sediment run-off is polluting our lakes and streams faster than we can contain it, there is no excuse for this blind-sided attack on the environment. With Earth Day right around the corner, it would have been great to be at the preserve celebrating the beauty of the area. Instead we will gather with other environmental groups, lake associations and concerned citizens to bring public attention to what has happened and to work together to help prevent further devastation.
Monica Evans, Chair
Traverse Group of the Sierra Club