The Deep North

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Photo by Daniel Braaten

One of my hesitations about moving to Texas (in addition to the weather) was that I wasn’t crazy about living in a state of the old Confederacy.  Although the Civil War was a long time ago the stench of treason in defense of slavery still lingers in places like Texas.  Also living in Texas has made me realize that, constitutionally, I am a person of the Northern Great plains having grown up in North Dakota and spent over 10 years living in Nebraska.  Despite my affinity for the Northern Great Plains over the states of the old Confederacy I must acknowledge that both areas have a long and terrible history of racial repression that still manifests itself in terrible way.  One of those ways is voter suppression.  Texas has, notoriously, one of the most oppressive voter ID laws but my home state of North Dakota is gunning to out do Texas in sheer audacity in its effort to suppress minority votes.

In 2017 the North Dakota Legislature passed a restrictive voter ID law that mandated voters must have a residential street address to vote.  The problem is that on many of the reservations in the state, Native American citizens use P.O. boxes to get their mail and therefore do not have residential street addresses.  This completely arbitrary rule will disenfranchise thousands of Native voters.  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the law and now it will go into effect for the 2018 election and most likely achieve its directive in suppressing the Native vote.  This is shameful and despicable but sadly I cannot say unsurprising for a state that fundamental hates its native population.  At the height of the political repression instituted by state and national officials on the water protectors at Standing Rock, Winona LaDuke wrote a piece calling North Dakota the “Deep North”  and sadly this is a fitting description:

North Dakota did not become Alabama – or the Deep North, as it is now called – overnight.   Native people in North Dakota have been treated poorly for more than a hundred years, whether by the damming of the Missouri and the flooding of millions of acres of tribal land, or by poverty and incarceration, North Dakota is a place of systemic and entrenched racism. Two of the poorest counties in the country are on Standing Rock, Native people comprise almost a fourth of the people in prison, Native suicide rates are ten times that of North Dakotans, infrastructure (like the fifty year old hospital with four doctors for 8000 people, and a now blocked Highway l806, without a shoulder) is at an all time low, and people freeze to death and overdose in the shadow of the Bakken Oil fields. That’s the first layer of abuse, aside from the day to day racism, emboldened by Morton County and the incoming Trump government. It is visible for the world to see now.

. . . and now we can add minority voter suppression to the mix.  The Deep North indeed

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