The tiny state of Rhode Island announced that because some people are too stupid and too dense to understand that some words have several meanings, they will move to change the official name of their state.
The “official” name of the state is “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” But to those choosing to be ignorant — or those who really are — “plantations” means “a usually large farm or estate, especially in a tropical or semitropical country, on which cotton, tobacco, coffee, sugar cane, or the like is cultivated, usually by resident laborers.”
But in the context as it was originally intended, “plantations” referred to a new colony. But what does context matter when there are dragons to slay? It has been decided that we should choose to remove context and substitute personal interpretation of meaning.
Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner today made the following announcement about his office’s use of the state’s name:
“Today, I am announcing that the Office of the General Treasurer will remove the words “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s checks. We will also remove those words from our letterhead, citations, and other Office correspondence.
The Rhode Island treasurer says he talked to African American leaders who complain the word makes them uncomfortable.
For African-Americans and other People of Color, ‘plantations’ are synonymous with centuries of race-based slavery and violence. In my discussions with African-American leaders in recent weeks, they have explained the chilling feeling they have when seeing the word “plantations” on Rhode Island government letters, citations, and checks.
Well, we can’t have that — even if the black leaders are being silly.
As a student of our State’s history, I know that in 1663 when ‘The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations’ received its Charter, the word ‘plantations’ was not necessarily connected with slavery.
However, words and symbols can take on new meanings over time. As a Rhode Islander with Jewish heritage, I know all too well that the swastika, originally a symbol of spirituality and peace, became a symbol of profound hatred and evil.
How did the swastika make an entrance in discussing “plantations”? Yikes, he’s reaching. He admits that the word has nothing to do with slavery but because some people get a “chilling feeling” when they see the word, it’s gotta go.
As treasurer, I hope Mr. Magaziner never has occasion to write the word “niggardly” when talking about distributing funds. If some black leaders get a chilling feeling from seeing the word “plantation,” they would probably faint dead away if they saw “niggardly” in an official document.
In truth, this is not about “chilling feelings.” Take 100 black people and have them read a paragraph with the word “plantation” in it and then ask how many got a “chilling feeling” by reading it?
Some people wake up every morning, have their morning coffee and maybe some breakfast, and then sit down at their monitors and begin looking for something to be offended by today. They see it as their job. If they don’t find anything blatantly racist, sexist, or bigoted, they twist or remove the meaning of some words to make them offensive.
They slap a hashtag on it and throw it out where so many others are eager to gang up on someone. Thus is born a Twitter meme and the makings of another scurrilous attack on someone who never intended to offend.
There’s absolutely no good reason for Rhode Island to change their state name. But we live in a time where there is no past, no future, only the present. And in the present, madness reigns.
Update: An earlier version of this article suggested that the name change had been made official. That, however, would require a change in the Rhode Island Constitution. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday changing the way the state’s name appears on all government documents, websites, and communications, removing the word “Plantations.”
1. Effective immediately, the Office of the Governor will no longer use the word “Plantations” in executive orders or citations or on its website. As soon as practicable, the Office of the Governor will order and commence using stationery that reads “State of Rhode Island” only.
2. Effective immediately, all executive agencies under the Governor’s control will remove the word “Plantations” from their websites. As soon as practicable, all such agencies will eliminate the word from their stationery, electronic letterhead and all other official correspondence, including paystubs.
3. The Governor’s Office and the state agencies under the Governor’s control shall determine whether there is an available alternative to the use of the state seal in official documents and replace or omit such seal where possible.
Raimondo urged voters to approve a ballot measure to change the name. According to Ballotpedia:
This amendment was introduced as Senate Resolution 2902 on June 17, 2020. On June 18, 2020, the state Senate passed S 2902 in a vote of 38-0. It was sent to the Rhode Island House of Representatives for consideration.