14 Juni 2005

Boston's Disgusting Law

Every once in a while, there's an article in Spanish edition of Revolution which doesn't get into English edition; I'll try to translate those on this site.

[lee lo original en español aquí]

Revolución #004, 29 May 2005, posted at revcom.us [unofficial translation; entire translation from the Spanish article by me, incl. quotes probably said in English originally]

We received the following letter from a reader:

The disgusting history of this country continues to live on. An example: a little while ago the newspaper Boston Globe informed that Boston wants to be the seat of a conference of Black, Latino, and other minority reporters. But it's run into a problem: a law from 1675 which prohibits Native Americans from entering the city is still in effect.

The law warns that the "barbarians" and "foreigners who are not of our nation" could commit "evils" should they be allowed to enter or live in Boston. It orders to post sentries "to impede the entry of all Indians" who have not received permission beforehand from the Governor or from the City Council, and prohibits one to give them lodging... if not they shall be in jail.

The existence of this law has put Boston in a jam. The Boston Globe informed that "the law continues to be in effect despite that in general it is considered unconstitutional" (why is it not considered unconstitutional unanimously?). But what I really ask myself is: why didn't they revoke it immediately? No, the reporters' organisation is in "discussions" with the city and the Mayor has said that "I will continue pressuring the legislature" to approve a law which will revoke it. They say it will possibly be revoked in a week, but it may be delayed more time.

But, why do they have to discuss if this law must be revoked? Why don't they do it immediately? Consider this: in the case of Terri Schiavo, the Congress and the President met at midnight to take dangerous and unprecedented measures, to approve a law which the Christian Right wanted. What does it say about this country, the "best of all", that they still have a law against Native Americans and that, when it comes into the light of day, it has to be discussed to revoke it or not and be delayed by a week or more?


At 25 Juli, 2005 15:44, Blogger breakerslion said...

Ugh! I will not defend my racist ancestors, except to say that everyone has them. As to why this law is still on the books, it is probably a better question to ask, "Who noticed, and why?" The law is unenforced, and unenforceable. "Unenforceable" is a legal concept that would get any case brought before a judge under this statute thrown out of court and probably result in a tongue-lashing from the judge for anyone who tried to prosecute a case. In other words, on the books or not, it is moot.

As to why it would take time to remove, unlike the shameful midnight acts of the Federal Government, State and Municipal government are more likely to follow their own rules of procedure. The entire State Legislature did not get up in the morning and say, "I wonder what silly law is still on the books from the Colonial era that is offending people?" they have other business. The fact that your source quotes the mayor as looking to the "legislature" and not the City Council throws this whole story under suspicion. There is no reason that I know of that the legislature should need to get involved to overturn a city ordinance. Can you give me a "by line" and date for the alleged article, or did you fail to check your sources?

At 26 Juli, 2005 12:21, Blogger ... said...

When you ask for by line, I assume you mean for the Boston Globe article? (As there's a link to the Revolution letter, which is not by me either, I just translated it.) Anyway I'd be more than happy to, I actually tried to look up when I was translating it, to get verbatim English quotes, but the Boston Globe website only lets you look at stories from today & yesterday, unless you buy subscription.

I did, however, find this article which notes that activists have been trying to get the law repealed since 8 years.

Update on the story: the law was eventually taken off the books, & the reporters' conference will have their meeting in 2008.

Personally I think the main points of the letter is that {1} this law existed at all, & is an example of the "glorious history of this great country"; {2} there was no promise that the law would definitely be revoked (although fortunately it was); {3} the fact that it takes so long & is even uncertain on issue of revoking oppressive laws like this are an indictment against this system, not just some individuals holding administrative posts for it.

I hear what you're saying about the procedural issues, but at the bare minimum one should expect a response of "we'll revoke it, but it'll take a few weeks" or whatever, rather than noncommital "we'll see what we can do" type. Also, as you referred to about the "midnight acts of the Federal Government", the hypocrisy is evident, as the letter points out, in comparison to the Schiavo thing. And yes, it was different individuals & sections of government, but you didn't either see these Boston mayors & legislators speaking out against Schiavo midnight act, if they feel so strongly about the procedural integrity.

If you want to contact the Revolution newspaper about this article or other reason, info is here. Revolution Books Boston, a distributor & supporter of the paper, can be found here: Revolution Books, 1156 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; phone 617/492-5443.


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