March, 2009 Addendum: This article had an unexpected and unintended effect in my hometown. Please read an explanation here.
I’ve been so immersed in trying to fight a virulent minority in my town consisting of people who are against having a Mashpee Wampanoag Native American Resort Casino here that I have barely attended to the national news. I have learned a lot about how well organized people with a good playbook like the one posted on the website of a national anti-Indian sovernity organization called Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA)* can rally narrow-minded, prejudiced, and fearful people to a cause that won’t benefit them at all. I believe that there is racial bigotry being expressed by some members of the anti-casino movement. Certainly, not all members have these sentiments, but the leaders of the group have not purged their ranks of them or made a statement eschewing racism. In part it is racism against Native Americans, and in part against members of minority groups expected to move to our town of 22,000 to take advantage of the thousands of new jobs the resort will provide. There has been fear mongering about some 20 new languages being spoken in our schools, which I view as coded racism. These people are not against the speaking of a foreign language but rather are prejudiced against the speaker of the foreign language. Of course, they make no mention that the payments to the town from the resort will help bring the school system back from the brink of bankruptcy. We have a traffic circle in town, called a rotary here in Massachussets, where commuters exit the expressway from Boston on their return from work. Friday afternoon, with a couple of other adults and several children, we stood for two hours carrying pro-casino signs during the afternoon rush and tried to judge what percentage of people were for and against the casino. I can say that I endeavored to look at all occupants of vehicles to determine any expression one way or the other among those who didn’t honk their horns in favor. Since Middleboro is mostly white, it wasn’t surprising that most pro-casino responders were also white. But many pro-casino responders were people of color. None of the anti-casino responders were people of color. The pro-casino respondents expressed their support with considerable enthusiasm. This was obvious from their gestures and expressions. It was so common for three or four cars in a row to honk virtually in unison that we couldn’t keep a good count of supporters, and many supporters just smiled and waved or gave us a thumbs UP. Some drivers gave us a wave or thumbs up, and then once they could read the "toot for the casino" sign they honked their horns after they drove by. I was especially carefully to watch for and count negative responders because they didn’t call attention to themselves by honking their horns. Our estimate was ten cars in favor for every one or two against. On Saturday from 11AM to 1PM we went back to the rotary and tried to do another poll when there was less traffic so we could better gauge the response. The results were the same. The sheer negativity expressed by some of the anti-casino people was glaring. But I also had another agenda. I wanted to get a sense of just who the particularly nasty anti-casino people were who don’t come to their demonstrations were. The twenty or so anti-casino demonstrators at their own protests tends to be white, respectable, and middle class, which you can see in this photo essay. Some vehicles, usually with two or more men aged 18-25 also accompanied their gestures with catcalls. I find it difficult to believe they are that concerned about issues raised by the anti-casino group like losing the clear night sky over the old Indian homeland, Nemasket (not a certainty), the rural ambiance of Middleboro (already lost), or having their homes broken into. Assessing all the various negative expressions I saw I have to ask myself whether we really understand what is making many of these people this angry? On Saturday I captured a few of the negative thumbs down signs on camera which you can view here. below. Unfortunately I missed getting any pictures of the young men who seemed the most, dare I say "aggitated" in their response. This was probably because they tended to drive fast and all I could snap was the rear end of their cars. Not to judge a book by its cover, but by appearance I don’t think too many of these people read many books, let alone the anti-casino website. Are they outright racists, are they bigots, are they prejudiced? I can’t really say but but I have a hunch they may be, and my bet is that they won’t be recruited by the anti-casino movement to their demonstrations. For more about my involvement in the pro-casino and pro-Native American movement in our little New England town, read the website that has kept me from my usual diligence in writing two columns a week for Capital Hill Blue, Casino-Friend.com
* You can download a "playbook" for those opposing Native American casinos on the CERA website by clicking Tribal Gambling on the left column and going to "Action Guide for Community Groups. It appears that our own anti-casino group followed these or similar guidelines with considerable early success.