Frank Zappa has a famous quote where he says, “Hey, you know something people? I’m not black. But there’s a whole lots a times I wish I could say I’m not white.”
That’s how I feel most the time about telling people I’m from Idaho.
Last night, some walking, talking debunk of white racial superiority placed large swastika stickers reading “WE ARE EVERYWHERE” all over Boise’s Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.
Note that these aren’t quickly scrawled bits of graffiti with marker or spray paint. Somebody with a room temperature IQ and fewer teeth than chromosomes took the time to use a graphic design program to make a template, then paid money to have that template made into multiple stickers.
Idaho’s Long History of Racism
Keep in mind that the Anne Frank Memorial was dedicated in 2002 as part of an effort to distance the Gem State from its long history of racism and anti-Semitism.
It wasn’t until 1990, seven years after President Reagan signed the bill creating a federal holiday to commemorate the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that the State of Idaho became the 4th-to-last state to establish a complementary state holiday.
Even so, to this very day that state holiday splits the billing with the title, “Martin Luther King Jr. – Idaho Human Rights Day.”
That signing itself was an effort to overcome the state’s association with the now-defunct Aryan Nations neo-Nazi compound in Northern Idaho, an association to which I can testify. As a traveling database tech in the late ’80s and early ’90s, every time I mentioned the state of my birth, the responses that didn’t include a potato reference always included a Nazi reference.
One thing that has always struck me about Idaho’s bigotry is that it is aimed at people most Idahoans probably rarely encounter. Black people make up just 11,536 of the state’s 1.75 million residents (2018), or about 3/5ths of a percentage point, with only six counties being barely over 1 percent Black (mostly urban counties with a university) and just one county over 3 percent Black (the one with Mountain Home Air Force Base). There are only 2,125 Jews in the state (2020), or about a little over 1/10th of a percentage point. How can one hate people so passionately that one doesn’t even know?
It’s not just the Nazis, though, that make me weep for my home state.
National news networks are reporting on the latest protests led by Ammon “Cletus” Bundy against the Central District Health Department. The state agency had planned to meet to discuss new lockdowns due to the state’s burgeoning pandemic emergency. Bundy’s protestors not only disrupted the state office building where the meeting was held, but protestors—some bearing sidearms—disrupted the homes of department members who were at the state office, causing them to abandon the meeting midway through to return home to protect their frightened children still at home.
It’s no surprise some in Idaho are espousing this COVIDiocy. They have an ally in the second-highest elected official in the state, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.
McGeachin made national news two months ago in a video for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, in which she is brandishing a gun and a Bible, and says the pandemic “may or may not be happening.” She re-opened her family’s tavern in Idaho Falls weeks before the state’s summer coronavirus lockdown was lifted, attended anti-lockdown protests at the capitol, and defended a Panhandle brewery that had been cited for violating the lockdown.
Idaho’s Lt. Governor is elected separately from the Governor. Despite both she and Gov. Brad Little being Republicans and the top elected officials in the state, McGeachin is no longer speaking to Little because of the latter’s sensible policies to protect public health.
Thank Buster Bronco that I can at least tell people I come from the state with the blue football field.