Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has ordered the last three words of her state’s official name, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, purged from state documents and websites.
The Democrat governor announced an executive order to delete “and Providence Plantations” on Monday because of the “image” the word “plantations” evokes concerning slavery. The order is part of a larger push involving the state legislature to cut the phrase out of the state name entirely.
“This morning I signed an executive order removing the phrase Providence Plantations from gubernatorial orders and citations, all executive branch agency websites, all official correspondence, and state employee pay stubs and paychecks,” Raimondo said. “We can’t ignore the image conjured by the word ‘plantations.’ We can’t ignore how painful that is for black Rhode Islanders to see that.”
“To those Rhode Islanders who wonder why we are doing this and thinking it denies our history … we have members of our community who shouldn’t have to feel that sense of hurt and pain and grief every time they get a paycheck or see the name of their state or get a citation from the governor or a legislator. You shouldn’t have to get that stinging message,” she continued.
The move is part her administration’s “Rise Together” campaign for “rooting out racism and bias” in Rhode Island’s institutions.
State legislative leaders also took steps to scrub the word from all documents in the state House and Senate chambers. The Senate has passed a bill to propose changing the state’s name to “the State of Rhode Island” on the ballot in November. House leaders have pledged to take up the bill as well.
“The word ‘plantations’ conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders. Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation’s racist past,” state Sen. Harold Metts said in a statement on Monday.
“The removal of this word with hateful connotations for Rhode Island’s community of color from our official state name will go a long way toward the healing process that is necessary to overcome 400 years of racial inequality, oppression, and injustice. I applaud the governor and the General Assembly for taking actions today as steps in this important process to strike a word that is associated with dehumanization and enslavement,” state Rep. Anastasia Williams added.
The initiative to change Rhode Island’s name comes amid a wave of businesses, organizations, and institutions distancing themselves from and removing perceived racist references attached to their names or brands.
The New York Times issued a lengthy correction and apology to readers after it published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) calling for use of the military to stop widespread looting and property damage in U.S. cities where police and National Guard forces are overwhelmed. The correction followed an internal revolt in which some staffers claimed Cotton’s op-ed could put black staff members “in danger.”
The cultural revolution has also hit bands, snack foods, and brand logos. Many businesses that were never accused of propagating a racist stereotype or image have put out statements explicitly condemning slavery because of a widespread belief that to not do so is admitting complicity with racists.
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