People's History: Women, Prisoners, Indians 1960s-1970s (Chap 19)

People Have the Power, Patti Smith
I Am Woman, Helen Reddy
Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash
Cherokee Nation, Paul Revere and the Raiders
Number 9 Dream, John Lennon

The sixties, human need against authority:
the rights of women, long suppressed by industry;
the plight of prisoners, society's debris;
the sight of Indians consigned to history.

The 1920s: women voting, but subordinate
to men in politics and business. They were adequate
for menial positions, said the men. But wage a war
or start a social movement, and the sexists will implore
the ladies to support the cause! The sixties: little changed,
with earnings twice as much for men, and management arranged
with tiers of golfing buddies. Friedan's "Feminine Mystique,"
a voice against the status quo, urged 'feminists' to seek
creative freedom. Fannie Hamer organized, inspired
the womenfolk: "I'm sick an' tired of bein' sick an' tired!"
So Women's Liberation joined the cause of Civil Rights.
More unions joined the cause as NOW was waging legal fights
for wage equality. Abortion rights became the key
demand: with women "lashed to bodies" their ability
to grow was limited. Illegal operations hurt
the poor. The Roe and Wade decision would at last assert
a woman's right to choose. And E.R.A. -- it meant
a lot at first, but progress came from protest and dissent.
The prisons saw rebellion in the sixties. Their 'reform'
meant breaking spirits of defiant inmates. But a storm
of riots ripped the fragile peace: San Quentin, Attica.
The fine "correctional Valhallas" of America
were under fire -- but occupied by blacks, whose average crime
was burglary, a thousand dollars. They were doing time
at many times the rate of the elite white-collar thief
who swindled millions from society. It strains belief
to call it fair. But protest led to more arrests. The rule
of law for prison justice was a source of ridicule.
The "problem of the Indians" had never gone away:
four-hundred treaties needed breaking to the present day.
They couldn't fish their own ancestral creek in Washington.
On Navajo and Hopi lands, decisions to begin
strip mining devastated residents -- like waging war,
they said. But protests rarely work, for either we ignore
their pleas, or send the troops to Alcatraz or Wounded Knee
to chase them out. We're brainwashed, rooting for the cavalry!
And legal means don't work, denied in language crude and plain:
"Your treaty was preempted due to eminent domain."

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