It’s a truism that reasonable policymaking requires a familiarity with history, and the ability to apply the lessons of history to current issues. That’s one of the many reasons that the current Rightwing efforts to label a major part of American history as (that dreaded) “CRT”, and dispense with its study, is so misguided.
There are lessons to be learned–and legislators in several states (including Indiana) rather clearly haven’t learned them.
Even before the current efforts to eliminate America’s mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people from school textbooks, those texts glossed over the “Great Migration.” That’s a shame, because the legal and social realities that drove Black Southerners North should warn Red state legislators about the likely consequences of imposing disabilities on women.
As soon as Black Americans had the ability and resources to leave the Deep South after the Civil War, they left…. More than six million Black Americans moved from the former Confederate states to the Civil War-era Union states between 1910 and 1970….
Jim Crow laws were America’s shameful version of apartheid, resulting in racial inequality and state-sanctioned terror. Jim Crow laws restricted every aspect of life for Black Americans, making it nearly impossible for Blacks, or for that matter white Americans, to reach their human potential. But while whites suffered from the contagious disease of racism, they also benefited at the expense of their Black neighbors.
The same states that practiced the most pernicious forms of Jim Crow are also the states that today restrict the health care rights of women. The lesson of the Great Migration of Black Americans is that people can and arguably should vote with their feet. Women — by the millions — must be at least contemplating leaving these states and moving to states where their rights are duly respected.
As of this week, 15 states have passed total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. These 15 states do not include Georgia, which recently passed a ban after six weeks, but they do include Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho and Nebraska. The female population in these states is approximately 60 million.
The essay was written by Fred McKinney, a co-founder of BJM Solutions. BJM is described as “an economic consulting firm that conducts public and private research since 1999.” McKinney is also the emeritus director of the Peoples Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac University.
The essay echoed an argument I’ve made on this blog and in the book I recently co-authored on women’s progress: women will choose to attend universities, take jobs and raise families in states that respect their fundamental rights.
Legislatures passing these retrograde laws have failed to appreciate their inevitably negative economic impact. Businesses understand that women’s choices–where to attend a university, where to accept a job– aren’t abstractions. They are a reality, and employers are highly likely to factor that reality into their own location decisions–decisions that are already heavily influenced by the availability of a talented and skilled workforce.
It won’t just be women who exercise their choice to settle in fairer states; there are plenty of men who share women’s political and medical concerns. And as the essay points out, the people leaving backward and restrictive states will largely be those who possess the greatest drive and skills, those who can most easily relocate.
There are also those recent travel advisories issued by the NAACP, Equality Florida, and the League of Latin American Citizens–precursors of other advisories affecting tourism. The economies of a number of states, not just Florida, are heavily dependent on tourism.
These realities will depress economic conditions in Red states like Indiana–an obvious consequence that our truly terrible and unrepresentative legislators have failed to comprehend.
The last Great Migration had an enormous impact on American society. As the Smithsonian Magazine explains:
By leaving, they would change the course of their lives and those of their children. They would become Richard Wright the novelist instead of Richard Wright the sharecropper. They would become John Coltrane, jazz musician instead of tailor; Bill Russell, NBA pioneer instead of paper mill worker; Zora Neale Hurston, beloved folklorist instead of maidservant. The children of the Great Migration would reshape professions that, had their families not left, may never have been open to them, from sports and music to literature and art: Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Jacob Lawrence, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, Prince, Michael Jackson, Shonda Rhimes, Venus and Serena Williams and countless others.
Women’s “great migration” is next.
Red states’ continued social and economic decline can be traced to legislatures that refuse to learn the lessons of history.