Something about Nebraska

nebraska map

Is it the water, or what?

Nebraska has become the latest midwest state to plunge headlong into the past. There, the state legislature passed, and the governor signed, a law to divide the Omaha public schools into three racially distinct districts: one white, one black, one Hispanic. I find it quite shocking, but it doesn't seem to be terribly big news in Omaha: the home page of the Omaha World-Herald leads today with a feature on Big Red Football (PDF). Football season starts in, what, five months?

Ernie Chambers
Senator Ernie Chambers crumples an advisory letter from Nebraska's attorney general

What part of "separate is not equal" do they not understand? According to a New York Times article, trouble began brewing last year when the mostly-minority (read: non-white) Omaha school district absorbed mostly-white schools that were within the city limits but controlled by suburban or independent school districts. And the driving force behind legislative action was none other than Ernie Chambers, Nebraska's only African-American state senator.

Nebraska has a unique legislative branch: there is only one chamber, members are called Senators, and it is non-partisan. For more information, see sidebar link.

Chambers, age 68, has apparently nursed resentment toward the Omaha schools since being taunted by schoolmates during readings of Little Black Sambo during the 1940s. That may be true, but as an explanation I think it's a stretch. Myself, I think there's something weird going on in that whole section of the country.


Kansas is notorious for attempts to root out evolution from the science curriculum and replace it with creationism ("intelligent design" is just latest evolved form). It is also home to Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. It was near Fort Riley that Timothy McVay hatched his plan to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma spawned Senator James Inhofe, who was "more outraged by the outrage" at the Abu Ghraib prison scandal than by the treatment of the prisoners. He also works very hard to keep scientific findings about global warming and climate change from influencing public policy. (He's chairman of the Senate committee on environment and public works!)

Texas, of course, gave us born-again George W Bush, Pretender to the Presidency and Catastrophe in Chief, as well as Tom Delay.

South Dakota recently turned back the clock by once again banning abortions, except to save the life of the mother. If the fetus is the result of rape or incest, too bad. North Dakota has not been seriously affected so far, to my knowledge, but the Axis of Pre-Enlightenment is clearly expanding.

I don't know what it is. I don't think I know personally anyone from Nebraska, but I did drive across Nebraska once. It is flat and seemingly endless. Radio stations offered two choices: fire and brimstone, come to Jesus programs or updates from the crop and livestock markets.

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There are lots of places I hope to travel. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South and North Dakota are not among them.