Today, Kansas wrestles with a dilemma not much different from the one it faced at its birth. As the American Civil War was nearing eruption, Kansas confronted a moral quandary of whether it would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. For nearly seven years (1854-1861), the pro-slavery forces (called Border-Ruffians) had used deceit and violence to etch Kansas in the image of a pro-slavery Southern state. On January 29, 1861, years before the U.S. Constitution would be amended to outlaw slavery, Kansas entered the Union as a Free State, proclaiming “We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas.”
Thus, more than a hundred and fifty years ago, Kansas began its existential voyage with gratitude to One God, devotion to civil and religious privileges, and commitment to human dignity and the full enjoyment of “our rights.” This preamble of the Kansas constitution remains firmly planted in its free soil. Unfortunately, Border Ruffians have reemerged to corrupt the existential foundation of Kansas as a Free State that had rejected subjugation, cruelty, hard-heartedness, lynching, and bigotry associated with the shameful chapter of slavery.
The soi-disant leader of Border Ruffians is Kris Kobach, who occupies the office of the secretary of state, draws a salary from Kansas taxpayers, but spends lots of hours every day steering questionable causes such as border wall and voter fraud, writing unintelligent columns for Breitbart, and hobnobbing with political criminals such as Joe Arpaio. The Editorial Board of the Washington Post has dubbed Kobach “as the real fraud.” Through his words and deeds, Kobach dishonors the Free State of Kansas, nationally and internationally, and yet, with the support of Border Ruffians, he is running for the Governor of Kansas in the 2018 elections.
Border Ruffians have contempt for the demographics of Kansas. They erroneously see Kansas as an affluent state of able-bodied white residents and they see non-whites as poor, rip-off intruders. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2016 estimated population of Kansas is approaching 3 million. Nearly 12% of Kansas residents are Hispanic, about 6% African Americans, about 3% Asians, and about 1% Native Americans. Approximately 7% are foreign born. Around 8% are persons with disability. Over 12% live in poverty, and over 10% under age 65 years do not have health insurance.
Ignoring these demographics, Border Ruffians highlight the non-existent voter fraud and have launched a harassment movement against Kansans of Mexican origin. Consequently, Hispanics born and raised in Kansas are seen as illegal immigrants and fraudulent voters. Border Ruffians play upon the Christian faith of Kansas residents to market bigotry against Muslims, even when Kansas colleges and universities are actively seeking students from Muslim countries, and scores of Muslim physicians are providing critical services in urban and rural areas of Kansas.
Kansas as a Free State shall not discriminate among its residents. Nor would it allow Border Ruffians to foment hatred on the basis of race or religion. The planned attack on the Somalis working and living in Garden City was a disgraceful consequence of the politics of Border Ruffians as was the hateful killing of an Indian engineer in a Kansas bar. Border Ruffians and their kingpin Kris Kobach have no future in Free State because the people of Kansas have no fascination with the dark ages of prejudice.
Right Side of History
Under President Trump, a noted Border Ruffian, the U.S. is losing moral anchor at home and in the world. In these sick times, Kansas can furnish a healthy heart that repairs the body. Relying on its existential origin as a Free State and consistent with its demographics, Kansas must reject the racist and xenophobic politics of Border Ruffians. Kansas needs to focus on economic prosperity and human dignity to unleash new energies among the various ethnic and religious communities living across the Sunflower State of fabulous prairies and hills. Mexicans, Irish, Somalis, Germans, Muslims, all are welcome to Kansas.
While Border Ruffians wish to turn Kansas into a xenophobic state, a review of Kansas businesses portrays a more promising picture of diversity and inclusiveness. In 2012, there were around two hundred and thirty nine thousand businesses (239,000) in Kansas. Women owned over thirty two (32) percent of the businesses whereas non-whites owned about 11%. Veterans owned about 9% of the total firms operating in Kansas. Hopefully, Kansas businesses are even more diverse in 2017 as ethnic restaurants, family shops, and sole proprietorships in small towns add numbers and complexity to an otherwise franchises-dominated corporate commerce.
In line with the historical motif of Free State, Kansas colleges and universities are also playing a prominent role in educating domestic and foreign students. Students from all over the U.S. come to Kansas universities to study agriculture, law, business, sciences, and various vocations. Even small community colleges, such as Cowly County Community College and Cloud County Community College, draw hundreds of international students. Border Ruffians, by their pathological focus on race-based ideologies, are out of touch with the present-day Kansas educational institutions committed to diversity, tolerance, and morally inspiring inclusiveness.
In every community, state, and nation, there lurk dark forces emanating from twisted minds that see the world through the tainted eyes of prejudice. Border Ruffians in Kansas have no future in the domain of political or sociological influence. The good-hearted people of Kansas — Mexicans, Germans, Irish, Muslims and others — raised in or near open spaces naturally adorned with sunflowers, know that for a millennia before the Europeans arrived here and settled, Kansas has been a free state and will so remain in the foreseeable future.
In troubled times when bigotry is officially fanned in power circles, Kansas knows how to redefine the quintessential heart of America, choosing to be on the right side of history.