Flemming: Is ‘White’ River Junction racist?

By David Flemming

Yes, that’s apparently a serious question.

Online petitions have become a popular way to rally around various social issues in recent years. “Justice for George Floyd” has garnered 19,500,592 online signatures at the time I am writing this. I spotted a far more trivial petition yesterday on Change.org innocuously entitled “Change WRJ to River Junction.” Before reading the petition itself, one can deduce that “WRJ” stands for “White River Junction,” a town in central Vermont close to the New Hampshire border, population 2,200. The abbreviation seems normal enough in this age of acronyms, but hints at absurdity later on. Notice how the word “white” is avoided.

Highway signs at the junction of Vermont 14, U.S. 5, and U.S. 4 in White River Junction, Vermont

The explanation for the petition takes less than 30 seconds to read: “It is time to end the constant reminder of 400 years of oppression. Tell local and state civic leaders to drop the word WhXte from the name of this town and simply call it River Junction. Imagine being constantly reminded of whXte crimes and whXte privilege every time you see the name of XRJ on a sign. Enough is enough!”

“WhXte” because even reading the word “white” fully spelled out can be offensive to some people apparently. Also notice how the final abbreviation no longer uses the first letter of white “W” and goes from WRJ to XRJ.

There is little chance that White River’s name pays homage to white supremacy. It is far more likely that some settlers 200 years ago observing the 60-mile river noticed some white frothiness and decided to name it “White River,” after which the town nearby became “White River Junction.”

There were 11 signers of the petition yesterday morning. Now there are 42. Thankfully, some of the comments indicated they refused to sign it: “I am a BLM supporter, but I think that this is going to far and it’s absolutely ridiculous. Unless there is some history of black oppression related to its name that I’m not aware of I do not support this initiative” and “you do realize that a) white is a legitimate color that has nothing to do with race, and that b) the town is named after the White River… Go do something that might actually improves race relations and stop with this bull–.”

Others suggested they signed it, but weren’t taking it seriously: “I’m signing because I have no brain and lack the capacity to think for myself.” Well put.

Still, how many of the other 41 signers are actually serious? Petitions like this are what happens when you have the assumption beforehand that Vermont’s entire society is racist. The past, even the most innocent parts of it, must be erased, reason be damned.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

12 thoughts on “Flemming: Is ‘White’ River Junction racist?

  1. This society has gotten completely stupid, have people become so thin skinned that everything offends them

  2. While Geroge Floyd’s death was a tragedy, I can’t help but wonder how many of the folks are familiar with Mr. Floy’s past criminal history or the events leading up to the tragic manner in which Mr. Foyd died. Don’t mean to give anyone as pass, but fhe whole episode is not as cut and dried as first presented and most certainly does not justify the violence that has followed.

    • Definitely not a tragedy. Read the autopsy, watch the bodycam footage that was leaked. Plenty of drugs in his system and he denied having done any, which if he had admitted he had done drugs they would call the paramedics.

      • Unapologetically, Floyd’s death was a tragedy… in several ways. First, that Floyd was a ne’er do well drug addict trying to forge a check was not only a tragedy for him, but for those of us who elect the politicians who use these people for political gain.

        Second, Floyd died as a result of his treatment by the police. A tragedy. Since when does a man handcuffed with his hands behind his back pose ‘a significant threat’ to a trained police officer, let alone four police officers?

        Third, the four policeman should have known better; not only with regard to how they deal with a drug addict, but in understanding how ill-advised it was to place the full weight of one’s knee on anyone’s neck for 8 minutes, while ignoring the fact that they were being filmed in the process. The stupidity of a ne’er do well drug addict is one thing. The stupidity of four ostensibly well-trained police officers is another. Again, a tragedy.

        Fourth, that the incident exposed how many truly unreasonable people are out there who feel justified in rioting, looting and attacking their own communities, not to mention attacking the majority of police officers who actually protect them, is not only a tragedy for them, but for all of America.

        And finally, that anyone would think these circumstances aren’t tragic, from any perspective, is, in itself, a tragedy.

  3. I’ve been holding my own so far but thinking it’s time to let go and accept a free ride to a nice comfy room with pillow walls. But maybe I can hold on til December, when the ballot wars will be in full swing.

  4. Need to get rid of white clouds too. Oppressive white clouds keeping the sun from reaching the earth.

  5. The insanity of Burn,Loot,Murder Marxist’s comes shining thru,are they serious, don’t answer as I’m aware it has nothing to do with the town name, it’s about the agenda.

  6. What about the Black River in Springfield, Black River Produce, the Black Rock Country Club in Mass., or the Black Rock Turnpike in CT, or Black Rock Beach in NH? And then there’s the Black Water Grill, Blackwater (a private military company), Black Leaf Outdoor Fashion. Oh, and Black and Decker, of course. Black Walnut trees, Blackberry Leaf Tea, Eastern Black Oak, Black Oak Arkansas, and the Blackstone River in Mass. and RI. And BlackSky satellites. Then there are Black-eyed Susans, Black Eyed Peas, Black Labradors, Black Thursday (Oct. 1929), Black Monday, Black (pick a day), being ‘in the black’ as opposed to being ‘in the red’. And what about all of the other colors? Redstone, Yellowstone, the Green Monster, the Blue Lagoon.

    What about Hugo Black, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States? He was nominated by our great progressive president, FDR . Black was ‘white’, and he was in the KKK.

    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984

    And who said African Americans are ‘black’ in the first place?

    Call me naïve for asking. But don’t call me a racist.

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