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The American Nightmare of John Petro Forakis - Part 3

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Two judges supported that Forakis acted in self-defense (while a third did not respond). One of the remaining two judges still supported Judge Johnson's decision based on the technicality performed by Forakis' lawyer; thus, Forakis was declared guilty in the eyes of the federal court even though he was innocent. The only thing that the court proved was that Forakis was an immigrant trying to live in America.

The federal government lacked evidence to display the burden of proof that the murder was intentional, and they knew it. According to the Utah State Legislature, Title 76, Chapter 1, Part 5, Burden of Proof, the two significant factors below should have occurred in Forakis' case. Still, as we saw in the statement by the reporters, the following never happened:

Presumption of innocence

America underwent many changes as Forakis familiarized himself with his new surroundings while pursuing the American Dream. Forakis arrived 42 years after slavery was abolished upon the passing of the thirteenth amendment. Even though black people became free, the mental wounds and horrible stories shared in conversations about slavery's past were still fresh in the minds of everyone in America. Racism, ethnic bias, and yellow journalism became even more woven into the fabric of America.

Ronald Walker, Professor of History and Senior Research Fellow at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at Brigham Young University wrote about the beliefs of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey that Native Americans are Lamanites… and descendants of the Old Prophet Israel that would be redeemed into the Christian fold and 'blossoming like a rose.' The word "redeemed" in this context means that Native Americans would be approached to change their religions from their current tribal beliefs allegedly back to those beliefs within the Book of Mormon. Newspapers rarely used a delicate type of yellow journalism by avoiding large defamatory text against the Native Americans. They hid their disdain in the stories written, calling them dark-skinned assailants [who shared their] primitive hospitality.

Article of Lilly Fowler, a Washington, D.C.-based writer for The Atlantic

Lilly Fowler, a Washington, D.C.-based writer for The Atlantic, wrote about how the Book of Mormon perceives Lamanites predominantly a wicked people, cursed by God with a 'skin of Blackness' as punishment for turning against him. On the same page, Fowler mentioned that the LDS church believed it was their responsibility to get the Native Americans back onto their righteous path or, as Smith and Cowdrey said earlier, to redeem themselves once again.

The United States government also tried to assimilate Native Americans when they wrote the Dawes Act of 1887, whose goal was the total assimilation of individual Native Americans into American society as small farmers. In 1934, the United States government decided to conveniently right the wrongs done to the Native Americans by creating the Wheeler-Howard Act (also known as the Indian Reorganization Act). This New Deal policy [would give] Native Americans more power to self-govern…contrary to that of the Allotment Act [which took away those rights, and in the New Deal, these tribes] would be in existence for an indefinite period.

The author uses the word 'conveniently' because, between the early 1870s and the mid-1930s, the United States government and its citizens noticed an influx of immigrants coming to America for better wages and a better livelihood. Unfortunately, many people forgot about Emma Lazarus' Ode to the Statue of Liberty (built in 1876). Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. There was no mention of racial or ethnic separation in her poem whatsoever. Immigrants around the world just wanted to experience the American Dream.

Instead of being welcomed with open arms, hugs, and smiles as America was portrayed in stories around the world, many immigrants were greeted with burning crosses, false criminal accusations, and yellow journalism. So, what happened? Well, you had to be a descendant of Northern and Western Europe or, as we saw previously, a part of a particular religious faith in some cases to get treated like human beings by certain people in the United States.

Ioanna Laliotou calls this the framework of scientific racism [where] counter images of Europe were supported and propagated through elaborations of hierarchical internal distinctions among the different stock of the 'white race" -namely, the Nordic, the Alpine, and the Mediterranean. The less amount of "whiteness" that you had in this hierarchy, the more differently you were treated. Many of the hopes and dreams that were "blossoming" in the minds of immigrants coming from outside the areas of Northern and Western Europe were about to wilt in the so-called "melting pot." Greek immigrants who worked in the mines of Utah and other states across America lived in crowded boarding houses, tents, and shacks made of boxes that used to carry explosives.

National Herald's author Steve Frangols

The only place Greek immigrants could be themselves were coffee shops where familiar faces would gather to find security against nativist hostility [Papanikolas noted that] Mormons looked at them as strange beings."

In a different book by Papanikolas, she said that mining managers preferred young Mormon farmers to work the mines. [Papanicolas noted a quote from a manager] 'We have suffered enough from these foreigners.' [She then continues to say] Mormons in sufficient numbers did not come, and the Greeks were brought in. Greek immigrants were not lazy people. They were very hardworking. Work is everywhere. Your two hands are all you need was a commonly shared statement among Greek immigrants.

According to Papanikolas, Greek immigrants and Native Americans were also cautious with each other. The use of fear-mongering and similar attacks by the media was not helping either group of people. We will dive into this topic in the fourth post and see how other Greek immigrants like Forakis had dealt with yellow journalism.

to be continued

Special thanks to the Forakis family for allowing Rízes Hellenic Genealogy Research to share

John Petro Forakis' story with the global Greek community. We extend our heartfelt condolences to you.

All citations are available upon request.

Copyright © 2023 Greek Family Search LLC

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