I keep hearing the refrain (or variations thereof) “This is not who we are…” in the context of the acts of domestic terrorism, such as the mass shootings we are experiencing … the taking away or curtailing of constitutional rights such as voting, a woman’s right to choose, etc.
Seen in the light of historical reality, “This is not who we are…” is more aspirational than factual. For, the U.S. has a long history of mass murder and domestic terrorism.
A litany of shame…
Here is a sampling of historical facts that cannot be denied – although, as we’ll see below, far-right Republicans are bent on doing exactly that.
* For 246 years (1619-1865), slavery, that most inhumane of human practices, drove the economy of what is today’s U.S. … thousands of slaves died from inhumane practices or outright beatings during this period – that era’s counterpart to today’s murderous mass shootings.
Slavery drove the economy of what is today’s U.S.
* U.S. President Andrew Jackson championed the Indian Removal Act and is the architect of American Indian genocide in the Southeast. Jackson oversaw the “The Trail of Tears,” during which – between 1830 and 1850 – over 60,000 American Indians were torn from their homes and forced to march, under horrendous conditions, over 1,000 miles to Oklahoma. Over 15,500 perished in this murderous march – another historical counterpart to today’s murderous mass shootings.
* Indigenous peoples – who inhabited this land before any white folks “discovered” it – were considered “foreigners”(!) by the Founding Fathers. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States and “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” Since Indigenous peoples were perceived to be subject to the jurisdiction of their respective tribes, the jurisdiction requirement was used to deny citizenship to Indigenous people.
It was not until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 that the country’s indigenous people were granted full U.S. citizenship. However, the Act did not confer voting rights on Indigenous people. They couldn’t vote for decades after that.
It was not until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 that the country’s indigenous people were granted full U.S. citizenship.
Until 1957, some states barred Indigenous peoples from voting. In my home state, Arizona, Indigenous peoples were not allowed to vote until 1948, when the Arizona Supreme Court overturned a ban on Indian voting. But Arizona kept Indigenous peoples from voting by means of virtually-impossible-to-pass English literacy tests. These tests (also used by other states) were not outlawed until 1970.
* In the late 1860s, the domestic terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), was founded. The KKK pursued vigorously – including through murder—its racist belief in the supremacy of the White race. A major focus of the KKK was to deny Blacks the constitutional right to vote. Although usually associated with the South and its persecution of Blacks, the KKK also targeted immigrants and Catholics and Jews and was very active in the northern and mid-western states and other parts of the country, including my home state of Arizona.
In the KKK’s halcyon days, elected officials at all levels – federal to local – were among its members and supporters. Regular folk supported the KKK because it blamed immigrants and non-Protestants for stealing jobs from ‘true’ Americans – the precursor to the contemporary “replacement theory” propounded by white nationalists and their enablers.
Up through the 1960s, the KKK was responsible for hundreds of murders – by acts of terror such as bombings of churches, businesses, and houses; by lynchings (not only of Blacks but also of Native Americans and people of Mexican and Asian descent); assassinations, and the like.
Through the 1960s, the KKK was responsible for hundreds of murders.
* The first significant law restricting immigration into the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, was enacted because many people on the West Coast blamed Chinese workers for declining wages and economic ills. Underlying the exclusion act were concerns about maintaining white “racial purity” – another forerunner of today’s “replacement theory” propounded by white nationalists and their enablers.
* The Great Deportation. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the U.S., carried out the “Mexican repatriation.” In yet another historical incarnation of the racist “replacement theory,” then-President Hoover decided to go after people perceived to be “outsiders” who were taking Americans’ jobs – people who looked Mexican or had a Mexican-sounding name. As many as 1.8 million people of Mexican descent, a large majority (about 60%) of whom were U.S. citizens, were herded into cattle cars and deported.
So they hide it – or try to…
History is history. It cannot be undone. The next best thing for those who would like to re-write history is to hide it, to keep people from learning it. Which is precisely what has occurred and is occurring today. Some examples:
* The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot-Massacre in Oklahoma, instigated by the KKK, is regarded as one of the worst incidents of racial violence in America’s history. The entire black business district of Tulsa, Oklahoma (known as “Black Wall Street”) and the surrounding area, were destroyed. Virtually every structure was torched, 300 people were killed, over 800 injured, and about 10,000 black people were left homeless.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot-Massacre left 300 dead.
The murder of 300 people in one event certainly qualifies as a mass murder, and the torching of an entire community on a racist basis certainly qualifies as domestic terrorism.
Despite the horrendous nature and scope of the incident, details of the Tulsa riot-massacre were purposely omitted from local, state, and even national histories. The silence was finally broken when, in 1996, the 75th anniversary of the event, the Oklahoma Commission investigated the event and recommended reparations for survivors of the victims.
The Tulsa Race Riot-Massacre was added to Oklahoma school curricula in 2020, just two years ago.
* In 2010 Arizona legislators enacted legislation that targeted the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson. Ostensibly the legislation was designed to outlaw courses “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people” or that “promote the overthrow of the United States government.” None of those descriptors applied to the MAS program.
Rather than stand up to the state, the Tucson Unified School District dismantled the MAS program and banned the books used by the MAS teachers. The intent was to hide, to erase – to criminalize! – Mexican American history!
* Recently, the far-right / white-nationalist, Republicans’ flavor-of-the-month lie was that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught in elementary, middle-, and high schools. Critical Race Theory is taught at the law school and graduate school level. There is not a single elementary, middle-, or high school in the U.S. that has CRT as part of its curriculum. None.
The real purpose is to eliminate the teaching of subject matter – e.g. slavery, civil rights issues, etc. – that makes
In 2020 the Tucson Unified School District dismantled the MAS program and banned the books used by the MAS teachers.
white kids feel “bad.”
* This summer the Texas State Board of Education will consider updates to social studies instruction after lawmakers passed a law to keep topics that make (white) students “feel discomfort” out of Texas classrooms.
One of the updates before the Texas State Board of Education would prohibit the teaching of slavery. That inhumane institution that is an integral part of the country’s history would be referred to as “involuntary relocation.
Far-right / white nationalists, Republicans, are not patriots…
Those who are bent on suppressing history are not patriots. They obviously are ashamed of their country’s history and want to hide it. They run from it!
Liberals, on the other hand, acknowledge the past – warts and all – and then work to change those things that hurt people. Consider, for example:
It was the liberals who: led the suffrage movement and won for women the right to vote.
It was the liberals who: led the suffrage movement and won for women the right to vote … established the labor movement and eliminated many oppressive practices and laid the foundation for a true middle class to emerge in this country … stood with the blacks as they took on the state’s righters and the KKK … marched with farm workers as they fought to obtain a living wage and decent working conditions … fought (and continue to fight) for health care for the poor and for children …
Instead of “This is not who we are…,” we should say “This is who we should be…” and work to change those things that contribute to mass murders and domestic terrorism. Some would even put the all-too-frequent killings of unarmed people – mostly black and brown – by police in this category.
Real patriots study and learn from history … they do not run or hide from it. c/s