Whose America?

After he was elected Donald Trump crowed, “this is the day we take our country back.” The Orange One’s supporters knew what his dog whistle meant. White supremacist Richard Spencer announced: “We won. America belongs to white men.” His buddy Jared Taylor told ABC News journalist Amna Nawaz: “we built a wonderful country that your ancestors could not have [built]. That is why people like you come here.” Taylor put into words what many white Americans believe — that the nation is the crowning achievement of Christian white people and that it’s their country.

But history professor Joe Krulder isn’t buying the myth of America as a lily white nation. In “America was never White” Krulder provides numerous examples of the diversity that actually built America, and of a much more complex history — not simply white settlement — that made the nation.

The founding myths of America that white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor are flogging almost seem to have been taken from Nazi and Soviet era propaganda. White farmers braving cold Dakota winters in sod houses, nobly attacking the land with scythes, or pictures of muscular white tradesmen hammering iron or forging the beams of American skyscrapers. It’s quite romantic.

And it’s also a crock. Historians can tell you that the real America was conquered by genocide, ethnic cleansing, and violence. Much of our national wealth was accumulated by stealing the lives and labor of those regarded as less than human and pressing them into slavery. White supremacy had to be invented to justify slavery, but white supremacy has proven to be both versatile and extensible in justifying America’s many wars of choice on brown and yellow people around the world.

White supremacy, in fact, is such a major strand of our national DNA that it leads many to believe that we are something grander than a nation among other nations, that we have a divine mission to minister to our benighted brown brethren in other countries, guide them, murder them if necessary, deliver to them our great institutions of democracy and capitalism through the barrel of a gun. Every aspect of our society — from economic inequality to the prison system — is based on white supremacist myths that people like Spencer and Taylor have long been selling. Even our first black president, a man who lived in other cultures, considered himself an advocate of American Exceptionalism.

Charlottesville reminded us again of this when racists and Nazis mobilized to defend Southern “heritage” in the form of a Confederate statue. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are at least 1,500 monuments to the “lost cause” of the Confederacy, many of them built by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

The Daughters of the Confederacy describes itself as a patriotic organization. But like Spencer and Taylor the UDC promotes a revisionist history. It is “an organization which has for its purpose the continuance and furtherance of the true history of the South and the ideals of southern womanhood.” The “true history” the UDC is selling is “a heritage so rich in honor and glory that it far surpasses any material wealth.”

Likewise the Sons of Confederate Veterans is committed to “the vindication of the cause for which we fought. […] the perpetuation of those principles […] and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.” Glorious slavery.

But don’t believe me. Believe the slavemasters themselves. The Constitution of the Confederate States spells out the Confederate glories in detail. Slavery is mentioned no less than a dozen times in the document, and it was such a central, glorious “ideal” that the Confederate Constitution contained a clause which prevented slavery from ever being abolished.

But if we really want to look at Southern heritage, let’s begin where the Civil War began — in South Carolina.

The first settlements in the Carolinas date from 1640 to 1650. A second wave of colonists, slave traders from Barbados, arrived in 1665, and a third wave came in 1670 to what is now Charleston, South Carolina. They were a quarrelsome, violent bunch. Authoritarian government, political intrigue, dissension, murder and insurrection were the rule rather than the exception. Brotherly love among white colonists might have been a Christian notion but it was nowhere to be found. British Anglicans prohibited French Protestants from owning land in the colony, for example.

For this, after all, was colonialism. Competitors had to be fought and killed, natives had to be “repealed and replaced.” In 1713 Carolina’s colonists forced Tuscorara, Westoe and Coree Indians to flee north where they were eventually assimilated by the Iroquois. Despite colonial treaties many Indians were pressed into slavery and shipped to the West Indies to serve on plantations. It seems triply obscene that Jeff Sessions won’t let them back in their country.

The French, English, and Spanish were all in the New World to conquer it. And they hated each other. It is laughable to think of Spencer’s and Taylor’s fairytale notion of a monolithic European culture at America’s founding. Queen Anne’s War was a colonial dispute over conquered Spanish territory that played out all over the North American continent. Indians in the Carolinas — when they were not being whipped and shipped into slavery — were pressed into the ranks of militias on both the French and English sides.

But then there are the demographics. If, as white supremacists argue, America was always a white Christian nation, then the early American population should have been demonstrably white.

But census data easily disproves this notion.

Throughout the Deep South, for much of our early history, slaves outnumbered whites. It was slaves who farmed the land. In cities many slaves were skilled tradesmen and artisans. Besides white brethren who refused to see them as such, it was also slaves — and the children of slaves — who were hammering on American iron. Go to Charleston, South Carolina and you can see hundreds of pieces of the enduring iron work of Philip Simmons, who learned his craft from a former slave.

During World War I the 371st Infantry Regiment numbered many black Americans from South Carolina. Pershing didn’t see much use for them and he actually handed over the regiment to French command. But numerous members of the 371st received the Croix de Guerre and the Order of Légion d’Honneur. Then they returned to a nation they had just defended but never heard the phrase: “thank you for your service.”

Census figures from the early 1700’s show a consistent non-white majority in South Carolina until 1920 — that was the year that white people finally edged past 50.38%. The nation was 150 years old; whites could finally claim South Carolina was white.

White supremacist myths can’t hold up to history and fact. It may be true that the reins of the economy have always been in white hands, but the work of building and defending America was done — and always has been done — by those rarely given their rightful credit.

Questions for Bill Keating

On August 30th at 6PM at the UMASS Law School in Dartmouth voters from the 9th Congressional District will have a chance to meet Congressman Bill Keating. As I have noted previously, Keating is not much of a Liberal and his views on immigration, healthcare, consumer protection, and foreign policy are substantially at odds with many Democrats and completely at odds with the new Massachusetts Democratic Party platform. In fact, on immigration especially, Bill Keating seems to go out of his way to vote with Republicans.

Yes, our Congressman has some explaining to do — not only his own voting record, but also the positions of the New Democrat Coalition, of which he is a member. This is one more new Democratic grouping resisting progressive legislation that has some membership overlap with the openly conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

Keating is either a relic of the Democratic Party’s past, or a symbol of its unchanged, and doomed, future.

The PDF in this link might be useful for anyone in the audience on August 30th with an opportunity to jump in line and ask Mr. Keating a question.

Voters need answers on:

  • Immigration
    You have broken with Democrats to vote for several GOP anti-immigrant bills. H.R.3009 punishes Sanctuary Cities. H.R.4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, restricts absorption of Syrian refugees. Most recently you voted for H.R.3004, “Kate’s Law,” which takes a harsh but largely symbolic stand against desperate people who re-enter the United States. The candidate statement on immigration you provided “On the Issues” sounds like it was written by Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions. Can you explain why your positions are so divergent from mainstream Democrats?
  • Discriminatory Auto Financing
    You and a minority of House Democrats broke with your own party to vote for Republican sponsored H.R.1737, the Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act. This bill prohibited consumers — particularly minorities — from suing auto lenders who violated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules against discrimination in lending. The bill takes the unusual step of preventing disclosures of violations with Freedom of Information Act requests. The NAACP, the Urban League, La Raza, the Consumers Union, and many others, were opposed. Why did you vote to preserve and protect discrimination? And why did you vote against consumers?
  • Medicare for All
    One hundred and sixteen Democrats, including your colleagues in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, and Michael Capuano, have co-sponsored H.R.676, John Conyers’ Medicare for All Act. Why are you not a co-sponsor of this bill? And is there another plan to expand care to Americans that you WOULD support?
  • College Tuition
    Twenty-seven Democrats, including your Rhode Island colleagues in the House, David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, have co-sponsored H.R.1880, Pramila Jaypal’s College for All Act. Why are you not a co-sponsor of this bill, one which puts into action what Massachusetts Democrats just voted into our platform last June?
  • Private Prisons
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Clark — support H.R.3227, Raul Grijalva’s Justice is Not for Sale Act. At a time Republicans are trying to re-institute discredited justice and prison practices, and pushing privatization, including prisons, schools, and even the war in Afghanistan, why won’t you support this bill — one that places restrictions on private prisons?
  • Mortgage Lending
    You and 63 Democrats broke with your own party to vote for Republican sponsored H.R.3192, the Homebuyers Assistance Act. This bill was a hit with the American Bankers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Home Builders lobby, but it prohibited consumers from suing mortgage lenders who violated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau disclosure requirements under the Truth in Lending Act. You don’t believe in amnesty for immigrants. Why an amnesty for mortgage lenders?
  • Abortion
    One hundred and twenty-one Democrats, including you, support H.R.771, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage. Thank you for that. However, DNC chair Tom Perez and DCCC chair Ray Lujan, as well as some in the New Democrat Coalition, of which you and Seth Moulton are members, argue for “flexibility” on abortion and against abortion as a litmus test. But shouldn’t abortion rights be a non-negotiable plank for Democrats? A litmus test, if you will?
  • Citizens United
    In light of the tremendous amount of money now being spent on elections at all levels and ballot questions from 2012 and 2014 showing over 70% of Massachusetts voters supporting a Constitutional amendment to restrict rights to natural persons and to take money out of elections — why are you not a co-sponsor of H.J.Res.48, which would do precisely that?
  • Automatic Voter Registration
    One hundred and sixteen Democrats, including four Massachusetts Representatives — McGovern, Tsongas, Neal, and Clark — support H.R.2840, David Cicilline’s Automatic Voter Registration Act. At a time when Republicans are making it more difficult, not easier to vote, what’s stopping you from supporting this bill?
  • Taxing Wall Street Speculation
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Clark — already support H.R.1144, Keith Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act. This Wall Street Speculation fee is a fraction of a percent tax on stocks, bonds, and financial derivatives, will be used to fund public university tuition, and is offset by tax credits. Can we get you on record tonight as supporting this bill?
    Two members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation — McGovern and Moulton — have co-signed Representatives Bill Pascrell and Debbie Dingell’s letter urging the U.S. Trade Representative’s office to ensure that the NAFTA renegotiation process remains open and transparent. — Why not you?

Show them all the door

The nation can’t take much more of this. This week alone Donald Trump has edged us uncomfortably closer to both nuclear and civil war.

Anyone disappointed by Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacists and fascists should hardly be surprised to find so many of them in his own administration. Anyone who believes the GOP’s repudiations of white supremacy should remember how hard Republicans fought for Trump’s cabinet picks and national security appointments (below). And anyone who would like to give the 45th president of the United State the benefit of the doubt on his recent comments should remember that white supremacy is a tradition in the Trump family.

Trump has got to go. Either by impeachment or the 25th Amendment, either is fine by me. And those in the following gallery of haters — half of whom are Trump-appointed white supremacists — should all be shown the door.

  • Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Lou Barletta, Immigration Policy advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • John Bolton, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Islamophobe
  • David Clarke, Dept. of Homeland Security – Islamophobe
  • Kellyanne Conway, Senior advisor and former campaign manager – Islamophobe
  • Monica Crowley, Director of Communications at the National Security Council – Islamophobe
  • Jon Feere, Dept. of Homeland Security – white nationalist and anti-Semite
  • Michael Flynn, Former National Security advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Frank Gaffney, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Newt Gingrich, Unofficial advisor – Islamophobe
  • Katharine Gorka, DHS Landing Team advisor – Islamophobe
  • Sebastian Gorka, National Security advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe, anti-immigrant, with connections to actual Hungarian Nazis
  • Pete Hoekstra, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Julie Kirchner, Customs and Border Protection advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • Kris Kobach, Immigration Policy advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Clare Lopez, Unofficial National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • K.T. McFarland, Former National Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Stephen Miller, Senior Policy advisor – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant
  • Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson – Islamophobe
  • Walid Phares, Foreign policy advisor – Islamophobe
  • Mike Pompeo, CIA Director – Islamophobe
  • Jeff Sessions, Attorney General – white nationalist, Islamophobe, and anti-immigrant
  • Peter Thiel, Transition Team advisor – white nationalist and anti-immigrant
  • Beth Van Duyne, Dept. of Housing and Urban Development – Islamophobe
  • Frank Wuco, Homeland Security advisor – Islamophobe
  • Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior – white nationalist, Islamophobe and anti-immigrant