Soon after Trump ordered the separation of immigrant children from their parents, conscientious observers began exposing the longer roots of such racist cruelties – reminding shocked Americans how similar crimes had been committed against other vulnerable peoples in the US in recent and not so recent history.
Trump, we learn from these accounts, is not the first white man in a position of unfettered power and vicious cruelty, snatching children from their parents in America and putting them in cages to cry for their freedom. The origin of such crimes is much deeper, far more horrific.
“Separating migrant families is barbaric”, wrote Shaun King in a brilliant piece for the Intercept, further adding, “It’s also what the US has been doing to people of colour for hundreds of years”. King rightly dismissed the kneejerk liberal reaction to this calamity by those who say such things are “not American”.
“What’s happening right now in our country is, without question”, he wrote, “a human rights catastrophe. Yet every deeply entrenched mechanism used in these policies and the spirit fueling this catastrophe are as American as Facebook and Disneyland”.
The key phrase here is “the spirit fueling this catastrophe”. Where and when did this damned spirit descend upon this land? Shaun King broke the issue down to simple facts:
“This has happened here before. In fact, it has happened millions of times across the years in this country. Africans forced into slavery in this country were routinely separated from their children – not only in being transported to the Americas, but then repeatedly at the auction block. Not thousands, but millions – of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters – were all forcefully separated from each other. And this was no brief period of this nation’s history, but a feature of the institution of slavery that existed in the United States for nearly 250 years.
But the history of such barbaric acts by European settler colonialists on this continent goes further back than 250 years – and the longevity of that history has an even more terrifying lesson to teach us.
From the long and sustained history of slavery to the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II (upon which their ‘Supreme Court’ had put its stamp of approval) targeting innocent children as the primary victims of white supremacist cruelty has been a common staple of US politics.
But the origin of such genocidal attitudes and cruel practices towards non-whites takes us back all the way to the very first white European settler colonialists who set foot on this continent. We must begin there, with the accounts given to us by eyewitness reports like Bartolome de las Casas’ ‘A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies’ to come closer to the event with more open eyes.
You may think those bygone years are to be buried in the past; that, at the time of such European slaughter of Native Americans, the US did not even exist; that history cannot be read backwards.
From the genocidal conquest of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th and into the 16th century until the establishment of the United States in the late 18th century, the systematic extermination of Native Americans continued.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘The invasion of baby snatchers’.