“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Often forgotten is the fact that when these poetic words were written by the “founding fathers” of these United States, enslaved Africans, Native Americans and women were not sitting at this elegant constitutional table. It was within this historic moment in time that Abigail Adams, in a love letter, reminded her husband John Adams- 2nd President of the United States, to “remember the ladies.” Fast forward to recent week, we hear First ladies, past and present, lashing out boldly and reminding the men, their men in power, like Abigail in 1776, to be compassionate. As those of us with warm blood pumping through our hearts and humanism as our mantle, clutch at our pearls and in well intentioned, compassionate memes express horror at the children who are being impacted by the zero-tolerance immigration policy of the Trump administration, we say “this is not who we are.” PLEASE, unclutch your darn proverbial pearls, thanks for the thought, but, you are so wrong, this is exactly who we are!! SEPARATION OF CHILDREN IS AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE!!!
Since the presidential election of 2016, we have witnessed a grand effort to “Make America Great Again.” For too many Americans, this effort has fueled a passion to return America to a time before the period where we had temporarily evolved to having a qualified and capable Black President, a dignified and experienced woman running to be President and foreign relationships were being renewed with the small Caribbean island of Cuba, after 50 years. So, what is this glorious, nostalgic time that more than 50% of Americans crave(d) for? Based on the flare up of incidences of bigotry since the 2016 Presidential election, it is reasonable to conclude that the “Great” is synonymous to White Supremacy. But you see, America was never white. It was Red, when the Natives to this land lived freely, honoring nature; it was Black when strange fruits hung from the poplar trees; it was Brown when Japanese Americans were placed in Internment camps. Now as those of us with red, bleeding hearts whimper at the images of children in cages at our borders, we witness the white-hearted callousness of a government hellbent on making a country regress to the worse of its history.
Lest We Forget: History Will View US unkindly
On April 6th, 2018, the Trump administration announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigrants at the border. This policy has targeted anyone (brown immigrants) who didn’t cross the U.S. border at an official port of entry. The adults are being criminally prosecuted, even if they were seeking asylum, and their children are being separated from them. This official policy and has been separating families to discourage others from travelling to the United States illegally. Approximately 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and guardians and placed into holding facilities between April 19 and May 31 of this year. The children are being housed in cages, covering themselves with foil as they scream for their parents.
During World War 11, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were tossed into 10 stateside prison camps, this included children. Approximately fifty percent of the Japanese Americans were children. They were forced to live in bleak camps, surrounded by barbed wire fences for four years.
During the enslavement of Africans in the US between 1619-1863, children whose parents were enslaved automatically took on the parents’ status as slaves, even if the father was a white, slave owner. “A slave woman was both the nucleus of a labor force and the producer of wealth that increased rapidly.” Therefore, the number of children a woman had, meant more property and profits for the owner. ” In the decade before the Civil War, her child was worth $100 at birth, $500 at the age of five. The dollar-and-cents value of a good ‘breed woman’ was well known ” . . . they took all the fine-looking boys and girls that was thirteen years old or older and put them in a big barn. They used to strip them naked and put them in a big barn every Sunday and leave them there until Monday morning. Out of that came sixty babies” (Marquis, 1996).
From 1875-1928, Native American children were sent to boarding schools for acculturation to learn about “American” ways of thinking and living. The government advocated the removal of Native American children from their homes for extended periods of time in order to indoctrinate them that white “civilization” should be their ideal.
Humanism requires us to care for ALL of US, at least, minimally for the book ends of our lives- the elderly and children. There is no place for separating of children from their parents as a policy because of efforts to enter the United States in the quest for a better life. As a country, we have advertised ourselves as the global moral police, intervening in foreign countries humanitarian issues. Yet, here we are in the apex of an international humanitarian crisis. The practice of separating families at the border is not only morally reprehensible, it also goes against international and U.S. law, because the suffering it inflicts constitutes torture of children. We should be ashamed of ourselves then and NOW! “ give me your tired, your poor, your huddle masses… “ WHAT HAPPPENED? Oh…they are the wrong skin color….
Dobkins, R. (1996). Review of Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 By David Wallace Adams.
Marquis, C. (1996). The Rearing of Slave Children and Their Parental Relationships Before and After Emancipation. The Sloping Halls Review, 3.
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