Milkshakes. Poodle Skirts. Johnny playing tag in the front yard with his gang of friends, Sally playing dress up and dolls with her girls. Sadie Hawkins dances. Saturday afternoon neighborhood gatherings. Picnics. People of all different backgrounds coming together and living as one.
This is America, right?
All of these bans, this hate, this racism. “This is not the American I know.”
But it is America. Agree or disagree, America has a violent and hateful history. It’s really not complicated to decipher or up for debate.
This country “began” when conquistadors set sail to a land that they referred to as “The New World.” It didn’t matter that the land was populated by people or that the customs, heritages and identities of those people could be traced back to prehistoric times. To the conquering body, the land was new. Fresh. Theirs for the taking.
And once they took it and wiped out the Native People with sterilization, disease and subhuman treatment, they enslaved an entirely different people. Africans were brought here by the boat load – literally – and forced to work.
Africans were stolen and sold like chattel. Enslaved in a manner that was new to the world. The enslavement of Africans at the hands of Europeans was more inhumane than any form of slavery that had existed before. The idea that you could own a person and every progeny they could produce for their entire lives was, if not entirely new, a major component to what made American slavery the worst of its kind.
I won’t run the gamut of telling you all of the horrors the Africa diaspora has suffered in America. You should be fairly familiar with those crimes.
What you may not be familiar with is Executive Order 9066. You know, the one where President Roosevelt sent 120, 000 Japanese AMERICANS to internment camps in 1942 because people were fearful of them upending the war efforts. America was so frightened of the Japanese it called for its Japanese citizens to be removed from their homes, their schools, their lives and placed in camps – read ghettos and barracks – just to make the other American citizens feel comfortable. Although we were at war with other enemies, it was just the Japanese citizens, not the Italians, nor the Germans who were forced to into isolation.
More unfamiliar or forgotten material?
Italian Appreciation. Take a gander:
Chinese Exclusion Act anyone?
Remember that time, in 1882, when people from China were banned? They were considered lazy, thought to require too much money for the “menial” jobs they performed and were also perceived to be alcoholics who wanted to rape white women. Sound familiar? (I’ll give you a clue, the people we say that about now rhymes with Texican)
And the Irish?
They were considered the link between the negro and the ape. In 1864 Croly stated that the Irish were “a more brutal race and lower in civilization than the negro“. And considering Black people were slaves at the time this was written, and White people have consistently seen Blacks as their nemesis, that’s pretty bad luck for the Irish.
But now Italians and Irish folk fall right under the category of American. Why is this? Easy: Capitalism. Money. It’s the root of America. Or all evil. Your choice.
(that’s almost a joke, but I’m not entirely kidding)
Just understand that Africans weren’t called Black until the Irish and African impoverished masses of America thought to unite. The use of skin color to pit them against one another worked wonders on that love affair. Asians weren’t always the model minority. Someone is always the other. Someone other than White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, that is.
But now that most of us are accepted, and even those to varying degrees, there are more “others” to hate, to ban, to isolate, to fear.
So what we see today is not simply anything new, it is a revival.
Had anyone ever doubted this when they said they wanted to “make America great again?”