The Separation of Families Is As Old As America
Table of Contents
"This is not my America."
"This is not the America that I grew up in."
The above quotes are two variations (and there are more) of an idea that I've heard many people echo in recent weeks. Many Americans are coming to grip with the fact that there is a man who genuinely admires dictators in office. He is deeply anti-democratic and has made mainstream ideas that many Americans naively thought were in the past.
There are few things that make me genuinely angry simply because that usually carries a lot of emotional energy. The killing of black people and the subsequent cover-ups of those murders is certainly high on the list. I'd say the separation of families fleeing dangerous countries is also high up there, as well as voter suppression.
When people say "this is not my America" one has to wonder where they've been for the past - well - since the beginning of America! I think people are more upset that they're being forced to acknowledge that this country never really lived up to its ideals than they are about what's actually going on. America has always been a country where some people were protected, and others were attacked. One group was defended and given their rights, the other group(s) were ridiculed, mocked, denied rights, denied resources, and sometimes murdered.
The separation of families at the border is sadistic and reeks of the most unapologetic forms of white supremacy echoed by the most brutal of dictatorships in world history (*cough* Nazis). To those who read this and think that's extreme, you should probably check your damn privilege. Since I know for a fact that there are elements of the Left who will almost certainly miss the point as they seek to sleep with strange bedfellows on the Right.
The time for respectability politics and appealing to the vanity of the far-right in some shallow attempt of being the "bigger person" because you can engage with white supremacists is over. I don't think it's a surprise that the voices on the Left echoing this mindset tend to be overwhelmingly white.
Then, of course, there's the not-so-surprising silence from the right-wing who we are to assume by-and-large support the Trumpian agenda of separating families. I'm sure if pressed, they'd throw out strawman arguments about Obama and Democrats to deflect from the Hitler-esque policy agenda that they support. Yet, these are the people getting platformed by the likes of ABC, who recently had Steve Bannon on to discuss current events. Why?
Why is Steve Bannon being given a platform to spread his fascist propaganda with no opposing views?— Disruptive Blackness (@_blackintellect) June 17, 2018
When we look at the spread of hatred in America understand that elements of the media legitimized the voices most complicit
It appears to be the case that elements within the corporate media seek to pander to far-right extremists and white supremacists for views and clicks. At this stage, that's the only reason you bring on someone like Steve Bannon to air his fascist, pro-racism propaganda with no opposing views to debunk everything he's saying. What ABC and the rest of the media are engaged in is transparent and the damage to democracy that they are aiding and abetting needs to be called out.
The Bible and the Racialized History of Romans 13
In case the white supremacist views of this administration weren't clear enough, Jeff Sessions and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders both evoked Romans 13 to justify the unjustifiable separation of children at the border. I don't know what else needs to be done or said at this point to prove that the people running America right now are deeply xenophobic and racist. Unless of course, you're in a privileged position where you don't have to care about that and are choosing not to see reality.
I don't want to go too deep into the long history of the Bible's usage as a tool to reinforce racism in America. I do want to speak on what Jeff Sessions said though.
Let's first and foremost call out the complete erosion of the separation of Church and State and the problematic nature of using scripture to justify policy. As many have pointed out, there's no difference between this and what fundamentalists within Islam do when they use the Koran to justify harming other Muslims.
This is a uniquely American Christian fundamentalism that is as old as America itself.
Outside of that, however, Sessions' usage of Romans 13 comes with a racially-loaded history. As Michael Harriot of The Root accurately pointed out in his recent article titled 'A Brief History of People Using Romans 13 to Justify White Supremacy,' at the base of Romans 13 is an edict to obey authority. This chapter (and others) was used all throughout slavery to miseducate the black slave population in America that slavery was God's will. It was Romans 13, along with things like the Curse of Ham which was used to tell black people that were we cursed by God to be slaves, that entrenched racist fundamentalism within American Christianity.
The Separation of Families is an American Tradition
Crack open any history book on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the internal trans-national America slave trade, the Trail of Tears, the Drug War - America has been using racist policies to split apart loved ones since before the Revolutionary War and certainly after the revolution ended and America proper was formed.
What's particularly bad about this recent policy is not just the policy itself, but the typical and predictable reaction to the policy. People have their biases which cloud their ability to react with emotion when the time calls for it. Many want to live in a constant state of normalcy and will try to make even the most brutal of policies appear normal as long as they aren't on the receiving end of those policies. So as long as it's indigenous families, black families, immigrant families, Muslims families, etc being torn apart - many folks in America today just don't give enough of a damn. Many quietly support the separation of families because they see in this racist agenda the ability to maintain social dominance through law.
Let me be clear, America is and always has been a major human rights violator. Black Americans have lived in one of the most violent countries in modern world history. Viewed with this historical lens, we should understand that what's happening today is exactly what activists and leftist radicals have been saying would happen for years now, yet many were ignored and written off as "extremist" or "tin foil hat" conspiracy theorists.
Going back to the Bush Jr administration, people were calling out laws like the Patriot Act of 2001, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (which formed DHS and ICE), the Military Commission Act of 2006 (which guts habeas corpus among other things). We were told that we needed these things to "keep us safe from terrorists." This was always the line that was thrown out and there was never any pushback - even the pushback from the Left was weak as I remember it. You had laws that were waiting for a wannabe dictator like Trump to abuse them and use them against Americans. I don't know why people continue to act shocked honestly. People were saying over a decade ago that what is happening today would happen. Sadly, like always, things need to actually begin to fall apart before the professional skeptics and contrarians believe what people said 10+ years ago. And even now you have people who continue to choose to live in denial about what's happening right in front of them.
Hopelessness is Not the Answer
In times like this, the sense of hopelessness creeps in on some - even the strongest among us will have doubts. I am here to say that hopelessness is not the answer. The answer lies in organization and doing what others don't want to do.
Feeling defeated isn't going to help anybody. It's not going to help you, me, or those who are being attacked. Don't mistake deep-seated pessimism and defeatism for realism. Being optimistic is just as real as being pessimistic. Pessimism is easy to sell in times like this because there's so much going wrong and seemingly little that's right.
Try to avoid voices that only sell doom and gloom and if you must listen to them, challenge them on the assumptions they make, because everyone makes assumptions...even me.
...And Neither Is Collusion
We not only need to fight against hopeless pessimism, but we must also fight against the appeal to collude and collaborate with groups opposed to your existence. Collusion is worst than pessimism because it means that not only has the person given up fighting the good fight, but they've begun to identify the group that they represent as weak and not want to be identified with them any longer.
People who collude are often going to be driven by personal gain, even at the slight of their original group. These are some of the most dangerous people out here because they work to aid and abet the fascism and racism and they also have inside knowledge a lot of time about the goings-on of the original groups because they rubbed elbows with them. So these collaborators are a type of double agent if you will. Whether their goal was to subvert the movement originally, or if that just evolved over time is irrelevant. We know what they do now.
Every fascist, every dictator, every strongman needs people from the groups they attack to legitimize their barbarism against those groups. It never fails.